Our Drugs War: The ubituity of drugs in rural British Life

Channel 4 are running a series on why drugs should be legalised.

The next episode is on at 8pm tonight and visits America to see how zero-tolerance drugs policies don’t reduce supply, but ruin lives.

Next week sees the appraisal of Our Drugs War on our other war in Afghanistan, and how it is helping to create a new narco-state.

The first episode aired last Monday did a good job at illustrating how ubiquitous drugs are in every corner of the country. I thought I would add my anecdata to this.

I live in a medium sized village in Berkshire, hardly the ghetto, yet of the top of my head…

  • 200 meters up the road from me a man’s body was found, dead of a Methadone overdose which he had been prescribed for his Heroin addiction.
  • 200 meters the other way his wife continues (or did the last I heard of her) to take Heroin.
  • a few meters from her, twin sons of another family conducted a spree of burglaries in the few streets around their home to fund their Heroin addiction.
  • in the woods just north of the village a small Marijuana farm (well a few plants) was set up and run for a season.
  • in the woods just south lay various shacks with roofs still stained with pot smoke and floors scattered with long lost pieces of hash.
  • I knew, and have been to the house of, at least 3 drug dealers from my village through the years. I presume there are more which I did not visit.
  • adolescents were banned from The Memorial Hall playground for a period because of the vast quantity of roaches and burnt out spliffs left on the ground.

In Our Drugs War a senior Drugs Officer quoted figures showing that roughly 1% of all drugs smuggled into the country are being intercepted.

Through my eyes, a few hundred people over a few hundred square meters have never been more than an hour from as much drugs as they could afford.

Whatever we are doing to combat drugs is not working, perhaps we need to try something else; like regulation rather than criminalisation and medical help rather than penal sanction.

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9 thoughts on “Our Drugs War: The ubituity of drugs in rural British Life

  1. Meh, this is all small beans.

    I can walk for 15 seconds out my front door and the gang of lads who sit on the wall outside of my flat can sell me pretty much anything I want.

    It’s literally an open-air drugs market.

    Criminalisation does not stop supply. everyone knows it, but nobody will admit it.

      1. I moved down the road to Stepney Green (also a dump) but am escaping to Cambridge in September.

        As for house hunting tips, I left Neil Robertson a bunch under his “Selected Reading:Dick Whittington” post a while ago. They will apply.

        But the short version is: trust nobody.

  2. *by “nobody” I mean important people. Not schmucks like you and me who have to risk a criminal record just because we may want to have a good time in the privacy of our own homes.

  3. Legalisation is not the answer, besides being a political non-starter it leads to a whole host of problems I can’t be arsed to go into here, and I speak as a former junkie. (First question: What do you mean by ‘legalisati1on’?).

    What should happen is a total revision of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which is hopelessly out of date and the implementation of drugs legislation that looks on drugs as more of a public health issue rather than focussing narrowly on the criminal justice aspects.

    You need to distinguish between recreational drug users and those dependent on heroin and cocaine, it’s the latter group who cause most problems.

    We can’t go back to the ‘British System’ that existed till 1970 whereby GPs could prescribe heroin and cocaine.

    But we could implement a system whereby some pharmacists could become “drugists”, selling heroin and cocaine at prescription prices (or lower) to licenced users (the licence would issued by a doctor to ensure the drug user had a problem and/or was dependent on heroin or cocaine and thereby stop the casual user going “I wonder what thet heroin is like? I think I’ll nip down the ‘drugist’ and try some”).

    As for recreational drug users, just extend decriminalisation further and harm reduction policy and practises. And stop new drug that emerge becoming illegal – have a Class X as Dr David Nutt suggested.

    You will still get casualties, but those are the breaks with any drugs, legal or illegal.

    Finally, the majority of drug treatment in the UK is undetaken by voluntary groups, usually in partnership with the statutory sector. These groups should be funded properly, not somethng I can see the ConDems doing despite this waffle about ‘The Big Society’.

    1. By Legalisation I mean all drugs should be legal and available to those over a certain age, taxed to produce a price lower than the current market price, but much higher than the incredibly low cost of producing and distributing the drugs. (I would probably be happy with your idea for licensed heroin and cocaine, but MDMA or Weed should be as easy to purchase as alcohol).

      What should happen is a total revision of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which is hopelessly out of date and the implementation of drugs legislation that looks on drugs as more of a public health issue rather than focussing narrowly on the criminal justice aspects.

      Yes, this is the minimum that should happen.

      We can’t go back to the ‘British System’ that existed till 1970 whereby GPs could prescribe heroin and cocaine.

      Pity, why do you say that?

      As for recreational drug users, just extend decriminalisation further and harm reduction policy and practises. And stop new drug that emerge becoming illegal – have a Class X as Dr David Nutt suggested.

      You will still get casualties, but those are the breaks with any drugs, legal or illegal.

