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Do drug users need punishment or pity?

Mark Easton | 17:20 UK time, Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Today's government "Drugs Strategy" [466KB PDF] includes this five-word statement: "drug possession is a crime".

While technically accurate, the phrase disguises the national and global debate on whether we should view drug users as criminals deserving of punishment or patients in need of treatment. It is a debate that rages between the lines of the strategy itself.

On the one hand the document sets out a government approach that would "consistently enforce effective criminal sanctions to deter drug use" but simultaneously "offer every support for people to choose recovery as an achievable way out of dependency".

So there are "good" drug users who will be helped to give up and "bad" drug users whose refusal to enter treatment will leave them open to all the criminal sanctions on the statute book.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the body which tries to ensure signatories to the various UN drug conventions toe the international line, "people who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution".

A recent UNODC report entitled "From coercion to cohesion: Treating drug dependence through health care, not punishment" [350KB PDF] questioned whether users of illicit substances may have already suffered enough.

Paragraph from UNODC paper, From Coercion to Cohesion

So, on one reading, today's strategy for the UK seems to be at odds with the direction of travel in the international arena. But beyond the two lines I have quoted concerning the criminality of drug possession, the document is largely in tune with ideas on how to "nudge" users to give up.

The UNODC has debated the kind of "coercion" that could be regarded as legitimate in the context of seeing the user as someone suffering from a disease and have concluded that cutting benefits does not necessarily mean "violating the rights of drug users and drug dependent individuals to refuse treatment".

Paragraph from UNODC paper, From Coercion to Cohesion

The UK government has leapt on that last suggestion, announcing that "we will offer claimants who are dependent on drugs or alcohol a choice between rigorous enforcement of the normal conditions and sanctions where they are not engaged in structured recovery activity, or appropriately tailored conditionality for those that are."

"Over the longer term, we will explore building appropriate incentives into the universal credit system to encourage and reward treatment take-up. In practice, this means that those not in treatment will neither be specifically targeted with, nor excused from, sanctions by virtue of their dependence, but will be expected to comply with the full requirements of the benefits regime or face the consequences."

For some, however, the drugs strategy will be seen as a missed opportunity to engage with another growing global debate: whether prohibition itself makes the problem worse.

The Home Secretary Theresa May closes down any thought that she might go down that road. "This Government does not believe that liberalisation and legalisation are the answer," she writes in the foreword to the strategy.

"Decriminalisation fails to recognise the complexity of the problem and gives insufficient regard to the harms that drugs pose to the individual. It neither addresses the risk factors which lead individuals to misuse drugs or alcohol, nor the misery, cost and lost opportunities that dependence causes individuals, their families and the wider community."

In a separate "Impact Assessment" [303KB PDF] of the strategy it is explained what options the ministers considered when designing the policies:

Paragraph from Home Office's Impact Assessment

By restricting the reform agenda to a choice between doing nothing or Implimplementing their plans, ministers have effectively closed down all discussion of anything more radical.

Comments

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  • 1. At 5:34pm on 08 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    how about neither and just provide decent medical help.

    do cancer patients need chemotherapy or pity?

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  • 2. At 5:41pm on 08 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    reducing supply, reducing demand, building recovery..
    that was the original purpose of MODA71 was it not why do they think they are so special that they will succeed were the rest of the world has failed?
    public executions for dealing?
    flogging for smoking a joint?
    waterboarding for dropping an E?

    that will reduce use and nothing else will.
    remove the limited income from benefits and users will move into deraling and crime.

    Why do we put up with these people? they are worse than the heroin addicts that plauge our community.

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  • 3. At 6:39pm on 08 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/uk-drug-strategy-2010-a-plan-to-fail/

    good read. with all your favorite characters 'Away with the fairies May' and 'James BreakingBrition' taking the lead roles in this cane swishing debate.. no wait there will be no debate.

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  • 4. At 7:02pm on 08 Dec 2010, Ed wrote:

    In the most startling example of intellectual dishonesty I've yet seen from this ethical vacuum of a coalition, ministers framed the question of how to address drugs policy as a straight either/or:

    1. Do Nothing.
    2. Implement the government's new drugs strategy.

    In spite of the trumpeted 'consultation' on drugs policy, it is blindingly obvious that no consideration was given to anything except a pre-packed ideology.

    www.drugequality.org

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  • 5. At 7:03pm on 08 Dec 2010, Pretty Baffled wrote:

    'Drug possession is a crime'.
    Oh really?
    I am holding a mug of coffee, my wife a glass of sherry and the guy next door is smoking a cigarette.
    All are drugs, none are criminal.
    But what level of precision would you expect from a government that holds that the best thing to do with scientific input is get rid of it?

