Reform yes, revolution no.

Reform yes, revolution no.

29th April 2014

Tomorrow will see another call for the liberalisation of drugs laws. This latest salvo comes from a contributor to the Moderniser’s Manifesto, published by ‘liberal conservative’ think-tank Bright Blue.

Remove the controls on drugs, the contributor says, and crime will fall and addicts will get help – the Government may even get some cash.

This idea, where individuals have the right to put into their bodies whatever they please, fails to address the wider harm this causes to society.

Consider the effect of what has happened since alcohol became increasingly available.

We now consume double the amount of alcohol per head than we did in 1950 because of more availability, affordability and social changes.  The average person can afford to buy twice as much alcohol as 30 years ago.

The results have been stark. Shocking scenes develop on high streets on a Friday and Saturday nights across the country. Alcohol-related deaths have doubled since 1991 and liver disease is now one of the ‘Big Five Killers’ and the only one which is increasing.

Alcohol-related admissions to hospital have doubled in a decade and are continuing to rise. Such harm should be remembered by those calling for increased access to other drugs.

Families and communities are harmed, children lose their parents to addiction, and the taxpayer is left with the bill.

Travelling the country, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has spoken to countless families who have been torn apart by substance abuse and alcoholism. This hits the taxpayer – annually drugs cost society £15 billion and alcohol £21 billion (compared to the £10 billion HMRC received from alcohol duties in the financial year 2012/13).

This impact leaves the libertarian with some explaining to do – individuals exercising their right to consume harmful substances often impact other people.

There are 300,000 people addicted to heroin and/or crack in England currently, with an average of one child per addict. Do we really think legalising harmful drugs will do anything but increase these tragic numbers and compound the problem?

Addicts need treatment and too often the penal system does not intervene effectively to break the cycle. Drugs laws can be inconsistent and we should address this too. But to throw our hands up and accept a free-for-all should not be an option. This, after all, would be what Robert Peel, the father of liberal conservatism, would say – reform, not revolution.

Read CSJ reports on addiction No Quick Fix and Breakthrough Britain: Addictions