It’s a long one, a very, very long one. You can skip to the goodies near the bottom if you wish, it is late on a Sunday after all.
I have always been kind of ‘on the fence’ when it comes to drug use. I have never taken serious drugs. I remember all too clearly Zammo telling me to ‘just say no’. My enduring fear of becoming an unwitting glue sniffer, crusty mouth and all, left many an airfix project unfinished and my elder brother infuriated. My one and only foray into drug taking, a shared joint in 1990, made me soo sick I, to quote the acceptable phrases of the time, copped a whitey and puked my f****** ring up. When I finally stopped being sick on myself, and sobered up enough to realise I was still the same person, all be it a bit more smelly, I vowed never again, and never did.
Back then, recreational drug use was just blossoming as a hobby for people other than the rich and famous. The sudden arrival of ‘Acid House’, raves and the associated ‘recreational drug taking’ grabbed a lot of bored teenagers, by the angst, and swept them off into the great unknown. In my final year of school I watched many school friends go from bumming an entire fag or settling for seconds, in the school bogs, whilst discussing Top of the Pops, to spliting a ‘tab’ and vanishing off to muddy fields or abandoned mansions for weekends or even weeks at a time. For a naturally cautious person, blessed with a healthy dose of Grange Hill, a severe lack of angst, teenage or otherwise, and a Mother that would have killed me stone dead, I managed to avoid being swept along on a tide of teenage rebellion. Not for me the fields full of mud and drugged out teens, dancing to seriously shit music, with nothing more than a glow stick and a false sense of doing it different. I went and got a job.
Several years later, when I took a second job in a local pub, to make ends meet, I was deeply saddened to find myself serving so many of my former school mates, during working hours. It appeared that having finished the school year, as the cool kids, the recreational party animals, they had failed to give up the recreational drug taking and had, instead, somehow, become full time drug addicts. They would spend the afternoon, in the pub, supping a half, whilst waiting for their dealer to turn up. The day I helped bust the ‘the best looking guy in school’ and his dealer will always remain a memory I would rather forget.
Having said this, I still believe what someone else chooses to inject, ingest, snort or smoke is their own business. As long as their habits don’t infringe on the well being of others it’s not a problem. But there lies the rub. For serious drug addiction does affect others. A lot of others. Serious drug addicts will stop at nothing to get their next fix. Theft, fraud, assault and even murder will be used to raise funds for the next hit. I doubt there are many people today that haven’t been affected, in some way, by crime committed by those hell bent on getting their next fix. The reason?. Drugs are expensive, really expensive. A school friend once told me he estimated that his ‘habit’ cost him £200 a day, and this was a while ago. That’s £1400 a week. How the hell did he find the money?. Well we know the answer to that, don’t we.
So why are drugs so expensive?. They are illegal, that’s why. When you make a product illegal, it becomes harder to get. If something is hard to get the price goes up. That’s why diamonds cost so much and cubic zirconia doesn’t. Diamonds are rarer so they cost most. If something becomes very hard to get it doesn’t stop people wanting it, it just means the price will continue to rise, or the quality will drop. In some situations both will happen. It’s simple economics. The stupid thing is, if drugs weren’t illegal there would be enough produced every year for the world to get stoned, for very little. That doesn’t mean the world would want to get stoned, just that it could. Cubic zirconia is cheap as chips, but not everyone buys it.
To me, and a lot of people, the solution is simple. De-criminalisation. If all drugs were de-criminalised the first thing to happen would be a fair market. As more and more drugs became freely avaliable the price would bottom out. The second thing would be an increase in quality. Dealers wouldn’t need to cut the products with what ever came to hand to increase their profit margin, and buyers could be a lot more choosy about where they purchased their supplies. Any dealer killing off the customers with shoddy supplies wouldn’t stay in business very long. The Government could tax the profits and spend that money helping those that want to quit, instead of wasting billions every year trying to hunt down and halt the supply. It really isn’t rocket science.
Now I know that to a lot of people, the idea of buying a bag of heroin from the local corner shop is a frightening thought, but it really wouldn’t be any different to picking up a packet of fags or a 6 pack with your papers. I think the drop in crime would be stunning and the amount of revenue and police time freed up for other things would be truly eye watering. So why doesn’t the Government just do it?. I have a sneaky idea why. I think it’s because they are too deep in the pockets of Big Pharma.
The same reason they are making it harder and harder for smokers, to do what they are legally entitled to do, whilst shoving them, by the truck load into the waiting arms of the NRT brigade. The Government doesn’t really doesn’t give a shit what type of nicotine you imbibe as long as it get’s it’s slice of tax. As the market gets naturally smaller, due to the steady decline of people taking up smoking, or those deciding to quit, the Government needs to either increase it’s revenue per product or find a way to delay those trying to quit from succeeding.
So, those that wish to quit the smokes, for whatever reason, are actively discouraged from going cold turkey and are, instead, encouraged to take up a Government funded substitute instead. It would appear that the same thing has been happening with the druggies too. However, the results for the druggies are way more deadly.
Now on the face of things this would appear to be a good thing, yes?. By making drugs so rare, and therefore expensive, lives are being saved. It’s not until you read the small print that you realise all is not rosy and fine in the poppy garden.
The number of deaths due to heroin dropped by a quarter last year, it emerged yesterday.
There were 596 deaths, which doctors and inquests said were due to heroin or morphine overdoses, in 2011 compared to 791 in 2010 and nearly 900 in 2008.
Hurrah, cries the Government, the war on drugs is working, look. However, further down the page it is quietly explained how these deaths have decreased, and why it isn’t actually something to be glad about. In fact, it’s pretty darn scary.
But the ONS figures had one bleak spot. There were more deaths among users of methadone, the legal heroin substitute prescribed to heroin users which is designed to avoid withdrawal symptoms while not giving the same ‘high’.
Methadone deaths rose from 355 in 2010 to 486 in 2011.
Now according to my ‘back of a fag packet’ maths, I cheated and had to find an online percentage calculator, here’s what I came up with.
2011 saw a yearly decrease in total drug related deaths from 1146 to 1082, aka 64 or -5.58%. Which is a good thing. Breaking the figures down, deaths from illegal drugs decreased from 791 to 596, aka 195 or -24.65%. Even better, I hear you cry. However, deaths from the Government approved, Government funded (only available from a chemist, with a prescription) heroin substitute increased from 355 to 486, aka 131 or a whopping, eye watering 36.90%. Now I don’t know about you but that figure made me gulp*.
In fact, according to those figures, and my terribly bad maths, the Government managed to kill more druggies, by pumping them full of the shit they claimed would cure them, than would have been killed if they had just let them be. Which is, in my opinion, seriously fucking wrong.
It’s taken me nearly 8 hours to write and edit this post. I’m back to work tomorrow, so this is my last long winded rant. Enjoy.
*You are welcome to check my results, if you wish. If they are wrong blame the calculator not me, I’m rubbish at maths.