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  • 6. At 7:07pm on 08 Dec 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    The association of drug use and moral behavior is something that has hampered any progress. Alcohol, a drug, generates much income for governments and drugs could do the same. It is the behaviors that need to be regulated. Criminals are getting rich while the moralist pray. Does the casual user of drugs need rehabilitation? There are also a variety of legal drugs that doctors write for every day and those on Valium and such face no punishments when this is their coping tool. Crime would be greatly reduced by simply legalizing drugs and punishing behaviors. How many years of wasted efforts will it take before the governments admit failure. One would think that the governmental need for money would move this along as that is the primary motivation for everything else they do....maybe the bankers will make them do it.

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  • 7. At 7:14pm on 08 Dec 2010, Ed wrote:

    Moreover, let's look again at the final quote from your article above, because it seems the government doesn't know what it is saying:

    "Decriminalisation fails to recognise the complexity of the problem and gives insufficient regard to the harms that drugs pose to the individual. It neither addresses the risk factors which lead individuals to misuse drugs *or alcohol*..."

    Alcohol? Is alcohol criminalised? This proposed drugs 'strategy' is in disarray from the outset.

    www.drugequality.org

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  • 8. At 7:15pm on 08 Dec 2010, kaybraes wrote:

    Why is it always wrong or inhuman to call a spade a spade ? Drug and alchohol dependency is not an illness, it is a gross indulgence and should be treated as such. If those indulging do not want to stop their habit, then why should society bear the cost ? Claiming that helping these people cuts crime, is a covenient excuse for successive governments' failure to remove the problem by legalising the offending drugs and letting the problem kill itself off.

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  • 9. At 7:25pm on 08 Dec 2010, Peter Reynolds wrote:

    Britain now has the most repressive drug policy of any civilised nation. We rub shoulders with those countries that execute people for drug possession. What happened to the bold, progressive ideas that David Cameron and Nick Clegg once spoke for?

    There is no excuse for this disastrous and incompetent effort. Theresa May was a surprise choice for Home Secretary and until now she has left the drugs issue to James Brokenshire. His words and actions have been so ridiculous that I always assumed he had been offered up as cannon fodder, soon to be sacked for his ultra right wing authoritarian nonsense. This time though Ms May has put her name to this prohibitionist, irrational, poorly informed drivel. She will live to regret it.

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/uk-drug-strategy-2010-a-plan-to-fail/

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  • 10. At 7:27pm on 08 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 11. At 7:34pm on 08 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    Peter,
    "What happened to the bold, progressive ideas that David Cameron and Nick Clegg once spoke for?"
    They got into power. the daily fail would not allow any talk about change in the drug laws. We dont live a democracy, we live in an elected dictatorship.

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  • 12. At 7:40pm on 08 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    David Cameron possessed drugs once so is he a criminal?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6350909.stm

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  • 13. At 7:50pm on 08 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    People thought the last Government was authoritarian, in 6 months of power this government has attacked Science, freedom of Speech and now liberty. why are we sat on our lazy bottoms and not doing anything? does no body care? Our way of life is been take from us. We are going backwards not forwards.

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  • 14. At 7:55pm on 08 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    Seems many states that have embraced medical cannabis have also seen a huge fall in the value of the black markets as cannabis plumets in price.

    http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/health/medical/alternative/2010-12-08-marijuana-prices_N.htm

    So the goverment are getting TAX the dealers and getting very little in proffits crime will be falling......

    Does not take a sientist to see we have an idiot at the helm in the UK.

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  • 15. At 8:01pm on 08 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    How will this Government deal with wealthy drug addicts, or those who do not use the benefits system? Or are they going to only target the poorest drug users, the city boys who (allegedly) snort a bit of charlie are ok to carry on?

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  • 16. At 8:05pm on 08 Dec 2010, SJRulez wrote:

    There's a huge generalisation regarding drug takers, although it can be argued that drugs are illegal not all drug takers obtain their drugs through crime.

    If a drug taker does steal, rob or cause a nusiance then yes they should decision to punish them should be down to what they are addicted to for instance:

    Stealing for cannabis, a slightly addictive drug but not enough to cause physical or mental strain when not consumed and is relatively cheap to purchase. The person should be punished and generally making a point of the dependancy is attempt at getting away with it or a reduced sentance.

    Mugging for heroin, a highly addictive drug that has a difficult hold to break. Once a person is addicted typically they will lose everything including families, jobs and in many cases possesions\home. Most of these people do need help and pity but the worst thing is to place them in a prison where the drug is even more readily available but at even higher costs.

    Juts to provide a real world example from my own experience:

    Friend A - Had a very high paid job and recreationally enjoyed a class A drug, we was caught will a "higher than personal use" amount and received a 2year prison term, lost his job and employement prospects and will become a burden on the state for a while on his release.

    Friend B - No job, smoke canabis and is regularly arrested for shoplifting and theft. Repeatedly he's been given ASBO's, Cautions and reduced sanctions on the basis "he gets help".

