Reports have shown that the number of people dying as a result of drug abuse is rising, in spite of a pledge by the government 2002 to reduce the death rates.
Campaigners have stated that statistics now show that deaths from heroin, cocaine and ecstasy have risen in recent years. They also claimed that the Government has failed in tackling the drugs problem and have accused the ministers of concentrating on the wrong policy-making issues.
The Critics of the government have issued a warning that the policy to reclassify cannabis from Class B to C in January 2004, which means the simple possession less likely to lead to an arrest, would lead to an outpouring in the use of all illegal drugs. It has also been reported that a report by the Prime ministers office had admitted that there is now an increase in the lure for people who use cannabis to try harder drugs.
The campaigners are arguing that this as directly resulted in increased deaths from heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy as the figures from the Office of National Statistics have shown yesterday. The government was also criticised, as the findings have clearly shown that they had failed to meet their target of reducing drug deaths by a fifth between 1999 and 2004. The critics were of the opinion that before the reclassification of cannabis, the government was on course to do so easily.
Edward Garnier, a spokesman for Tory said, "Labour continues to fail to deal with the scourge of drugs. Drugs take lives and tear apart communities. They also undermine all our efforts to combat crime. The Government needs to get an urgent grip on this problem but so far all we have had is a chaotic and confused approach that gives the impression it is OK to take drugs."
Mary Brett, of the Europe Against Drugs, campaign had stated that it is not merely a coincidence that there is an alarming rise in deaths after the downgrading of cannabis by the government. She said, "Cannabis is a gateway drug most people agree that now. A person smokes it and they are then far more likely to go on to take a harder drug. The Government will no doubt come up with excuses as to why the number of deaths has increased, saying the drugs were stronger. But that cannot be the whole explanation. It is a significant increase and how many of those who died were, for example, first-time users?"
It was reported that the government had in 1999 promised to reduce drug deaths by around 20% over the next five years. It has to be mentioned though that following the pledge the death rates did fall from 1,571 in 1999, to 1,255 in 2003, which was much sooner than the estimated target. But in 2004 the death toll suddenly rose by 14 per cent, to 1,427. It was reported that heroin led the pack by increasing its toll from 591 in 2003 to 744, followed by cocaine, from 113 to 147 and ecstasy from 33 to 48.
The Health Department have however mentioned last night that, in spite of the increase in deaths last year, there had been a 9% overall reduction since 1999.
The department have announced to have now reconvened their Drug Related Deaths Steering Group, which consists of a panel of experts who will produce a plan of action later this year as to how to fight the current toll.