United-Kingdom Country Drug Report 2017

Public expenditure

Understanding the costs of drug-related actions is an important aspect of drug policy. Some of the funds allocated by governments to expenditure on tasks related to drugs are identified as such in the budget (‘labelled’). Often, however, the majority of drug-related expenditure is not identified (‘unlabelled’) and must be estimated using modelling approaches.

No budgets are allocated under the UK’s drug strategies. Budget allocations are provided annually to the entities in charge of providing services.

Comprehensive estimates of both labelled and unlabelled expenditure were provided for 2005 and 2010, but these are not comparable. They used different methods and estimated different elements of expenditure.

The authorities funded three studies on economic and social costs, in 2002, 2006 and 2013. Between 2005 and 2010, labelled expenditure was estimated every year through administrative records, but levels of unlabelled expenditure were rarely available.

In 2010, total drug-related expenditure, including expenditure on some indirect consequences of drug use, was around EUR 8.4 billion and represented 0.5 % of gross domestic product (GDP), with 64.9 % financing public order and safety, 22.5 % for social protection and 11.7 % for health. This distribution was identical for both total and unlabelled expenditure. From a total of EUR 1.1 billion for labelled expenditure, 64.5 % was allocated to health, 28.4 % to public order and safety, 6.0 % to general public services, 1.0 % to social protection and 0.1 % to education.


Trend analysis shows that, between 2005 and 2010, labelled expenditures remained broadly stable in terms of percentage of GDP (varying between 0.07 % and 0.08 % of GDP). In the years up to 2010, some labelled expenditures have declined, mainly as a result of the mainstreaming of certain grants and a reduction in expenditure on counter-narcotics work in Afghanistan. Budgets for items that require large expenditures, such as drug treatment, have seen funding levels maintained in cash terms.

Public expenditure related to illicit drugs in the United Kingdom

NBBased on estimates of the United Kingdom’s labelled and unlabelled public expenditure in 2010.

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