    Which of the two would you rather see in prison!

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  • 17. At 8:29pm on 08 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 18. At 8:30pm on 08 Dec 2010, Woolly80 wrote:

    The last Government sacked the person they appointed for daring to suggest the Drug Policy in this country was at best counter-productive and the current lot will simply do the same because they and any Government are too preoccupied with pandering towards their own core voters common sense on a "sensitive" issue such as this goes out of the window.

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  • 19. At 8:40pm on 08 Dec 2010, watriler wrote:

    Kaybraes must be the nom de clavier of Theresa May. It must be less stressful being prejudiced.

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  • 20. At 8:49pm on 08 Dec 2010, U14567582 wrote:

    "By restricting the reform agenda to a choice between doing nothing or Implimplementing their plans, ministers have effectively closed down all discussion of anything more radical."

    If options are being limited and choices are to be made, then the answers back need to be in the same vein... we accept this/we don't accept this. Personally speaking, I'm in the latter category. This whole week has been a pure abuse of power and a vagrant disregard for a fair society. The measures implemented this week can not go uncontested. We are truly regressing with each passing day.

    I especially like and recommend Have Your Say Rejected's comment (no.15). The whole "strategy" is based upon - and all assuming - that drug addicts are impoverished and wasters. The strategy is not addressing high end drug users. Class war card anyone?! I don't like using it, but my word is it in need of pulling out in this farcical mess.

    I guess I'll have to make some more shoddy videos in the time being until suitable change and discussion is engaged:

    www.wn.com/homegrownoutlaw

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  • 21. At 8:50pm on 08 Dec 2010, Cliffchuff wrote:

    Basically you will loose your benefits unless you enter treatment, if you enter treatment this will be time limited after which you will loose your benefits, the wonderful new support system will be delivered by drug services facing yet more cuts to an already well overburdened system with greater levels of unemployment and deprivation. They are going to house drug users in non-existent housing and services will all start working together better despite all enduring substantive cuts to their budgets.
    Local champions will save the day by showing how wonderful life can be without drugs.
    They do notice that heroin use has declined in young people while they were not in power though (wonder how much it will increase over the next four years?)

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  • 22. At 8:50pm on 08 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    re 17 just kill it send it back with your objections thanks.

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  • 23. At 9:29pm on 08 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    you seem to be very slow tonight Beeb, I just received a 500 Internal Server Error...Operation Avenge Assange by any chance Beeb?

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  • 24. At 9:47pm on 08 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    "I agree with outlaw"

    I got that from one of your 'shoddy' videos, well I think it was one of yours, nice work, and yes I totally agree with outlaw. It seems to me the MoDa 71 was about prohibiting competition which damaged Alcohol and tobacco profits, and nothing to do with public health.

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  • 25. At 10:11pm on 08 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    ALL eu countries given go ahead to dismatal prohabition!!!
    http://encod.org/info/EU-READY-TO-END-DRUG-PROHIBITION.html

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  • 26. At 10:14pm on 08 Dec 2010, Peter Reynolds wrote:

    I'm an outlaw and proud of it.

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  • 27. At 10:21pm on 08 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    Peter thats so cute :P
    guess im an outlaw to :D

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  • 28. At 10:25pm on 08 Dec 2010, TOBYJOSH wrote:

    In my youth I dabbled in everything going but I didn't sell my furniture and steal from my family.

    Being a junkie is a life choice. Get high and enjoy it, or choose it as a way of life.

    They don't deserve understanding, pity or sympathy. They made their choice and should suffer it.

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  • 29. At 10:26pm on 08 Dec 2010, nativeson wrote:

    What they need is what the BBC approve of; a fantastic new labour government made up entirely of public school kids like Harman Balls and Teddy Millibrand who learnt all about the drug taking habits of proles at their 10k a term schools, loads of legislation from europe and the licence few to rise dramatically.
    As the moderator knows, this is the only solution,
    Lets make Blair a saint.Without the public school toffs taking over and running labour and the BBC we would have to put up with working class people!

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  • 30. At 10:27pm on 08 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    out·law (outlô)
    n.
    1.
    a. A fugitive from the law.
    b. A habitual criminal.
    c. A rebel; a nonconformist: a social outlaw.
    2. A person excluded from normal legal protection and rights.
    3. A wild or vicious horse or other animal.

    Hmmm so am I, should I hand myself in now.

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  • 31. At 10:32pm on 08 Dec 2010, donut 54 wrote:

    Drug takeing has over the years become so acceptable that it is classed as a nesserary evil of youth and those who cannot face up to thier responcabilitys.Truth is we are breeding a week willed nation of young adults who cannot cope on thier own.Part of this is because we are not allowing our children to be responcible for actions. They then grow up to be reliant on others, or run away from life by hiding in the bottom of a bottle or glass or taking some drug or other.Untill we change that we will get drug and booze abuse.The softly softly approach does Not work.We need to slap down hard on dealers and restrict drink licences.Stop selling booze in the supermarkets on a daily basis they should only be allowed to sell on so many days a year.Stop all benifits for those effected by drug and drink abuse.Just get them cleaned up at rehabs instead.If they are caught back on it again then the harder treatment begins.

