Abstract
Following the establishment of the so-called “New British System” (based on the
recommendations of the Rolleston Committee in 1926), numbers of recorded opiate and
cocaine addicts fell significantly in the early 1930s and remained stable and at a relatively
low level for the next two decades. It was in the latter part of the 1950s that reports of a
new drug “epidemic” began to circulate. Concerns centred on the use of drugs by ethnic
minorities, notably black West Indians and Africans in ‘blues clubs’ and visiting black
American musicians in jazz clubs.

Once again the drugs epidemic was associated with jazz
(“jungle”) music and colour. By the end of the 1960s, young white teenagers had become
involved too and the world had seen the student riots in Paris; the birth of Swinging London
with its attendant Merseybeat; the hippy revolution in San Francisco; and a growing youth
protest, both in the USA and Britain, over western military involvement in Vietnam.
Politicians and journalists invariably associated these events with the use of drugs by young
people. Over the last four decades of the 20th Century, the use of drugs by young people
(and the attendant treatment industry) has grown exponentially and the focus has moved
from individual treatment to public health and infection control to the current
preoccupation with drugs/crime connection.

This brief history attempts to summarise
these developments in a short article chronicling the major milestones and events.

Absolute Beginners
Despite the unimaginable cost – both economic and in terms of human life – of World War
Two, post-war Britain of the 1950s was an extraordinary period of self-confidence and
optimism. Even the instinctively austere new Labour administration of Clement Atlee was
prepared to spend huge sums on the mounting of a Festival of Britain with its vision of a
future Britain of stainless steel and formica.
To some extent, the 1950s resembled the 1920s. Both decades began with a flurry of
interest amongst the young, in new music and new fashions; in dress and language. In both
decades, jazz was an important precursor to the development of new musical forms.
Perhaps the essential difference between the two decades was that the depression years of
the 1930s had proved to be a great leveller. Whereas the 1920s of the flappers was almost
entirely the preserve of the rich, the new leisure/fashion/music phenomenon of the 1950s
had an impact upon all classes.

The radio (and in the 1960s, the television) brought music
into thousands of working-class homes. No longer was new music and dance the exclusive
preserve of an Edwardian elite. Furthermore, the abolition of restrictions on hire purchase
in 1958 added further impetus to the burgeoning youth industry. By the early 1960s, it was
quite common for clothes, musical instruments (particularly guitars and drum kits) and
household electrical items (particularly record-players for teenagers’ bedrooms) to be
purchased “on tick” (Yates, 1998).
Throughout the decade, the official addiction figures climbed steadily upwards with most of
the increases being of young heroin users. The increase in young heroin users – and the
increasing reporting of it – should be set against a growing unease in Britain about the
‘teenage problem’. James Dean had become a youth cult hero overnight with the film Rebel
Without a Cause. The Wild Ones, starring Marlon Brando, another youth cult hero, was
banned in British cinemas (Thomson, 1994).

The Blackboard Jungle, an otherwise
unmemorable film featured the song Rock Around the Clock. The singer, Bill Haley, an
aging, overweight bandleader, was an unlikely hero, but the song caught the imagination of
the Teddy boys; an emerging youth movement. The filmmakers hastily produced a second
film entitled Rock Around the Clock as a vehicle for Bill Haley and his Comets (Clayson,
1995). When the film was premiered at the Troccadero in London’s Elephant and Castle,
the Teddy boys went wild and destroyed much of the interior of the cinema. Rock ‘n’ Roll
was born in Britain (Yates 1999).
From the beginning of the 1950s there were some limited indications that the existing
pattern of middle-class morphine addicts ministered to by largely sympathetic medical
practitioners was beginning to change. In May 1951 a young drug user broke into a hospital
dispensary just outside London and stole large quantities of morphine, cocaine and heroin.
Much of the morphine was recovered; which perhaps indicates that already the opiate of
choice – at least amongst the young – had become heroin. It would certainly suggest that the
young man and his acquaintances had little social contact with the established addict group.
By the end of the decade, over sixty heroin users in the London area who traced their drug
using career back to this one episode had been identified (Spear, 1994).
Many were jazz musicians or regular visitors to jazz clubs where heroin, cocaine and
cannabis were regularly used. These newer, younger addicts were increasingly gravitating
to the West End of London where a small number of general practitioners were becoming
known as ‘junky doctors’ as a result of their willingness to prescribe.
Of this small group of London doctors – some genuine in their belief that they could help;
some weak (and occasionally corrupt); some simply gullible – Lady I. M. Frankau is
perhaps most notorious; though not necessarily best remembered. Lady Frankau, a
Wimpole Street psychiatrist claimed to have treated approximately 500 addicts between
1958 and 1964: an astonishing number given that Home Office notifications in 1964, for the
UK as a whole, were 753. The figures for the period were 1959, 454; 1960,437; 1961, 470;
1962, 532; 1963, 635; 1964, 753. In comparison to the stability of the figures for the
previous quarter of a century, this five-year increase represents a quite unprecedented
upward spiral (Glatt, Pittman, Gillespie & Hills, 1967).
Public opinion, steered by the media and quoted by them with great authority, was ripe for
reaction to the flood of drugs epidemic stories which began to appear with increasing
frequency in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the 1920s it had been the dilettante rich and
the louche, now it was wayward youth. Youth was out of control.

