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Brexit will affect UK’s ability to tackle illegal drugs trade, experts warn

By Léa Legraien

27 Sep 2018

Leaving the EU’s drug authority after Brexit will affect the UK’s ability to tackle the illicit drugs trade, health experts have warned.

In a letter published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) yesterday (26 September) health experts – including NHS Lothian director of public health and public policy Alison McCallum – said that not being part of the European Monitoring Centre for Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) as a result of Brexit will have ‘serious consequences for public health in the UK’.

As the EU drugs agency, the EMCDDA provides information on drug usage and addiction, monitors solutions, facilitates data exchange on best practice across EU members and evaluates national policies.

The EMCCDA’S partner in the UK is the Focal Point on Drugs, based at Public Health England (PHE), which provides information on the drug situation across the country.

The Pharmacist contacted PHE for comment.


‘Substantial risks public health and safety’


The authors of the letter said that not collaborating with the EMCDDA presents ‘substantial risks to public health and safety’.

They added: ‘The intelligence assembled by the EMCDDA and Europol – [the EU law enforcement agency] – has been crucial in the UK’s response to organised crime and illicit trade in drugs.

‘Collaboration between the UK and the EMCDDA has been transformative, making a major contribution to national drug policy and the fight against organised crime. Exclusion from its operations poses a severe threat to both.’

The authors also argued that the UK could face exclusion from the EMCDDA’s EU drugs action plan, an initiative where the objectives are to reduce drug addiction and harms, disrupt the illicit drugs market and enhance cooperation between the EU and international organisations.


Continue intelligence sharing


The authors pointed out that it is ‘vital’ the UK continue to interact with the EU warning system on novel psychoactive substances (NPS), which forms part of the work by EMCDDA, as this is a ‘rapidly changing’ area.

NPS are drugs such as synthetic cannabinoids, designed to replicate the effects of illicit drugs like cannabis and cocaine.

‘We call on the UK Government to show leadership in taking all necessary action to ensure continued collaboration with the EMCDDA, thereby enabling health professionals to keep ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing situation, allowing them to continue participating in surveillance systems, to respond appropriately to emerging threats and to support policy and operational responses,’ the authors continued.

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