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  • 32. At 10:37pm on 08 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    nativson...

    “I am the heir to Blair,” D. Cameron

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  • 33. At 10:46pm on 08 Dec 2010, Euforiater wrote:

    16: "Friend A - Had a very high paid job and recreationally enjoyed a class A drug, we was caught will a "higher than personal use" amount and received a 2year prison term, lost his job and employement prospects and will become a burden on the state for a while on his release.

    Friend B - No job, smoke canabis and is regularly arrested for shoplifting and theft. Repeatedly he's been given ASBO's, Cautions and reduced sanctions on the basis "he gets help".

    Which of the two would you rather see in prison!"

    - Obviously Friend B. By the simple fact that on the evidence above he caused harm to others. The smoking of cannabis should be irrelevant, the real crime was the shoplifting and theft.

    One thing that really bugs me is the get-out-of-jail card that alcohol has compared to the go-to-jail card that comes with cannabis. When some young yob (yes I know, it's not my style) gets up in front of "the beak" and his lawyer says "I'd like to point out that my client had been drinking prior to the assault m'lud", common sense - lacking in prohibition dogma - says that the judge should be asking the lager-swilling assailant "was that your first ever drink?" If the answer is "No" then he needs to be sentenced as a sober man would for ignoring the fact it turns him into a sociopath.

    As opposed to cannabis "I'd like to point out that my client had been smoking cannabis prior to going home, watching a sci-fi DVD and snacking from the fridge". As it's illegal the lawyer usually adds "but he's trying to give it up", thus backing up the judge's prejudice that it's morally wrong.

    When we finally kill of this whole prohibition fiddle things like this won't happen - people will be judged on the consequences of their actions instead of outdated tabloid hysteria.

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  • 34. At 10:48pm on 08 Dec 2010, bejaybers wrote:

    'Punishment or pity'? Both

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  • 35. At 10:56pm on 08 Dec 2010, Peter Reynolds wrote:

    @Have your say Rejected

    No!

    Run, run!

    Catch you back in the forest, in our secret hiding place.

    Can you pick up a pack of Rizla on the way?

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  • 36. At 11:36pm on 08 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    Peter, I read this on your blog..."This from a government that advocates giving people methadone to “treat” cannabis use." I really cannot believe this is true, but this Gov. has surprised me in ways I never expected, in a bad way. I'm running, fast...

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  • 37. At 11:43pm on 08 Dec 2010, Graphis wrote:

    I'd like to see a government that explains PRECISELY what it is they fear from people who use drugs?

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  • 38. At 11:43pm on 08 Dec 2010, minebann wrote:

    They need to be treated the same, regardless of whether their drug of choice is something popular and traditional like alcohol, caffeine or tobacco, or whether it's something more foreign or more new.

    It is not true to say "drug possession is a crime". More accurate is "possession of insufficiently mainstream drugs is a crime". Drug prohibition is the last great bastion of state-sanctioned discrimination against minorities and outsiders.

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  • 39. At 01:15am on 09 Dec 2010, Daisy Chained wrote:

    So we have a Secretary of State admitting the problem is complex but unworthy of debatable options! We have a policy document seen many times before in various guises attacking the symptoms of drug dependency, loss of privileges (e.g. driving license), loss of responsibility (e.g. children removed), loss of esteem (e.g. unemployment), loss of stability (e.g. no benefits), but not dealing with the "complexity of cause and effect". Is addiction a health disorder or just someone being a naughty boy or girl?

    It would seem to be the latter in Ms May's headmistresses study. "You will receive a jolly good spanking which will not stop until you are absolutely clean, repentent, and redeemed." No doubt uniforms will be required.

    I suppose the Westminster Palace Follies see it as cheap entertainment, where the limelight only catches the upfront gauche makeup and grotesque outfits. Such cheap theatre always casts long shadows over the audience where the real performances are taking place.

    I do hope Ms May is nominated for a BAFTA award, after all no one in the audience has a chance do they?