They wore different
clothes; they listened to “jungle music” and they scorned the attitudes and ideals of their
elders. The “generation gap” had been identified and, probably, no-one expressed it better
than Colin MacInnes:
“No-one could sit on our faces no more because we’d loot to spend
and our world was to be our world, the one we wanted”

(MacInnes, 1980).
Despite this growing public unease, the report of the first Government committee to
consider drugs and addiction in thirty years was a model of complacency – superficial in its
consideration of the evidence and almost totally without vision. The emergence of new
drugs such as methadone (physeptone) and the discovery that some tranquillisers (at that
time thought to be non-addictive) could be used in the management of withdrawal prompted
the government in 1958, to establish the Interdepartmental Committee on Drug Addiction
“to review……the advice given by the Rolleston Committee in 1926 including the possible
application of any new suggestions to other addictive or habit-forming drugs; and to advise
on any possible need for additional special treatment facilities or administrative measures”
(HM Government, 1961).
Their report (usually called the First Brain Report after its chairman Lord Brain) was
published in 1961. It found that there was little need to make any radical change. There
was, they said, no significant increase in numbers (there is some suggestion that the Home
Office failed to provide the Committee with adequate evidence) and the small post-war
increase was mainly the result of increased vigilance (Spear, 1994).
Members of the Committee who attended the annual symposium of the Society for the
Study of Addiction later that year were embarrassed to hear a London pharmacist point out
that he himself was dispensing heroin and cocaine to more patients than those identified in
the Committee’s report (Glatt et al, 1967).
Over the next few years, newspaper reports of the heroin ‘scene’ in London’s West End and
of the ‘purple hearts’ (drinamyl) craze in Soho dance clubs increased the pressure and in
1964 the government reconvened the Committee. At Lord Brain’s insistence, the terms of
reference were narrowed to: “review the advice they gave in 1961 in relation to the
prescribing of addictive drugs by doctors” (HM Government, 1964).

This seems to have
been mainly because annual reports by the Home Office Drugs Inspectorate appeared to
have already identified the problem: the over-prescribing of heroin and cocaine by a small
group of doctors in London (Spear, 1994). But the net effect of this narrowing of the focus
meant that the Second Brain Report virtually ignored the emerging patterns of drug use
outside London and the widepread use of amphetamines.
The Second Brain Report was published in 1965. It was a further two-and-a-half years
before the recommendations of the report were implemented within the provisions of the
Dangerous Drugs Act 1967. Most of the major recommendations of the Second Brain
Committee were implemented. In the future, although the basic tenets of the Rolleston
model were to be retained, prescribing of heroin and cocaine would require a special license
to be issued by the Home Office. Licenses would normally only be granted to psychiatrists
working in specialist treatment units (based upon a model pioneered at All Saints Hospital,
Birmingham) which were to be established across England at Regional Health Authority
level.

These were to be called Drug Dependency Units (DDUs) although almost every drug
user subsequently referred to them simply as ‘the Clinics’. No parallel provision was
envisaged for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland where there was not thought to be a
problem (Yates, 1981).
The establishment of the DDUs was paralleled with the growth of a significant and often
influential range of drug services in the voluntary sector. By the mid 1970s the vast
majority of beds available for rehabilitation (though not for detoxification) were managed
within the voluntary sector (Rawlings & Yates, 2001). Non-residential services were also
provided by the voluntary sector although most of these were London-based (Yates, 1992;
Turner, 1994).

