United Kingdom Country Drug Report 2019

Drug-related research

The UK 2017 Drug Strategy states that the government is committed to grounding its approach in the latest available evidence, the use of which is central to achieving the strategy’s aims, namely: (i) reducing demand, by using the evidence base to build resilience and confidence in young people to prevent drug use; (ii) building recovery, by improving treatment quality and outcomes for different user groups; and (iii) global action, by taking a leading role in driving international action, sharing best practice and promoting an evidence-based approach to preventing drug harms. In addition, a report from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, published in 2016, recommends that the government fund independent research to inform and fill gaps in the evidence base on both the causes and the prevention of opioid-related deaths.

The UK Government funds drug-related research indirectly, which comes from a range of departments, including the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department of Education, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. Non-governmental organisations that have an interest in drugs also fund drug-related research. Furthermore, the government has attempted to translate the results of research into practice. The evidence base results of the drug policy evaluation of July 2017 have contributed to the elaboration of the 2017 Drug Strategy.

The United Kingdom conducts a large quantity of drug-related research, which originates mainly from university departments. Research is disseminated through academic peer-reviewed journal articles, reports, presentations at conferences and lectures, and national evidence-based guidelines and quality standards. Areas that are of current topical interest largely focus on the user; however, research on toxicology, the effectiveness of interventions and treatments, the effectiveness of drug-related policies and strategies, and the social impact of substance use is also regularly published. In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of papers published on new psychoactive substances.

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.