Drug experts warn against appointing `gung-ho czar'

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The Independent Online
Experts warned the Government today not to turn its new drug czar into a vote-catching "gung-ho" general.

They said the policy could backfire if enforcement was over-emphasised at the expense of treatment, rehabilitation and prevention.

The four drugs experts, writing in the British Medical Journal, warned of the dangers of "war" rhetoric. They were disappointed that the drug czar had been charged with leading "the battle against drugs", and unhappy about the US being chosen as a role model. "The macho nature of the post is further signalled by its title - no czarina need apply," they wrote. The experts were led by John Strang, director of the National Addiction Centre, London. His co-authors were William Clee, chairman of the Welsh Advisory Committee on Drug and Alcohol Misuse, Lawrence Gruer, a consultant in public health medicine from Glasgow, and Duncan Raistrick, director of the Leeds Addiction Unit.

The role of the drug czar - whose proper title is UK Anti-drugs Co-ordinator - will be to take an overview of strategies to combat substance abuse and make recommendations to the Government. Applications for the post must be in by 5 September.