Many commentators, particularly American commentators (Schurr, 1963; Schur, 1964; and
Trebach, 1982) have pinpointed this moment as the time when Britain abandoned the ‘New
British System’ and opted instead for a US-style penal policy. This is however, a
misreading of the facts. Although it is true that the Dangerous Drugs Act 1967, in line with
the recommendations of the Brain Committee, extended the powers of the police, this was
not at the expense of the old Rolleston model of substitute prescribing which was left intact
though it was restricted (in theory, though perhaps not in practice).
Firstly, Britain did not abandon the Rolleston principles though it did restrict the prescribers
who were eligible to carry them out. The fact that this was not resisted by doctors is further
indication that most doctors were unwilling anyway to treat this kind of patient. In other
words, the restriction in numbers of prescribers may have been in theory only. Kenneth
Leech, then curate at St. Annes in Soho was of the opinion that there were only around 12
doctors in London prepared to treat addict patients – the new arrangements saw the
establishment of fifteen specialist treatment units (Spear, 1994).
Secondly, by the time these changes were introduced in 1968, the numbers of users –
particularly those under thirty – had already begun to spiral out of control and a
blackmarket was already established; in London at least. In other words, the new
arrangements in 1968 did not cause the changes in the drug-subculture; rather, they were an
early response to those changes.
Thirdly, the analysis fails entirely to take account of the establishment of a National Health
Service with treatment (and medication) free at the point of delivery. It seems hardly
surprising that the majority of addicts in the 1930s and 40s were middle-class professionals
when we take into account that at that time, they would have had to pay for their supplies.
Finally, the analysis also fails to take into account the enormous cultural upheavals –
particularly amongst the younger generation – that were taking place in Western society at
that time. These were often changes with which drug use became associated (although the
use of drugs was not necessarily fundamental to them) (Yates, 1994).
There seems little doubt that a blackmarket in drugs would, sooner or later, have become
established in the UK but there is some truth in identifying this time as its genesis. In
London, the uncertainty, both of doctors and of their addict patients, during the interval
between the publication of the Brain Report and the enactment of the recommendations may
have been the reason for a significant increase in the use of blackmarket Chinese heroin;
often by drug users who had been struck off their doctor’s list as soon as the report was
published (Yates 1992).
Outside London, where the impact of the DDUs was less significant, users turned to the use
of barbiturates and mandrax, opioids such as palfium and diconal and pharmaceutical heroin
or morphine diverted from pharmacy burglaries (Yates, 1981).
Throughout the 1970s, the numbers continued to grow. The punk revolution in the mid-70s
caused an outbreak of concern about the sniffing of volatile solvents. It seems clear that the
punks deliberately chose glue-sniffing (often combined with lager and cider) since this was
perhaps the most visibly distasteful substance they could use. When the dramatic expansion
of the heroin blackmarket began in 1979, the punks were among the earliest recruits
(Savage, 1992).
Smack City, UK
The arrival of heroin in 1979 in cities throughout the UK took most observers by surprise.
Most of the new heroin flooding into the UK was Middle-Eastern smoking heroin which
was unsuitable for injection without being first changed into a heroin salt by the application
of lemon juice, acetic acid etc. (Griffiths, Gossop & Strang, 1994).

This fact, coupled with
the existence of a large population of Iranian students apparently able and willing, both to
sell heroin and to induct novitiates into the art of heroin smoking, resulted in a huge
increase in heroin users. Many potential users who had been deterred by the thought of
injection were attracted to this apparently painless method. For some time, there was an
unshakeable belief in some drug-using circles that heroin was ‘non-addictive’ if smoked
(Yates, 1999).
To some extent, heroin smoking became most prevalent in areas where there was a tradition
of non-injecting drug use. Where injecting was part of the culture, the new heroin was
mainly injected and lemon juice or citric acid became simply another item on the drug
injector’s shopping list. But the expansion, like the existing drug subculture was patchy and
unpredictable.

