We Should Aim To Reduce The Damage From Drugs

We Should Aim To Reduce The Damage From Drugs
Posted by FoM on November 22, 2001 at 08:04:23 PT
Lead Article
Source: Independent
It has become obvious that our drugs laws are not working. The Independent has long argued for a free-minded debate on the issue of drugs and, in particular, the need to differentiate between addictive narcotics and those milder substances where much of the problem is caused by their illegality. There was always something odd about cannabis being treated in the same way as opiates. Sooner or later the absurdity of this was going to become obvious; so it has proved. 
When the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, announced last month he wanted to relax the laws on cannabis he was doing no more than coming to terms with the new realities. Remember Ann Widdecombe's speech to the Conservative Party conference in October 2000 with its strident demands for a statutory penalty for possession of even the tiniest amounts of marijuana; this may seem an eternity ago, but it can, in retrospect, be seen as the last gasp of the blinkered old order.The younger generation of Conservative frontbenchers apart, the most striking aspect of the increasingly sensible drugs debate has been the outspoken interventions by serving police officers. Their experience fighting crime in places like Brixton, south London, has propelled the police and the Home Secretary into modifying the law on cannabis.Now Commander Brian Paddick of the Metropolitan Police, who pioneered the scheme in which police cautioned rather than arrested people for cannabis possession, says that arresting people with, say, a few ecstasy tablets is a "waste of resources". And Chief Superintendent Kevin Morris, the president of the Superintendents' Association has said it would support safe injecting rooms, or so-called "shooting galleries", where heroin users could inject in controlled conditions.This revolution in thinking has been forced on frontline police officers by the failure of our existing approach, especially the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act and the Government's faltering "war on drugs".Policemen, however, should not dictate public policy. Having said that, Mr Blunkett was wise to listen to the arguments on cannabis and we hope he will prove equally open minded in reviewing the law as it relates to other drugs. In the case of ecstasy, now classified as a class A drug along with heroin and LSD, all the statistics suggest that it is much less damaging than heroin. There is little evidence of craving, withdrawal or other addictive behaviour associated with this particular drug; it is, according to authoritative studies, several thousand times less dangerous than heroin; and it is, frankly, significantly less dangerous than alcohol, the biggest killer in the country. Ecstasy should rapidly be transferred to class B.Relaxing the laws on cannabis and ecstasy are pragmatic moves that must be part of an approach that has harm reduction, not punishment, at its centre. It is right to caution so-called "weekend" drug users, rather than prosecute them  so long as this is not just applied to middle-aged and middle-class users. In the case of heroin, that must mean moving addicts away from the criminal market for often adulterated merchandise and towards the much wider prescription of the drug in its pharmaceutically pure form. The same applies to the supply of needles and other drug paraphernalia and a safe environment for consumption. Pilot schemes in America and elsewhere have found such schemes lead to a big reduction in crime, especially burglary and shoplifting, and are highly cost effective.The resources released by these sorts of initiatives can then be trained on what should be the priority  clamping down on the large drug dealers and importers, especially those who traffic heroin and cocaine. What matters is what works, as someone famously said. Complete Title: We Should Aim To Reduce The Damage From Drugs, Not Punish The UsersNewshawk: puff_tuffSource Independent (UK) Published: November 22, 2001Copyright: 2001 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd. Contact: letters Website Related Articles:English Pot Smokers' Pub May Prove a Model Police Prepared To Support Relaxed Laws Advised To Legalise Cannabis Cafes 
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Comment #2 posted by p4me on November 22, 2001 at 17:08:07 PT:
who knows what
Since everyone else is busy I might as well throw a few words at estcasy. This Mark Steele is really not clear in his writing if you ask me. He acts if everything is going to be completely legal when all the police are suggesting is they reclassify estcasy and not make it legal. The majority of Britains want MJ legalized.With the same amount of words he could have warned people that buy estcasy that there are no assurances of what is in the pill they took. He could have explained that estcasy causes the brain to release seratonin which causes a euphoria for one night and leaves the brain in defeciency afterwards. Recovery would depending on a persons ability to replace the seratonin. He could say that it really can do serious brain damage that is permanent even if the pill is pure. He could mention that alcohol also can deplete the brain of seratonin and result in an alcohol induced depression. And if he ask me I could tell him that depression is a bitch that nobody would want to go through. It is a danger of alcohol that should be on every bottle of wine, beer, and liquor. Instead most people do not know of this. It might contribute to a cycle where depression leads to drinking for escape and fall deeper into depression. He could have advised people that all decisions have consequences and a person should make informed decisions where possible to avoid negative if not horrible consequences. He could have called on the media to open up the door for an honest discussion on the subject of drug abuse and let us work together to reduce the harm that addictions as well as bad decisions can cause. He could have said that health is very precious and most people take its value for granted until it lost or impaired and that health is the thing that a person should treasure most.I wish he would be direct and hit the nail on the head and at least ask the media to open the door for debate and good information. I am not sure what he said, but it is just another example of bad journalism in my humble opinion.Vote against all incumbents. Open the door for some honest talk.
