Feb 9, 2021 in Analysis

How the War on Drugs Hurt Families?

Before 1971, the UK did not have any strict drugs policy. The situation changed when the USA declared that it begins to control incidental drug activities and consider them as those that criminalize drugs use. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was developed by the UK Parliament to replace the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964 and the Dangerous Drugs Acts of 1965 and 1967. Its primary purpose was to control amphetamines, and later LSD, in the UK. The Act made all controlled drugs equal in terms of a statutory framework. It assisted in incorporating a new system of licensing doctors to prescribe drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, to the addicted people. The doctors were required to notify all addicts to the Home Office. Moreover, the Act presupposed regulations on the safe drug custody. Such actions were aimed at eliminating or substantially decreasing drug use. Moreover, it aimed at gathering police power to deal with the issue of drug abuse. Finally, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 enhanced the creation of the first statutory advisory body and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. In practice, the Act makes the Home Secretary a key figure in the system of drug licensing.


From December 2009, the government has initiated numerous legal highs that were controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act, including Benzylpiperazine, products that contain testosterone, gamma-butyrolactone, some anabolic steroids, and others. In March 2010, mephedrone and its related compounds were included in the controlled drug list due to the consequences of their consumption. Since April 2010, mephedrone and its derivatives also became illegal. The legislation made it difficult for suppliers to produce new substances and their derivatives. Hence, since 2010, the Act has been amended to control new drugs. Many new psychoactive substances (naphyrone, desoxypipradrol, synthetic cannabinoids, and many others) have been added to the list of controlled drugs.

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 is the Amendment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It enables enforcement agencies to deal with illegal suppliers, manufacturers, and importers of controlled drugs. Assessment of the new drug classification means that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) hears evidence from professional bodies, agencies of law enforcement, charities, and scientific evidence. It presupposes drug classification using a matrix of risk management.

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The Act initiated the creation of three controlled substance classes (A, B, and C). However, there were also drugs that belonged to a temporary class. Therefore, the penalties for the unlicensed and illegal possession depended on the class. The substance lists within each class could be amended. Class A included cocaine, crack, heroin, methamphetamine, DMT, LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin mushrooms. Class B contained cannabis, amphetamine, codeine, methoxetamine, ketamine, and methylphenidate. However, any drug from class B prepared for injections becomes a substance of class A. Class C included flunitrazepam, GHB, tranquillizers, diazepam, anabolic steroids, abenzodiazepines, and sleeping tablets. A temporary class included 5-APB, 6-APB, 25B-NBOMe, 25C-NBOMe, and 25I-NBOMe. The penalties were enforced against the people who did not have any license or prescription to possess the above-mentioned drugs. A person was not punished, if the drugs (even class A drugs) were administered by prescription. However, illegal use of substances that belonged to class A, resulted in the highest penalty.

The Act suggested the classification of controlled drugs to provide clarity to courts concerning the range of penalties for different drugs. The system of drug classification was based on the drug effects, as well as drug possession and drug-related offences. At the same time, the Act represented the international illicit drug controls. The policy has made it illegal for people to allow a flat, house, or office to be used to undertake any unlawful activities, to supply or offer to supply illegal drugs, as well as to produce illegal drugs. In general, the creation of classification system was based on the danger and harmfulness associated with the use of each controlled drug type. Class A contains the most dangerous drugs. However, the Act does not take into consideration the harm by which the drugs may be judged. Therefore, there are no criteria that can help define harm.

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Drugs subject to the Act are controlled drugs. Offences defined in the Act included intent to supply, unlawful supply, intent to import or export, unlawful production, and others. The main difference between the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Medicines Act was that the first one prohibited unlawful possession. The law enforcement enables the police to use special powers to detain, stop, and search suspicious people that possess controlled drugs. According to the Act, it is an offence to possess drugs for personal use. In addition, it is forbidden to supply them. However, it is not a specific offence, if a person is under the drug influence. A parliamentary order has the right to add illegal drugs to the Act after the consultation with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

The primary goal of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was to prevent the non-medical use of some drugs. There was a belief that the Act could control not only medicinal drugs but also illegal drugs that were not used in medicine. A parliamentary order has the right to add illegal drugs to the Act after the consultation with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Researches indicate that the policy has not been successful as the number of negative factors has increased, including availability and supply of drugs, profit received from illicit drugs, health harms, while the prices on the drugs have dropped. Moreover, there has also been experienced a rapid increase in the HIV transmission. Therefore, the Act is considered to be ineffective as it failed to achieve any of its goals and aims. Additionally, the classification of substances mentioned in the Act omits alcohol and tobacco. However, they are also harmful and their combination with the drugs may lead to irreversible outcomes.

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The Act has resulted in the increased number of imprisonment. However, it raises the economic and social costs of the drug policy. Efforts to eliminate the production of drugs in the politically unstable economies may have a negative influence on the military forces and local population of Great Britain. Since the Act development, the drug use patterns have substantially changed. However, there are still many debates related to the classification of some drugs, for example, cannabis. The introduction of MDA has resulted in the inclusion of new substances in the controlled drug list, and the changes to the classifications were made.

Thus, the policy aimed at reducing the drug-related harm to people, communities, and the whole society. It remains unclear how the controlled drug classification system contributes to the set goal. The Act was developed to increase public safety, reducing the number of drug-related offences. In addition, it was considered to control harmful drugs through the generic definition use, capturing simple derivatives, and naming or defining drugs by chemical name individually. However, its implementation has not shown significant positive results. Although the use of the Misuse of Drugs 1971 showed some improvements related to the drug use, it did not improve the overall situation. Moreover, the situation with the use and possession of drugs has worsened, while the increased rates of imprisonment have caused numerous economic and political issues.


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