Saturday, 28 July 2007

Dealing with drugs

When the media love to scare us all witless about the horrors of drugs, and how a few grams of skunk or cocaine will turn us into psychotic beasts, it takes a hardy soul to defy the shrieking headlines and say all drugs should be legalised.

But why not? It's been pointed out often that most drug-related tragedies actually stem from illegality, and many of the deaths, overdoses, collapses and addictions would not occur if drugs were openly available.

It's illegality that means drugs are taken furtively in unhygienic conditions that cause infections. It means dosage and quality are uncertain and drugs can be contaminated with serious poisons.

It means that in an emergency people are loathe to seek help because they're doing something forbidden. And it means accurate information about drugs and their physical effects is hard to obtain.

What's more, if it all went legal, the unscrupulous drug-dealers who sell polluted products at inflated prices would have to shut up shop or clean up their act, and they'd have to pay the government some tax instead of just lining their pockets.

But at the end of the day, drug use isn't a legal issue, it's a health issue. You can't stop people taking them, but what you can do is ensure they take them in conditions that safeguard their health and don't lead to illness, unhappiness and isolation. Conditions in which they aren't treated as pariahs and outcasts but given all the advice, support and information they need to indulge their tastes safely and not recklessly.

Most of the tough talk comes from ill-informed hotheads who've never tried the drugs in question and are swayed by rawcous hard-liners - even when they're happily consuming dangerous drugs like alcohol and tobacco themselves.

But draconian laws aren't stopping the explosion in drug use. We need a better remedy for pain and distress than law courts and jail cells.

(For the record, the only banned drugs I've taken are cannabis and LSD. I've never tried any others, mostly because I've never been offered them - what a sheltered life I lead)

PS: Very interesting programme on Channel 4 on August 3 by Dr Colin Froggatt arguing that heroin should be decriminalised and freely prescribed. He says this has been a big success in Switzerland. Thanks for the link, Bellulah.

18 comments:

bye bye bellulah said...

I don't know where I stand on this. But that picture is obviously the shakings from the bottom of a pack of Thornton's Dairy Butter Tablet.

Nick said...

Ooh don't think I've ever tasted that. Is it good? Can I get it from that shifty looking guy on the street corner? Come on, Bell, venture an opinion. Be brave. Jenny's already violently disagreed with me, so you'd be in good company....

Medbh said...

Legalize it. Collect taxes on it to pay for the social services we need. I never understood the anti-drug position that seems to suggest that if drugs were made legal tomorrow that everyone would become an addict. That's absurd.

Nick said...

That sounds like a yes then. As you say, why should everyone become an addict because it's legal? Like every woman has an abortion, or every man goes gay. I think not.

bye bye bellulah said...

I'm really not sure.

My gut instinct is to say legalize. There are too many things that we are told/or readily accept being told that we can and can't do. Society/the world belongs to all of us equally but in practice this seems not to be the basis of much law.
Legalized we could collect taxes to pay for the damages inflicted and the associated crime could just be treated as crime as is the case with owning a car.

But I worry that many more people would try drugs and more different kinds if they could be bought in high street shops and so, potentially more addicts. Addicts aren't bad per se, but if they start to be a drain on resources, like the obese, car drivers, smokers, alcoholics, criminals, then I don't want that.

Being illegal doesn't stop that now, but it might prevent numbers from soaring.

Although, if I had to decide I would go for make it all legal and let people decide for themselves and then adapt other laws afterwards if necessary to deal with associated crime or unemployment or health impacts.

Nick said...

Thanks Bellulah, that's really interesting. Good point about collecting tax to pay for damage inflicted. At the moment dealers who wreck people's lives don't make any contribution to sorting those people out again. They can just walk away and wash their hands of them.

That's the obvious danger of legalising, that there would be more addicts. But if there was more openness about drugs, more information available and users with problems were more visible, maybe it would be easier to avoid addiction?

Wisewebwoman said...

There are times I feel like this weird old Conspiracy Crank but I usually follow the money trail on drugs, oil, diamonds and gold.
Drug Lords. Powerful. Usually affiliated with the CIA and other such oxymoronic intelligence agencies.
Hope of legalizing drugs in this scenario?
Abysmal.
But I'm with you. Easy access. Cheap. Much like booze, cigarettes.
Darwin effect. H'mmmmm.

Nick said...