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  • 40. At 03:43am on 09 Dec 2010, clamdip lobster claws wrote:

    I think if people accept government help in raising their children and providing cheap rent then it can impose certain standards. If drug addicts are given excellent help in quitting their dependencies and they are succesful then they should be helped back to a working, normal life. If people feel as though they are falling off the rails, they should be able to check into a dependency hotel/ center if it helps them stay sober. In America, there are special homeless dormitories for veterans. They are organized in groups and follow a standard military protocol. People used to this structure find it helpful and beneficial. There should be a range of specialized dependency hotels and clinics that offer support to drug addicts and alcoholics. Direct support should be given to the family while a parent is in rehab. Drug addiction and alcoholism support should be easy to access like checking into a hotel. A 999 support crisis plan should immediately go into effect. Most druggies and alcoholics are in denial. Making rehab a non judgemental, somewhat pleasurable experience is the hook to get them in and on a life free of dependency. Staffing it with pretty, voluptuous drug dependency psychologists is a fast way to lure them in too.

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  • 41. At 06:46am on 09 Dec 2010, arny wrote:

    The problem with all this is it's just fantasy. How'd you stop a incorrigible fat person from being fat: the only sure fire way is to lock them in a room and restrict their food supply, and the same logic applies to drug addicts. There's no point moralizing. The problem is in the real world prison and mental hospital stays cost about a thousand pound a week, and nobody wants the increase in taxation to pay for that. Pop stars can afford rehab for as long as it takes (which might be years), but your typical drug user can't. As far as I understand the success rate of government treatment for long term drug users is something like 5%. Most of the debate isn't in the real world. I don't think people are really talking about drug addicts, they're really talking about themselves and the virtues of their personal philosophy of will-power. Personally I think the fact I'm not fat, alcoholic or a junkie is down to good fortune, it's not something I have to work at, and it's not a choice I have consciously made.

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  • 42. At 08:06am on 09 Dec 2010, colinlondonuk wrote:

    Hi Mark

    As a nation we should be concerned. Bans on smoking, declassifying then reclassifying drugs, now targeting alcohol consumption.. Is there an agreed strategy with the government to turn our country into a pure work nation - allowed no vices, no freedom of choice, just dictorial control and scaremongering?
    We should be free to decide our own lifestyle! A slong as it has no knock on effect to others.
    Legal or illegal, some people will always choose to use drugs - no matter what new controls or expensive strategies are implemented.
    I have smoked cannabis for 20+ years, (when younger I used all drugs) I have a family, I own my own business, am a God parent to 3 children, my morals will always remain in tact - moreso than 90% of the government!
    I do not choose crime to pay for my drugs but i have to mix with criminals to get them, thanks government.
    Money made from manufacturing, distributing and taxing could go towards our National debt and as things stands we need every penny possible.
    We should be allowed to choose how we want to live our lives, not be told.

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  • 43. At 08:18am on 09 Dec 2010, Peter Reynolds wrote:

    @Have your say Rejected

    To be fair, it's not just this government. It's been going on for some while. Yes, when some toerag tells the beak that he's "addicted to cannabis" and that's why he's robbing, the "doctors" may well give him methadone (more addictive than heroin and potentially fatal in overdose) as "therapy".

    It's horrific isn't it. Like something from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest".

    Such is that state of Britain today.

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  • 44. At 09:10am on 09 Dec 2010, Pastorius wrote:

    Peter, I'm intrigued by this 'methadone for cannabis' claim. If it's true it's properly horrific. Do you have any source material for it or is it just word on the grapevine?

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  • 45. At 09:42am on 09 Dec 2010, bigsammyb wrote:

    My grandmother was a valium addict and she was prescribed it by her doctor.

    So i assume the government thinks it is okay to take heroin (valium) recreationally provided it is supplied by a doctor who gets it from a pharmacuetical company?

    So the government thinks heroin is good but cannabis is bad?

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  • 46. At 09:44am on 09 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    Peter. I am truly shocked that anyone would think it's acceptable to use Methadone to treat (in its loosest term) Cannabis 'addiction'. It's all very sinister.

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  • 47. At 10:21am on 09 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    I worked in a care home not long ago, many of the service users were prescribed, Tamazepam, lorazepam and Diazepam. My wife informs me they are still used quite prevalently, especially used as a PRN. None of the service users were ever asked if they wanted to take these drugs. It seems very disheartening that any Government thinks these peoples lives are so worthless they can be prescribed drugs like this, but I cannot use a much safer drug called cannabis.

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  • 48. At 11:05am on 09 Dec 2010, Peter Reynolds wrote:

    Methadone is the treatment protocol for all drug addiction. It is, of course, intended to be an opiate substitute but its what you get if you present with heroin, cocaine or any other drug addiction.I believe it's also been used for alcoholism.

    I'll see if I can find some reference.

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  • 49. At 11:24am on 09 Dec 2010, Angry Leftie wrote:

    My favourite part of this whole "strategy" (if you can dignify it by calling it that) is the method of how they will assess it is working or not. Put simply, they won't. This neatly side steps any awkward questions that may arise when nothing changes or it is found to have made matters worse. As with the reduction of scientists on the drugs panel, the government has decided that the best way to avoid any one pointing out the error of their ways is to stifle, and even prohibit, debate. And people said Gordon Brown had Stalinist tendencies. It seems the state was just warming up during his tenure. This lot have taken it to the next level.