Most of the new heroin went to those areas where there was an existing drug
using culture of some kind. It was some time before it broke into completely ‘clean’ areas.
Even in those cities and towns where there was a well established drug-using tradition,
prevalence could change dramatically from district to district (Power, 1994).
In 1982, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) published their report:
Treatment and Rehabilitation (ACMD, 1982). The ACMD was a body set up within the
provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; an Act which was introduced to rationalise and
consolidate an untidy bundle of UK laws on dangerous drugs. The ACMD was charged
with the responsibility of advising the government on “measures….which….ought to be
taken for preventing the misuse of drugs or dealing with social problems connected with
their misuse” (Shiels, 1991).
Previous ACMD reports, throughout the 1970s, had received little attention from the
government. But by 1982, the issue of heroin addiction in inner-city housing schemes had
become a serious political issue. Ironically, the main impetus for this had not been the press
or right-wing backbench MPs but the deputy leader of the Labour Group on the Liverpool
City Council. Contemporary reports would seem to indicate that it was Derek Hatton who
deliberately orchestrated media coverage of Liverpool as ‘smack city’ in order to highlight
the plight of the inner-cities and the failure of the Thatcher Government to address the
needs of the young, unemployed, urban poor (Parry, 1991).
Almost overnight, the media spotlight was turned onto the growing heroin problem in the
UK’s inner-city areas. By the time the ACMD was due to publish its report in the late
summer of 1982, ‘heroin in Britain’ had become almost constant headline news. The
publication of the report was held back until December when it was announced in the House
of Commons by the Secretary of State for Health that not only had the Government
accepted all the reports major recommendations, but that it was providing a substantial sum
of central money to ‘pump-prime’ an expanded network of treatment services. The initial
sum announced was £2 million but over the course of the next two years, the fund was
increased for a variety of reasons and ultimately reached a total of just under £18 million
(Yates, 1983; MacGregor, 1989).
In Scotland, similar central funding was made available under the usual 10% formula and a
smaller fund was established in Wales. No provision was made for Northern Ireland which
was adjudged not to have a drugs problem at that time. Outside England (and even within
England in many areas), this effectively meant the establishment of a completely new
network of treatment services since virtually no dedicated services had existed prior to that.
The net result of this activity was a dramatic expansion of treatment services.

