Reputation Survey: Illegal drugs - Advice, what advice?

With 'meow meow' grabbing many headlines, our survey reveals just seven per cent of respondents trusted the Government as the most useful provider of drugs advice.

The public is not confident that the Government is giving young people the right advice about illegal drugs, new figures show.

PRWeek/OnePoll's survey of 3,000 members of the public found that just seven per cent of respondents trusted the Government most to provide advice about drugs. This compares with 56 per cent who trusted the scientific community to give them the facts.

Forty-four per cent of respondents were not confident the Government was giving young people the right advice on drugs. Just 17 per cent said they understood the current classification 'very well' and 63 per cent said they understood it 'slightly'.

As our graph shows, heroin is overwhelmingly rated the most dangerous drug. Interestingly, alcohol is considered a more dangerous drug than speed (amphetamine), 'meow meow' (mephedrone) or cannabis.

But less than ten per cent of respondents felt alcohol should be made illegal, while 71 per cent said the currently legal meow meow, which has been linked to deaths among teenagers, should be banned.

While there is questionable faith in the Government's drug policy, there appears to be support for the decision made by Health Secretary Alan Johnson last October to ask Professor David Nutt to step down as a government adviser on drugs following his statement that LSD and ecstasy were less dangerous than alcohol. In total, 50 per cent of respondents disagreed with Nutt's assertion, with a further 25 per cent saying they were unsure if he was right or not.

However, 55 per cent felt the Government was wrong to upgrade cannabis from a Class C to a Class B drug in January 2009.

Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll


The recent disagreements and departures from the Government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs suggest that drug classification is hard enough to get right at a policy level. I am not surprised the survey reveals more than 80 per cent of us either understand it only slightly or not very well at all.

The most interesting result is that alcohol is perceived as more dangerous than speed or cannabis. Either extensive campaigning on the dangers of alcohol is working or the survey was done on a Friday morning. I suspect that we will never really understand classification based on 'classes', but judge danger on the impact it has on ourselves and others.

Heroin remains public enemy No 1, so I ask: is current anti-drugs comms working? Are the Frank ads resonating with their target audience? Do we need a more role model-focused approach? Let us find the Sammo of today for a modern take on the 1980s legendary 'just say no' campaign.

- How well do you understand the drug classification system?

Not well 20%
Very well 17%
Slightly 63%

- Are you confident that the Government is giving young people the right advice on drugs?

Yes 19%
No 44%
Not sure 37%

90% agree that alcohol should remain legal

75% have heard about deaths that were caused or probably caused by
mephedrone (meow meow)

72% do not believe ecstasy should be downgraded to a class B drug


55% agree cannabis should have remained a class C drug. The Government
has upgraded cannabis to class B

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