    The drugs issue is not going to go away. People are realising that most drugs are not as harmful as we have been led to believe. They are also becomming more attuned to the fact that prohibition is only continued due to a combination of political cowardice in the face of tabloid hysteria and a fear in the political class of admitting they've been wrong for the last 40 years. You can stifle debate as much as you like but the evidence for any sort of prohibition not working has been there for all to see since the 1920s! This is not sustainable in the long term. I am only sorry for people who will have their lives ruined by our repressive system just because they do not choose to become addicted to the government's sanctioned drugs.

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  • 50. At 11:27am on 09 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    Carrying on from my point about care home and drug use, if these people's medication was to be reduced or even stopped it was done gradually over a period of months, if not years. The nurse manager told me total abstinence could lead to death. Does the Government accept it may take years to wean some of the harder drug addicts off their dependencies, and if they want to end drug dependencies, then Methadone isn't a solution. Its just swapping one addiction for another.

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  • 51. At 11:34am on 09 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    Peter, I found this on an American Addiction information site.

    "Withdrawal and acute panic reactions and flashbacks during marijuana intoxication are usually managed with supportive therapy. In severe cases, low-dose benzodiazepines are used. Generally the withdrawal symptoms from marijuana are mild and do not required any drug therapy."

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  • 52. At 11:35am on 09 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    #17 eddited...
    Have your say: they will NOT deal with the rich but it will force up insurance prices for home content and personal loss (bankers thinking oh wait it was written by one)
    If they find a way to increase the risks of dealing it will drive down the purity of powdered drugs which in turn will see huge rises in mental health and AE costs dealing with the outcome of toxic mixes.

    This bill is about causing harm to both the individual be it householder with higher insurance premiums or to the addict who will be forced to steal more which will fall back to the poor individual whose insurance went up 50% because the street has had a couple of burglaries. you couldn't write a better cash cow for the banks if you tried.

    Then we come to the next part of the bill treatment?
    were?
    did we just build a load of new rehab centres... ?
    No it will be unoccupied houses in random streets that become halfway houses. So be careful who buys the house next door it may be the council/DWP and addicts will be housed in them regardless of the impact on the area.
    (we have spent 6 years fighting this problem and given up)

    I real cant think of a more appropriate bill in the face of world wide scientific based tried and tested models that prove true acceptance and control of these substances leads to a better life for all. Addict become useful Healthy members of society when the habit is managed for them with real clean drugs and not the current drug prison regime. Communities will feel safer as they know the addict is looked after so has no need to mug or steal their property.

    Firmly back on topic. although they say they have shelved plans to cut benifits and impose sanctions on addicts...

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  • 53. At 11:37am on 09 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    Peter we have addicts in our community who have just passed 30 years on methadone. its just another prison a chemical one.

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  • 54. At 1:23pm on 09 Dec 2010, danielcarter wrote:

    The so called "options" ministers considered when designing the so called "new drug policy"

    "1) Do nothing", or "2) Implement our policies",

    is the most humorous political hypocrisy I've read in the whole year (and we are at the end of a year that has been rather full of it!)
    I laughed quite hard after reading it.

    Thanks Mark for letting us know. (I feel somehow healthier after so much jolly)

    (Luckily, I'm an outlaw too, so ministers rank hypocrisy doesn't affect me too much (though of course, we are all terribly affected, at the very least, in an "indirect" way, by paying criminals what should be used to fund education, hospitals, etc)

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  • 55. At 2:21pm on 09 Dec 2010, wookiee69 wrote:

    As a proud Outlaw I have spent the last year or so researching why at my age(36) my evening relaxant is likely to land me in the dock.

    Thanks to the great Jack Herer and his marvelous book "The Emperor Wears no Clothes" amongst many other authors and scientists(cheers Prof Nutt)
    I have come to realise that drug policy in the majority of western nations is firmly grounded in corporate protectionism and victorian religious moralism.

    The present british government approach is simply a continuation of sicophancy towards large buisness interests and a voyeristic interest in the pleasures taken by private citizens in their own homes.

    All scientific, social and medical evidence shows that prohibition is detrimental to society as a whole but particularly damaging to the seriously addicted individual. To treat those who use highly addictive substances in such black and white terms as outlined by the minister advocates is abhorrent and will only lead to increased rates of crime and societal breakdown. Yet, to offer only this draconian solution to the vast range of substances currently deemed "too much fun for the public to enjoy with our approval" is insane. Methadone is not a cure for Heroin addiction, simply an acceptable alternative addiction in the eyes of the system. To advocate its use for alcohol or cannabis users shows this administrations totalitarian motives for what they are!

    This legislative change is the inevitable outcome of an elite social structure who see political power as their right and evidence as something which is only useful if it backs your position.

