In 2021, during a drug-related death crisis in the UK, the Government published its ten-year drugs strategy. This article, written in collaboration with the Faculty of Public Health and the Association of Directors of Public Health, assesses whether this Strategy is evidence-based and consistent with international calls to promote public health approaches to drugs, which put ‘people, health and human rights at the centre’. Elements of the Strategy are welcome, including the promise of significant funding for drug treatment services, the effects of which will depend on how it is utilized by services and local commissioners and whether it is sustained. However, unevidenced and harmful measures to deter drug use by means of punishment continue to be promoted, which will have deleterious impacts on people who use drugs. An effective public health approach to drugs should tackle population-level risk factors, which may predispose to harmful patterns of drug use, including adverse childhood experiences and socioeconomic deprivation, and institute evidence-based measures to mitigate drug-related harm. This would likely be more effective, and just, than the continuation of policies rooted in enforcement. A more dramatic re-orientation of UK drug policy than that offered by the Strategy is overdue.