Who knows that the Drug Advisory Council exists?

Thinking Allowed
The1973-06 Drugs Misuse act Schedule 3 allows for the creation of an Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

The Drugs Advisory Council is appointed by the Government and consists of not less than five members who should (or as the legislation states) appear to the Government to have a wide and recent experience/activities in the areas of the practice of 'general medicine' (not veterinary medicine) a 'dentist' and 'pharmacist' and also persons 'again appearing to the Government' to have a wide and recent experience of social problems connected with the misuse of drugs.

The Government also appoints one of the members of this Government-led Council as Chairman of this group.

The Drugs Advisory Council was in fact established by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1973 although since the new constitution the make up of the drugs council has changed to fall in line with the 2006 Drugs (Misuse) Schedule which covers the appointment of members to this council.

Although under the new legislation there is no clear explanation of the actual role of the Drugs Council it has to be presumed they are there to advise on all aspects of drug misuse and any measures Government should be taking regarding the whole question of drug misuse in Gibraltar.

Over a number of years, when this acute problem relating to drugs in general and the handling of this delicate and serious social issue appears to have been going from bad to worse, 'Not one Word or Statement' has been heard in public from this elusive Advisory Council on Drugs. Just what do they do and what kind of advice do they give, if they give any advice at all!

It would be reasonable to think that the reason that the 'Drug Council' exists is to safeguard the health and well-being of the public and transmit these dangers caused by the misuse of these substances, particularly those that generally affect the community, over to the Government for the necessary action.

Importantly we have heard over the past three or four months about the increase in use of cocaine as the prime substance of abuse, the increased abuse of alcohol which is also reflected in crime figures that irrefutably point at over 70% of all crime being related to drugs and alcohol or both.

In the Government-led public consultation on the drinking age, the public overwhelmingly not only raised concerns but demanded that the drinking age be raised to 18 years as in the United Kingdom.

What about the increase in anti-social behaviour which is a major concern and one which requires 'special police operations' every week-end to control the crowds at Casemates, and not forgetting the very important and enormous health and life threatening impact drug abuse in general is having on individuals and Gibraltar as a whole.

Where is the Drug Advisory in all this? Where do they stand? What is their advice? Does anybody know!

Is this just another 'Paper Committee' some say. There are some people who have commented that the Drug Advisory Council is just another cosmetic bunch brought together to satisfy the needs of the New Constitution.

The truth of the matter is that as far as the public is concerned nothing at all has been heard from this group of professionals. One also has to think if members of the Drug Council actually reside in Gibraltar, because as most people know social problems have escalated and health issues have also increased, all are connected with drug abuse. Have this 'Wise Group of People' advised Government correctly and in the manner that has the community as their primary objective?

INDEPENDENT IN UK

All this is in total contrast with the United Kingdom where Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is an 'Independent Expert Body' that advises Government on drug related issues in the UK.

Over in the UK the Advisory Council makes recommendations to the government on the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs, including classification and scheduling under the Misuse of Drugs Act and its regulations. It considers any substance which is being or appears to be misused and of which is having or appears to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to cause a social problem.

It also carries out in-depth inquiries into aspects of drug use that are causing particular concern in the UK, with the aim of producing considered reports that will be helpful to policy makers and practitioners.

The UK Drug Council holds open meetings with the public where questions are answered and the work of the group is explained, they also hold campaigns and produce many publications which can be downloaded from the Drug Advisory website.

This is a far cry from the set up in Gibraltar where secrecy and this closed door mentality about this social issue has dominated the manner the Drug Abuse issue as a whole is being tackled locally, a situation very much to the detriment of the most vulnerable section of the community-young people in our society!

18-03-10




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