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Mixed message on drugs and alcohol?

Mark Easton | 17:44 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010

It took the government some time to come up with a statement in response to today’s Lancet article on the relative harms from alcohol and illicit drugs. Reading it, one can see different departmental hands at work: the tensions that exist between Home Office and Department of Health seem to shout at me from between the lines. Have a look and see if you agree:

A government spokesperson said:
"The Government believes the drug classification system works, but we do not think it is a suitable mechanism for regulating legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco which are controlled through other means."
"More than half of people in England drink once a week or less, but almost 10 million adults drink too much, with potentially lethal health consequences, as well as costing the NHS around £2.7bn a year."
"That's why the Government will be bringing forward tough action to tackle problem drinking, including stopping supermarkets from selling alcohol below cost and introducing a tougher licensing regime, and will publish a drugs strategy in the coming months."
"In future, communities will also have the power and the budget to put in place services that work for them locally. The Government wants to see doctors working with local authorities to have a bigger impact on people's health."

The role of the state in dealing with the harms from, say, alcohol and ecstasy look different from the Home Secretary's office and the Health Secretary's Public Health Ministry. The question of whether drugs strategy should be a matter for the criminal justice system or the national health service remains unresolved.

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