Most of the
new money went into community-based services with almost 60% going to new community
services (voluntary and statutory) and a further 10% going to existing voluntary agencies;
most of which were also community-based. The extent to which the DDUs had been
marginalised by the rapid expansion of the blackmarket can been seen by the fact that they
secured less than 15% of the allocation (MacGregor, 1994).
However, the role of the DDUs and in particular, the consultant psychiatrist (the prescriber),
remained crucial. The report had recommended that each Regional Health Authority Area
(the report failed to recognise the distinctive nature of the Scottish NHS structure – perhaps
not surprising since the Committee had no Scottish representation) should establish a
Regional Drug Problem Team (RDPT) with District Drug Advisory Committees at the local
level. The ACMD made no specific recommendation for service provision at the local level
but this soon began to emerge with the development of a blueprint in North West England
for multi-disciplinary Community Drug Teams as local specialist providers (Strang,
Donmall & Webster, 1991).
The proposed new RDPTs were, in effect, revamped DDUs and in many areas, little else
changed for a number of years. But the central funding initiative did usher in a new period
where specialist drug treatment provision was overwhelmingly community-based and
largely non-medical.
The Public Health Imperative
From the middle of the 1980s however, the emergence of HIV/AIDS began to bring about a
fundamental change in direction. The concern that those who continued to inject drugs (and
therefore, by implication, continued to share injecting equipment) might be instrumental in
spreading the infection led to a change in agency priorities (Berridge, 1994).
In 1988 the ACMD published its report AIDS & Drug Misuse Part 1 (ACMD, 1988). Once
again, the ACMD had produced a highly significant and influential document. The reports
conclusion that: “HIV is a greater threat to public and individual health than drug misuse”
has since become firmly established in the lexicon of drug field mantras. Few practitioners
and planners refer to the remainder of that recommendation.
AIDS & Drug Misuse Part 1 was not, as some have claimed, a u-turn in British drug policy
legitimising ‘low threshold’ maintenance prescribing. It was in many respects, a restating
of the central tenets of Rolleston for a modern era. The recommendation goes on to say:
“…..The first goal of work with drug misusers must therefore be to prevent them
from acquiring or transmitting the virus. In some cases this will be achieved
through abstinence. In others, abstinence will not be achievable for the time
being and efforts will have to focus on risk-reduction. Abstinence remains the
ultimate goal but efforts to bring it about in individual cases must not jeopardise
any reduction in HIV risk behaviour which has already been achieved” (HM
Government, 1982), (my italics).
The implication here is clear. There was no sanction for prescribing forever. (There was no
such sanction in Rolleston either). The goal is abstinence. Achieving this goal can
legitimately be delayed in two circumstances: where circumstances dictate that it cannot be
immediately achieved and where to attempt an abstinence intervention may undermine risk
reduction initiatives already underway These are significant caveats which have often since
been lost or distorted in the retelling.
Prior to the emergence of HIV/AIDS, most treatment agencies had seen their customer base
consisting primarily of those who had decided to modify, or abandon altogether, their use of
drugs; with a smaller number who had not yet reached that decision being offered soupkitchen,
day shelter and detached work provision. Now the priority was to be making and
maintaining contact with those drug users (often deeply suspicious of specialist drug
services) who were at greatest risk of continuing to share needles. In other words, those
who had no intention of stopping.
In order to encourage these drug users into services, community-based agencies were
provided with a prescribing capability. Methadone became more readily available with
many agencies also offering an injection equipment exchange service. In fact, in South
Wales, one GP group practice had been quietly offering this facility since the early 1970s in
response to a local hepatitis outbreak whilst some voluntary sector services had originally
offered this facility in the late 1960s (Turner, 1994).
The move towards the prescribing of methadone as a central plank in drug treatment
services has brought general practitioners back into the field although to some extent they
have continued to show the same reluctance to be involved as was the case in the early
1960s.
Much of the service development and planning throughout the 1980s was led by the
National Health Service with local authorities merely providing background support in most
areas. This came about mainly as a result of the channeling of the additional central
government funding through the NHS. Both the new network (CFI) money and funding to
develop HIV/AIDS services later in the decade was allocated through the health service.
However, in recent years, a number of trends have conspired to increase the relative
importance of the local authority contribution. Firstly, with the implementation of
Community Care, local government has been allocated a central gate-keeping role in the
allocation of resources; mainly, though not exclusively, access to residential rehabilitation.
Secondly, as HIV/AIDS-related health concerns have receded, the twin issues of
community safety and crime prevention have increased in importance and there are signs
that these imperatives may be significantly altering the directional flow of policy away from
the public health priorities of the previous decade (Stimson, 2000). Thirdly, as the age
range within the drug-using community becomes more reflective of that within the wider
community, there are increasingly more drug-using parents the care of whose children is, by
definition, an issue for local authorities.
The Re-emergence of Psychedelia
In the late 1980s, the UK experienced an almost totally unprecedented and unexpected wave
of drug-taking which centred on the use of ecstasy in dance venues or ‘raves’. The sheer
scale of this development was staggering. By 1995, the Home Office’s own estimates were
that 1.5 million ecstasy tablets were being used every weekend. Moreover, the apparently
distinctive nature of the development (there were little or no links with the pre-existing
injecting drug scene and users saw themselves as quite different to injecting drug users
whom they generally disparaged) made existing drug treatment services almost irrelevant.
To some extent, this development had its roots both in the continuing interest in the use of
stimulants (particularly in conjunction with dance events) (Yates, 1999) and in experiments
(in psychiatry and amongst the lay population) with the use of hallucinogenic or
psychedelic drugs to unlock the unconscious (Melechi, 1997).
Interest in the possibility of “unlocking” the unconcious through psychoactive drugs had
been heralded by both Jung and Freud (Stevens, 1993). By the 1950s the use of drugs in
mental health was widespread and a number of forward-thinking practitioners were
