The use of illicit drugs has significantly integrated itself into our society for decades, heavily influenced from infamous drug lords such as Pablo Escobar in the 80’s and 90’s to The Sinaloa Cartel who are considered to be amongst the most dangerous cartels in the world!

Despite the damage drugs have had on society, one question that has received much attention, is whether decriminalising the use of drugs is the right approach to fight this war?


When we look at the situation surrounding the use of illicit drugs here in the UK, it’s crazy! From high levels of socio-economical deprivation, homelessness, unemployment rates, It comes at no surprise that so many of us have had experience with drugs at some point. Some of the most popular drugs include cannabis, opioids, powder/crack cocaine (the UK is actually considered to have the most issues of crack in Europe).

More homeless people are dying in Manchester than anywhere else in the  country - Manchester Evening News

There is no doubt the war on drugs has hit the UK over last few decades, with drug seizures going up year after year, more deaths caused by dangerous substances like heroin, and the introduction to other stimulants such as lean. So what is the best approach to tackle this war? Well, many have argued that decriminalising illicit drugs is the answer.

We have already seen other countries take this approach, including parts of Europe, South America, and even parts of Australia, but what is the difference between decriminalisation and Legalisation?

Well in Portugal for instance, where all drugs were decriminalised in 2001, decriminalisation refers to the distribution and sale of controlled substances are still illegal, but being in possession and using these drugs are handled as a public health problem and not criminal activity. Where as Legalisation of drugs refers to the process of allowing the supply and demand of substances to be controlled in the same way alcohol and tobacco would be.

Given that so many countries have adopted the approach of decriminalisation of illicit substances, there are still places around the world where this isn’t the case, take the UK for example. So what are the pros on cons of this strategy?


  • Reduction in violence related to drug trafficking.
  • Changing the way society deals with the problem of addiction from a legal and treatment perspective.
  • The reduction in abuse and addiction rates of different substances.


  • Those with biological predisposition towards addiction may be encouraged to experiment with different drugs.
  • Could lead to a push in legalisation of certain substances.
  • The fall in street value could influence prices and more may be tempted to experiment.

Given the points we’ve outlined, choosing whether to opt in for the approach of decriminalising drugs is not an easy one, nor one I would want to be responsible for. Despite this, I can see why countries would adopt this approach, because issues like an addiction, for example, is a huge problem and certainly shouldn’t be categorised as criminal activity, and you can understand how making these addictive substances more accessible (with restrictions of course) could help to tackle the issues surrounding addiction.

Something we should take into consideration, is whether or not this approach of decriminalisation disrupts the illegal distribution of drugs. In my opinion, I don’t think it will I believe this starts with opportunities, opportunities for young people and anyone who is exposed to the drug scene and is at risk of becoming part of this process.

Drawing the county lines - Chartered Institute of Environmental Health

Because having the ability to create a successful career for yourself is powerful. Something that not everybody has given the different issues most disadvantaged people experience.

So should the UK adopt the approach of decriminalisation or should we be looking at tackling the issues we mentioned earlier and providing the people with more positive opportunities and spend time improving the communities at risk of exposure?

Let us know what you guys think in the comments.