    Our shambolic attempt at democracy shuffles the faces around the benches of parliament but the agendas do not change.
    Now we see all your available political options(Con, Lab, Lib) pushing the same agenda of "do as your told or else" which is gradually reducing our personal freedoms in exchange for free market economics and profit driven social restriction.

    Drug addicts need medical help but the once free peoples of this country need pity for their sheepish subservience to this system of government.

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  • 56. At 4:22pm on 09 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    http://profdavidnutt.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/drug-harms-paper-a-summary/

    out of words so enjoy Dave's

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  • 57. At 06:44am on 10 Dec 2010, McD wrote:

    This debate is following a red herring at the moment, it seems to me. Some time ago, before the Proposition 19 vote in California, cannabis was the centre of attention. As Maria-de-Costa-whatever-his-name-was (ex-UNODC Boss) said (something like): 'Cannabis is the weak brick in the edifice of prohibition.' That's the one the prohibitionists don't want to talk about and that's the one they've managed to steer the debate away from.

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  • 58. At 3:09pm on 10 Dec 2010, General_Jack_Ripper wrote:

    Drug users do not need punishment or pity, they just need to be treated equally instead of the current situation where some drug users are allowed to buy their drug of choice from legalised, regulated and taxed retailers while others are forced to go to illegal, unregulated and untaxed retailers in order to buy their drug of choice.

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  • 59. At 5:24pm on 11 Dec 2010, DontTrustTheGovernment wrote:

    Today's government "Drugs Strategy" [466KB PDF] includes this five-word statement: "drug possession is a crime".

    While technically accurate, the phrase disguises the national and global debate on whether we should view drug users as criminals deserving of punishment or patients in need of treatment. It is a debate that rages between the lines of the strategy itself.

    =================================================

    So if I want to drop a couple of pills at the weekend rather than get smashed on alcohol, then to all intents and purposes I am either a criminal or need treatment for some illness? I would just like to be left alone to do what I like in the comfort and privacy of my own home thank you very much. I don't much care what the Govt thinks of drug use, if I want to take a couple of e's, it will take more than some out of touch hypocrites at westminster to stop me. The war on drugs is never, never, never going to be won. To think otherwise is to display a breathtaking amount of stupidity.

    Legalise, regulate and educate.

    Addicts need treatment whether your addiction is heroin or online bingo. Recreational drug use is on a level with having a few drinks. Get over it.

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  • 60. At 7:53pm on 12 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    DontTrustTheGovernment...You are not alone. According to Government figures about 11 million other adults in England and Wales have also used drugs at some point. The Tories received 10,692,131 votes last election, so there are more adults who have used drugs than there are Tory voters. In my estimates about 1 in 3 adults in the England and Wales have used a drug at some point in their lives, is the Government saying they are ALL criminals, is the Government ignoring their point of view, have they even been asked, has anyone been asked what drug policy we would like, this IS suppose to be a democracy isn't it?

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  • 61. At 09:26am on 13 Dec 2010, DontTrustTheGovernment wrote:

    60. At 7:53pm on 12 Dec 2010, Have your say Rejected wrote:
    DontTrustTheGovernment...You are not alone. According to Government figures about 11 million other adults in England and Wales have also used drugs at some point. The Tories received 10,692,131 votes last election, so there are more adults who have used drugs than there are Tory voters. In my estimates about 1 in 3 adults in the England and Wales have used a drug at some point in their lives, is the Government saying they are ALL criminals, is the Government ignoring their point of view, have they even been asked, has anyone been asked what drug policy we would like, this IS suppose to be a democracy isn't it?

    ============================================

    The whole thing stinks to high heaven. I would class myself as a responsible middle class 50 year old, always worked, married, one child, mortgage, never been in trouble with the police etc, etc. However, I could make one phone call and in 45 minutes I could have myself a range of class A drugs if I wanted. I'm sick and tired of the hypocrisy and moral outrage that clouds the issue of drug use. It's high time there was a sensible debate. I will not hold my breath.

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  • 62. At 3:07pm on 13 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    http://profdavidnutt.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/necessity-or-nastiness-the-hidden-law-denying-cannabis-for-medicinal-use/

    Sigh.. cant be bothered my medicine costs to much and Ive run out.

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  • 63. At 3:15pm on 13 Dec 2010, DibbySpot wrote:

    Do we need yet another ill-informed, ill-concieved policy. There is only one solution legalisation followed by the state taxing, standardising and providsing quality control to drugs through licensing major vendors.

    It works like this UK Government issues a tender to supply drugs and charges for this, like they do for mobile phone spectrum. The winner then gains the protected right to sell drugs which are taxed, marked and quality assured. In turn users must buy via credit card in locations with CCTV. Any selling on would be forbidden and clasified as trading subject to a minimum of 5yrs in prison.