experimenting with a new drug called Delysid (LSD 25) both as a psychotomimetic, to
mimic (and thus explore the origins of) schizophrenia in selected study groups (including
doctors themselves) and as an aid to psychtherapeutic intervention.
In the UK, Dr. Ronald Sandison was conducting experiments in LSD therapy at Powick
Hospital using a combination of group and individual therapy, coupled with dramatherapy
techniques and the administration of LSD (Sandison, 1997). The Scottish psychiatrist R. D.
Laing and other collaborators in the Philadelphia Group were conducting similar studies in
London. In Canada, Humphrey Osmond who in the early 1950s had introduced Aldous
Huxley to mescaline, was claiming to have achieved extraordinary rates of success in using
LSD in the treatment of alcoholics (Stevens, 1993).
This relatively uncontrolled experimentation with a powerful new hallucinogenic led
inexorably to the promotion of LSD (by Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Michael Hollinshead
and others) as the central ingredient of a mass youth experiment characterised by new,
introspective forms of music, Eastern mysticism, pacifism and a return to nature (Reynolds,
1997). However, the interest in psychedelic (a term coined by Osmond) drugs was shortlived.
The demonisation of LSD by the popular press effectively stifled the interest within
psychiatry (Melechi, 1997) and within youth culture, the interest in psychedelia was largely
confined to a middle-class intelligentsia which proved incapable of sustaining popular
interest (Yates, 1999). By the mid-1970s, LSD had all but disappeared from UK streets
(Yates, 1992). There was a resurgence of interest in the 1980s, but this was largely
swamped in the media by the spiraling interest in ecstasy.
In the summer of 1987, young British holidaymakers on the island of Ibiza discovered the
combination of ecstasy and ‘acid house’ music. ‘Acid house’, or ‘Balearic beat’ was an
amalgam of British ‘indie’ music of the time with American ‘hip-hop’ and the new ‘house’
music emerging out of the gay dance-club scene in Chicago (Yates, 1999).
By the summer of 1988, afficionados of rave culture were proclaiming the ‘second summer
of love’. But once more, the innocence and euphoria were short-lived. Exponents of the
new heroin distribution system had already branched out into cocaine and rock cocaine
(crack) in the early 1990s. By the middle of the decade, they had muscled into the
distribution of ecstasy too. Raves became more tense as dancers were increasingly
subjected to assaults, knifings and shootings (Champion, 1997).
Specialist treatment services have struggled top respond to this new phenomenon. In most
cases, the new drug users have been reluctant to make use of services which they perceive
as services for ‘junkies’. Some established services have managed to make and maintain
meaningful contact through the production of information leaflets. Others have organised
detached work services offering on-site advice and information. Many of these new services
are finding that they are also being called upon to offer advice and information about the
increasing use of alcohol by young people (Calafat et al., 1998).
However, the use of ecstasy and other stimulants appears to be leveling out – particularly
amongst teenagers – and alcohol has returned as a major mood-altering substance amongst
this age group (Alcohol Concern, 2000; Drugscope, 2000).
Into a New Millenium
The final decade of the 20th Century has seen dramatic changes in policy. The expansion of
the treatment service network and the subsequent changes in operational focus as a result of
the concerns around HIV infection in the early 1980s marked the opening of a period of
some instability within the field.
The response to the emergence of HIV/AIDS saw treatment agencies move into the public
health arena as part of the vanguard of infection control policy (Berridge, 1996). For many
agencies, the concern over the use of ‘dance drugs’ further consolidated this change through
the development of their emergent health promotion capacities.
But it is in the area of designing, commissioning and evaluating services that Government
policy has seen the most dramatic upheavals.
In the last years of the Conservative administration, the Leader of the House was given the
job of co-ordinating Government policy on drugs and overriding the territorial concerns and
traditional rivalries of the ministries responsible (mainly the Home Office and the
Department of Health). This central co-ordinating unit was further strengthened by the
incoming Labour administration in 1997 with the creation of the post of UK Anti Drugs Coordinator.
The framework for a national strategy for the constituent parts of the UK had already been
established (HM Government, 1995; Ministerial Drugs Task Force, 1994) in a somewhat
loose format. The new UK Anti-drugs Co-ordinator – almost universally described as the
“drugs czar” – set about the task of drawing these together into a single UK-wide policy
(HM Government, 1998).
The new UK policy is significant particularly since it signals a change in government
attitude to drugs. For the first time in two decades, there is a recognition of the role played
by social exclusion and other environmental factors in fostering drug problems in deprived
communities. In some respects this is merely an official government echo of the findings of
the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in their report: Drug Misuse and the
Environment (1998). Published in the spring of 1998, the report was quickly overshadowed
by the publication of the government’s own strategic document.
Some commentators (Stimson, 2000) have detected in these developments the tightening of
the policy reins by a government reluctant to allow dissenting voices in the war against
drugs. Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain, when discussing the role of the ACMD
notes:
“Its composition and focus of work need to be harnessed as closely as possible
to the thrust of this long-term strategy and to the work of the Coordinator, and
its future work priorities will evolve in that context”.

Many commentators have suggested that this might indicated a determination on the part of
the UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator to stifle the traditionally independent voice of the Council.
Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain also signals a change in the role of DATs in
Scotland from a co-ordinating and planning role to one of directly commissioning and
evaluating the quality and value for money of the drug response (both treatment and other)
at the local level. It is by no means clear how DATs will adapt to this new challenge
incorporating as it does, a responsibility for resource transfer and open „cross-disciplinary“
evaluation which runs directly counter to the budget protectionist inclinations of most, if not
all, of the partner organisations.
Finally, within the past few months has come the news of an apparent downgrading of the
role of the UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator and a transfer of the levers of power to the Home
Office. Whatever else may happen in the 21st Century, it seems clear that the issue of drug
misuse is now a critical policy issue which, at least for the time being, is seen as
inextricably linked to crime.

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