The UK is even more liberal than Holland in its approach to drugs, according to a report out today.
Despite allowing cannabis cafes and having a reputation as a haven for drug users, the Netherlands spends three times as much as Britain combating addiction, the authors said.
The Dutch encourage hardcore addicts to give up, while in Britain they are given free methadone, it was claimed.
The Centre for Policy Studies, a right-wing think-tank, said Britain also has more than three times as many problem drug users than Holland.
Drug-related deaths here are five times the level in Holland per head of population, the research revealed.
The UK has 47.5 deaths per million population (aged 15 to 64) compared with 22.0 in Sweden and 9.6 in Holland.
Author Kathy Gyngell accused the Government of fighting a “phoney war” on drugs.
She described Labour’s attempts – which cost £1.5bn a year – to deal with the situation as an “expensive failure” that has left the UK’s drug problem as the “worst in Europe”.
“It is the UK, not the Netherlands, that is in the vanguard of the liberal attempt to normalise drug use,” she said.
“British young people, unlike their Swedish and Dutch counterparts, receive mixed messages about drug use from law enforcement and Government information agencies as well as from adolescent treatment services.
“They can deal, possess and use cannabis with impunity and take ecstasy at clubs without fear of sanction.”
The report found 7.7% of adults in the UK have tried cocaine, compared with 3.4% in Holland.
Among 15-24-year-olds, 11% have tried cocaine in this country, compared to just 2.8% of the youngest adults in Holland.
The Government should also better target drugs supply routes in to this country, the authors said.
Dutch police seized three times as much cocaine as the haul here, figures showed.
The report criticised the Government’s annual spend of £380 million a year (28% of the total drugs budget) on trying to control the supply of drugs even though the UK drugs market was estimated to be worth £5 billion a year, and described the Serious Organised Crime Agency, set up in 2006 to tackle the drugs trade, as a “failure”.
The report accuses the Government of encouraging “state-sponsored addiction” by trebling the number of people given methadone, a heroin substitute.
Spending on methadone treatment also trebled since 2003, and 147,000 drug addicts are prescribed alternatives.
The think-tank suggests policies aimed at encouraging addicts to get clean instead of giving out methadone with the aim of “managing addiction”.
The report called for the UK drug policy to bear down on the illicit use of all drugs, abandon the harm reduction approach, focus treatment on abstinence and rehabilitation and feature a tougher enforcement programme to reduce the supply of drugs.
Ms Gyngell said: “Labour’s war on drugs has not, despite the rhetoric to the contrary, been fought.
“It has been a phoney war – and an expensive failure.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Centre for Policy Studies report inaccurately portrays the impact of the Government’s drug strategy.
“Overall drug use is at its lowest level since measurements through the British Crime Survey began, a clear sign that our strategy is working.
“Record numbers are entering and staying in treatment, and recorded acquisitive crime – to which drug related crime makes a significant contribution – has fallen by 28% since the introduction of the Drug Interventions Programme.
“We have a strong focus on enforcement, and seizures of drugs by HM Revenue and Customs are at record levels.
“In 2007-08, police and HM Revenue and Customs made 216,792 seizures of drugs in England and Wales – an increase of 17% since 2006/07. This figure is the highest since records began in 1973.”