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Comment #1 posted by puff_tuff on November 22, 2001 at 09:48:31 PT
Mark Steel Column
from the same issue of The IndependentNov. 22, 2001The ecstasy of hearing a police siren on the way to a raveMark Steel
The Independent (UK)'The cruellest trick was the Taliban's, who allowed plenty of drugs and then banned music'Now police chiefs are saying they should be lenient with ecstasy. What's happening? The filth are becoming one of the most liberal sections of society. They'll be changing their uniform to red and yellow baggy jumpers and trousers with loads of pockets, raiding sports shops yelling: "Alright sonny, we've been watching you sell those Nike trainers. I don't suppose you even care how much them kids in China are paid, people like you make me sick. Get in the van." And if they're promoted they'll get an extra nose-stud.Maybe the police will start taking ecstasy themselves, then instead of the siren warning everyone within a mile to dive out of the way of a screeching police car, it would just mean there was a rave on at the station.What some police chiefs have noticed is that with an estimated 500,000 people taking the stuff every weekend, the law isn't proving as effective as it might be. Partly, this is because the most attractive side to ecstasy is it's for the young. People over 40 can drink beer or smoke dope or snort cocaine, but if they try ecstasy it's as pathetic as a 40-year-old in 1977 trying to pogo. Which is a shame because old people could benefit the most. You'd find 70-year-olds saying: "Ooh, do you know what, Emily? My son came round to dinner on Sunday afternoon, so I popped a couple of Es and I managed to stay awake all afternoon."People who yell about the horrors of ecstasy should consider that figure of 500,000. That must be almost everybody between 15 and 26, and they clearly they don't all go mad. Just as Amsterdam still seems to function, despite drugs being legal, and the canals aren't full of people drowning under the impression they're a water-lily.My most peculiar Amsterdam moment was to try a slice of "Space Cake", temptingly laid out on a trolley in a nightclub. The strange effect of this was to make everything seem 20 times faster than it was, while leaving every other sense perfectly intact. I seem to remember getting in a mini-cab, and a few seconds later saying perfectly lucidly to the driver: "I know this might sound odd, but would it be possible to go a bit slower please, only this speed is making me a bit uneasy." To which he answered: "Well yes, it is possible. But we are only travelling at eight kilometres per hour." Surely anyone would agree my life was enhanced by that experience.What these police chiefs have grasped is that no one's attitude towards taking drugs is affected by the law anyway, and with stronger drugs, that applies even more. No one sits behind the rubbish chute on a council estate, tapping their arm to find a vein and then thinks: "Hang on. Or is this against the law?" Equally, if crack was legal, few people would say: "In that case, let's stir-fry a beaker-ful with our noodles as we've run out of parsley."Because the reason people take ecstasy is they enjoy it. And that seems to be the main argument against it. It's part of the English heritage When I was a boy I remember my granny complaining that "modern medicine doesn't work because they make it taste nice".But the cruellest trick with drugs was that of the Taliban, who allowed a plentiful supply of the stuff throughout the country, but then banned music. That must have driven anyone on ecstasy mad. They must have spent their weekends at all-night mosques, advertised as "three floors of pumping religious chanting, with Mazar-i-Sharif's top imams".Maybe these would wave their arms and yell: "This one's going out to the Kandahar posse, keeping it real in the chill-out cave with Osama and the gang from the al-Qai'ida massive. It's a special request for 'Allah the eternally merciful' on a special 12-inch dub mix, pursuing the pillars of Islam large-style."That would have been the time for the Americans to nip in and do a deal, as everyone would have greeted them with: "Ah, Great Satan, good to see you man, keep it cool."Maybe this explains the Taliban's recent behaviour. For security reasons, only a few people knew the exact location of their next venue. The rest were told to meet somewhere in the desert, where they'd be picked up and driven to a warehouse, before asking each other if they were sorted for rocket launchers.Besides, if ecstasy has had such a horrific effect on our youth, it's strange that the seediest people in youth culture were the stars of the music scene before the stuff was invented. Because after Gary Glitter and Jonathan King, it's beginning to seem there was hardly anyone with a number one record in the early 1970s who hasn't been suspected of lusting after juveniles.If any other glam rock relics have got any sense they'll be out of the country by now: though if this was a trend the people to feel most sorry for was any poor sod cornered by the Scots dragoon guards who did "Amazing Grace". 
Mark Steel
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