Oh you're right, capitalism is the ultimate factor behind most things, once you start digging. Just think how much capitalists could make out of legal drug sales. And while we're on money - what happens to all those confiscated drugs? Destroyed or, as rumour has it, discreetly resold?

Medbh said...

The skinny is that many cops re-sell the drugs onto the street but all cops can't be dirty.
In Vancouver the city hosts injection sites where addicts can go to get clean needles to use and have nurses present in case anyone overdoses. I think that's so civilized.

Nick said...

Skinny? Is that local slang? Yes the scheme in Vancouver sounds very sensible. I gather those sort of injection centres are found in quite a few countries now. It must prevent an awful lot of catastrophes.

Conortje said...

I know someone who won't take headache tablets becuase they don't like taking these 'unatural things'. Baffling really as they have no problem with alcohol or cocaine.

Nick said...

Yes a bit irrational since practically everything we humans use is ‘unnatural’ i.e. manufactured. And there are plenty of natural things that are lethal!

Gaye said...

I have to say I completely agree in Bells and her hesitation to say OK LEGALIZE THE DAMN THING...

I think it is rather utopian to say legalize and he drug lords will disappear. They will just sell them cheaper and nastier and cause more damage. The fact that brokering, lending money and earning interest is legal doesnt make a bit of an effect on mafia now does it? Legalize anything and illegal components will still exist. That's exactly why I was not fully pro-lets legalise prostitution argument. Until there is firm and reliable control over market, distribution, sales and health-related "service-provider" "end-user" services to prevent damage on both the provider and user, I will not be in favour of legalizing either.
Like BBB said, it will mean more people will have easier access and by more people my main concern is YOUNG people, and when they are so addictive as in within blink of an eye, how can I say with a clear and certain moral awareness that it is ok to make drugs legal... Smoke and alcohol are addictive yes, and when it is an addiction, meaning, one is highly dependent on it, it is just not good for you. Yet, many people are turned off by smoke, the stink of it, after first try, that unless it is pure peer pressure it is difficult to get addicted to it. I dont know anyone who smoked once and loved it to smoke again until addicted. Anyways, that's my thoughts. I will not support legalizing anything, until I am absolutely convinced that solutions created by legalising by far outweighs the problems that exist and legalizing will create anew. Having said that I agree with the possible positive outcome of taxing drug sales and using the money for rehabilitation.... As absurd as it may sound when said that way, mainly because one, who is to say the money WILL indeed be spent the way WE want it to once drugs are legalized? /rant off

Nick said...

Good counter argument. I expect Jenny would agree with most of that. Good point that drugs should not be legalised unless it creates solutions that outweigh the current problems. And again the question of whether going legal will create more addicts rather than less.

bye bye bellulah said...

Synchronicitiously ( :0 ) a few days ago there was a Radio4 prog on the role of heroin in Tory 80s government policy and it was scary. The way crime rates soared hugely exactly following the spread of heroin addiction in the UK and that politicains initially said 'lock em up' because their neighbourhoods were being targeted by addicts looking for loot to exchange and mart for heroin.
I always stayed away from drugs because at 12 a friend from school went from being a lovely sunny young boy to a desperate addict breaking into chemists, selling his clothes on street corners and in and out of 'prison'. It scared me and I just said no because I saw the consequences (not inevitable I know, but at 12 I thought they were) before I was ever offered any drugs.
Last night there was a prog on Channel4 by Dr Clive Froggatt an exGP ex heroin addict turned drugs counsellor and I was absolutely sold by his argument to legalise FREE heroin for addicts through NHS health centres in response to the HEALTH problem, rather than teat it as a crime.
This is a link to him, but it doesn't do justice to the power of the film, The Insider. I was thinking of this post all the time I was watching.
http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/ontv/theinsider/heroin+on+the+nhs/649957

nick said...

A tragic story about your 12 year old friend - that must have been really scary. And the TV programme looks interesting - shame I missed it, as I was away from home last night. Will try the link shortly.

Nick said...

Have just looked at the link Bel and as you say, very persuasive. The Swiss stats were amazing - since they decriminalised heroin, 90% drop in addicts, 80% drop in new users, and a big fall in drug crime and deaths. Also the story of Erin O'Mara who, knowing she could have as much prescribed heroin as she wanted, actually cut her intake. Eye-opening.

selva said...

When should you step in and send them for drug rehabilitation? How do you choose a drug rehabilitation center for them? What sort of treatment for their substance abuse would be suitable? What should you expect from a Drug Rehab Center?