      No, I disagree with this. You would get more or less the same number of casualties because most casualties are caused by production and distribution not use.

      Decriminalisation is wonderful for wealthy kids in the developed world, but if trafficking and production remain illegal then dozens of countries and 10/100s million of people are screwed.

      Plus the profits would remain criminal rather than legitimate.

      Finally, the majority of drug treatment in the UK is undetaken by voluntary groups, usually in partnership with the statutory sector. These groups should be funded properly, not somethng I can see the ConDems doing despite this waffle about ‘The Big Society’.

      Absolutely, they do great work, but are badly under resourced.

      1. OK. The UK unilaterally legalises drugs.

        We would be in breach of UN resolutions. This may sound like a mere technicality, but the diplomatic fall out would be huge, particularly from countries which take a hardline on drugs like America and France. The EU would also be furious.

        Even a small, modest step like the Dutch decriminalising (it’s not legalisation like some people think) small amounts of cannabis in ‘coffe houses’ led to diplomatic fall out from America and France. The French even would not fully implement the Schengen agrement with Belgium because of Holland’s drug policy.

        The repercussions would probably cause problems for Britons travelling to some countries, at the least.

        There would also be big problems with drug tourists, it always happens. Any city, region or country that has decriminalised drugs to some extent gets drug tourists. Full on legalisation would lead to a massive influx.

        As other countries would not have legalised drugs you would still “..get more or less the same number of casualties because most casualties are caused by production and distribution not use.”

        Plus to parapharse, drug possession, trafficking and production would remain illegal in dozens of countries and 10/100s million of people would be screwed. Plus the profits in these would remain criminal rather than legitimate.

        Drug legalisation would only work if it was introduced internationally in a coordianted way.

        If we were to implement it unilaterally there would be very big problems.

        And I won’t even go into the the difficulties of retailing drugs.

        Finally, the reason GPs would not want to return to the ‘British System’ and prescribe heroin and cocaine is because they don’t want to.

        They complain about becoming “legal drug dealers” and it going against their Hippocratic oath, the first part of which say “first do no harm”. Doctors also prescribe drugs for therapeutic reasons not so the patient can get stoned (though I could name a few private doctors who do not take this view if money is offered), this is why methadone is prescribed.

        When the British System was in operation the number of people using it was under 2000, the number of problem drug users in the UK now is well over 200,000. The drug scene is very different now,that’s why I suggested ‘drugists’.

        There is also what you might call an “establishment” of doctors who treat problem drug users. Nearly all of them oppose the prescribing of heroin, and will only prescribe methadone because prescribing it is fairly easy, cheap and, crucially, unlike heroin it does not give you a buzz. There is no substitute drug for cocaine users.

        I am not taking some hardline of drugs here. I wish cocaine users would realise the misery they are supporting when they snort a line.

        I am an unaligned leftie (I haven’t voted for Labour since John Smith died) and often when I propose something even vaugely socialistic I am met with responses (even on some left blogs) of “not being realistic”, “the electorate will never support that” etc etc etc.

        But one thing I am certain of is that legalisation of drugs is not realistic and the electorate will never support it in the forseable future. Mention legalisation of drugs to to nearly anyone in drugs policy or research fields and they will just say “that’s not going to happen”. It’s dismissed. That is why I made the decriminalisation and other proposals in my original post, they are practical, they could happen.

        Legalisation of drug would only work if all major countries did it. That is not going to happen.

        1. You are talking a lot of sense, sadly.

          We are signed up to lots of UN resolutions and abrogating those would cause major problems.

          Likewise, the fallout from our allies would be bad.

          You are correct in saying unilateral legalisation wouldn’t significantly benefit those producing drugs or those caught by the producers.

          Pretty bleak prognosis.

          However, there needs to be a campaign which sees legalisation as the only satisfactory end point, even if officials, like the experts you mention, lay off emphasising it for credibilities sake. Nothing else will gather the necessary momentum.

          You have people like Charlie, see below, whose mind is made up. We probably can’t change it so we must override him and that will need numbers and, worryingly, cross border cooperation.

          I am happy to start with decriminalisation along the Portuguese lines, as hopefully this will help us ratchet policy along to where we want it among the worlds developed states.

          “Legalisation of drug would only work if all major countries did it. That is not going to happen.” Yet… ;-)

          You have some interesting thoughts on this, first and foremost I must concede we need to focus on decriminalisation, but without a more distant focus I’m not sure the momentum can be carried forward to get legalisation (something which I see as unambiguously better than decriminalisation).

  4. The problem with legalising drugs is that like any addiction, the addicts will still be unable to afford their addiction and still turn to crime, or purchase cheaper stuff off the black market. Negating the point of legalisation.

    These weak minded, weak willed individuals are beyond help, the money ‘treating’ them would be better spent on under privileged children, and society and the addicts better served by shipping them off to some remote location, like Antarctica.

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