End addiction, new government drugs strategy urges

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A hypodermic needle and syringe with heroin on a spoon
Image caption,
The plan includes networks of "Community Recovery Champions"

Drug addicts should completely end their addictions rather than just cut their use, the government's new strategy states.

Ministers said their "drugs-free recovery" policy would include former addicts mentoring current ones.

The plans could see addicts lose benefits if they do not co-operate.

The former Labour government's strategy was to reduce the harm caused by drugs by initially stabilising addictions, rather than trying to end them.

Parts of the strategy will apply to the whole of the UK, but in England ministers want to set up a network of former addicts to help drug users overcome their dependency.

Under the Home Office plans, treatment and rehabilitation centres would fall under the control of local partnerships which would target the specific needs of communities.

The strategy outlines the setting up of "Community Recovery Champions" networks where people who have recovered from drug dependency could mentor others who seek their help.

Ministers said they will also target the supply of drugs in the UK, with a renewed focus on seizing the assets of those involved in the drugs trade, both at home and abroad.

Prescription-based treatments, such as the heroin-substitute methadone will continue, but it is not yet clear how much funding will be allocated.

Ministers also want to link drug treatment with welfare benefits in England, Wales and Scotland.

They launched a consultation paper in August that suggested a "financial benefit sanction" if addicts did not take action to address their substance dependency.

Powers to temporarily ban 'legal highs' until they are proven to be medically safe will come into effect immediately.

But Oscar Dagnone, medical director at CRI, an organisation that works with drug addicts, warned against trying to implement a "one-size fits all" anti-drugs policy.

"We have to focus on the individual. Everyone is different," he said.

"I have never seen a drugs problem. I have seen people with problems and using drugs to deal with their problems. The issue we have in the UK is we have just been focussing on what we see as 'problematic drug users'. Everyone is in a different situation."

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