17 August 2010

Prohibition Doesn't Add Up

Alex Angus* MacQueen's excellent Channel 4 series "Our Drugs War" concluded last night. The last episode was the most interesting, which demonstrated how the illegal drug trade has created government corruption in Afghanistan on an unimaginable scale.

However I'd like to return to a statistic from the first episode, which is that a paltry 1% of heroin is successfully seized by UK authorities. The UN estimate that to have a significant impact on the drug trade this needs to be raised to at least 60%.

Lets combine this with the current annual £1.5 billion budget the UK government spends on drug law enforcement.

So to get to 60% heroin seizure, the budget for drug law enforcement needs to be raised to £90 billion. This would make drug enforcement about the same size as the NHS, and would mean an extra £1,500 in tax per head every year.

But wait! The £1.5 billion is for enforcing all drugs, not just heroin. So the budget would need to be increased to significantly more than £90 billion.

But wait! This ignores the law of diminishing returns. The 1% currently being seized will be some of the easiest heroin to find. So the budget would need to be increased to significantly more than significantly more than £90 billion.

But wait! 60% was the bottom end of the UN's estimate. It may need to be up to 70% seizure rate to have a significant estimate. So the budget may need to be increased to significantly more than significantly more than significantly more than £90 billion.

Frankly, the exact number is irrelevant. The government has a deficit to reduce, and is trying to cut departmental budgets, not give them a 6000% increase.

Trying to solve the problem of heroin abuse by law enforcement is futile. We desperately need to start trying alternatives.

*UPDATE 11am - oops, thanks Ewan!


Jack Holroyde said...

Recovering addicts as role models. at the moment, theres huge stigma attached to addiction.
You need to reform addicts, not deny them substances.
Addicts will always find SOMETHING, be that alcohol, drugs, smoking, World of Warcraft, food, lemonade, i could go on. The solution lies in treating the mental illness, not patching over the symptoms
This comes from an 'out and not-really-proud-but-accepting-of-myself' recovering morphine & alcohol addict.

Ewan Hoyle said...

Erherm. Angus Macqueen. I'll read the rest of it now.

Ewan Hoyle said...

Good work :)

HomeGrownOutlaw said...

I completely agree with this blog AND Jack Holroyde's comment;

If we are to progress in this issue, we need to de-stigmatise and allow those who have been there to speak openly of these issues.

Recovering addicts have much to offer, but currently society treats them as the great unwashed, this is shameful on so many counts.

One thing is for sure, we need change, and we do not need law in this debate any longer.

Peter Reynolds said...

Great series wasn't it? Having said that, it only skated over the top of the issue really.

£1.5 billion? As I understand it, it's a lot more than that.


This issue isreally hotting up and about time too:


I am very, very worried though about the man in the Home Office:


Sorry to drop so many links on you but I've already written it once so I'm not going to write it all again!