    The government gains tax revenue, cuts out organised crime and some control to purchasers. By bring this problem into the open it can be managed and controlled. Until that day drug policy in the UK will be a mess and effectively mess up lives the society.We also can sack police and customs zho now waste their time and our money chasing drugs.

    Lets just get real prohibition does not and cannot work - face the facts.

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  • 64. At 3:27pm on 13 Dec 2010, Dafydd wrote:

    Well, what about people who use drugs and are not really that dependent, they just like to get high?

    Why does everyone need treatment or punishment, why not leave them alone? In this age of austerity, wouldn't it be cheaper?

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  • 65. At 4:24pm on 13 Dec 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    this is disturbing.
    http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2010/December/jump-in-south-east-asian-opium-poppy-cultivation.html?ref=fs1

    This year’s South East Asia Opium Survey shows that while opium poppy cultivation in this
    region remains well below the problematic levels of the mid-1990s, the relentless rise recorded in
    the preceding three years continues.
    In addition, and despite the fact that governments have increase their eradication efforts, we
    estimate that potential opium production in 2010 has increased by approximately 75 per cent when
    compared with 2009. This has occurred largely as a result of two combined factors: more area
    under cultivation and higher yields.
    Poverty and instability are two of the drivers which push farmers to grow (or sometimes return to
    growing) illicit crops. The recent global economic crisis appears to have exacerbated the situation
    for poor communities that cultivate opium poppy. Another factor driving cultivation is the steeply
    rising price of opium over the last few years.
    In order to reverse a worrying trend, I encourage States in the region and our donor partners to
    urgently promote an integrated response to improving basic security (including food security) in
    these remote and often desperate communities. We must not slacken our alternative development
    efforts which include market access, community mobilisation, access to credit, improved
    technology and better rural infrastructure. These are essential conditions to allow citizens who
    have often

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  • 66. At 8:04pm on 14 Dec 2010, vidivici wrote:

    As long as offenders believe that they can get a reduced sentence for claiming drug addiction and a willingness to enter a rehabilitation program, drug use will be associated with crime. Make any drug use, with intent to give up or not, an aggravating rather than mitigating factor and the amount of 'drug related' crime will fall significantly.

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  • 67. At 10:37am on 19 Dec 2010, Treefrog wrote:

    Heyho, politics strikes again.
    It's almost nothing to do with the actual effects and almost all to do with keeping ahead in the polls and not alienating the party faithful.

    These repeated policies on 'tackling the drug problem' don't actually tackle anything - so what is the point of them? To appear to be doing something so as to keep the average voter happy is my guess.

    I enjoy good coffee, Islands single malt Scotches and certain varieties of cannabis. I won't waste my money on inferior quality or unenjoyable products in any of these categories. I don't enjoy the experience of "cheap" varieties of any of them so why waste my money?
    And where does this leave me? For the first two I'm seen as a "coffee snob" or a "whisky snob" in common parlance; for the third I'm viewed as someone to be either treated or punished.
    Of all of the above examples, coffee is the one I consume most of and am most "addicted" to. Yet like any addiction, it's only a problem when it's wanted but not available.

    "Drug possession is a crime."
    Indeed. Because it's been made one. However possession isn't what harms people, it's the taking the drug and the effects thereof that do that. As an adult I believe that my actions are my responsibility and that actions which adversely affect others are what should be punished.
    FOr example, some cough medicines warn against driving or operating heavy machinery while taking them. So it's bloody stupid - not to mention downright irresponsible - to ignore the warning.

    "I'd had some cough medicine/alcohol/other drug at the time Your Honour."
    "Tough. You read the label, you knew the situation. Guilty"

    If the Gov't were serious about actually DOING something effective they wouldn't sack scientific investigators they appointed; they wouldn't ignore scientific and societal research, nor would they ignore results from other countries on the subject; they wouldn't stifle debate with a facetious "do nothing" option.

    Actions still speak louder than words.

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  • 68. At 10:50pm on 07 Jan 2011, dparker127 wrote:

    I am an ex drug user who was previously addicted to hard drugs (Heroin, Cocaine and Crack) for almost a decade, I now work for a charitable organization which helps homeless people including a large number of drug users. I am almost unique amongst my colleagues in supporting the ideas put forward in the governments new strategy.
    For the bulk of the last Labour government's time in power I observed the treatment industry (voluntary, NHS and Private) as a service user. I watched the gradual shift from a very liberal approach to rehabilitation to what in recent years became nothing short of subsidy: subsidy of drug users addictions themselves and to an almost equal extent subsidy of ego trips for (so-called) recovering addicts who took some misguided self-esteem in their new found "profession" whilst in many cases continuing to use drugs "in moderation" themselves.
    No-one has a right to use drugs, or to exist indefinately on benefits while enjoying a tax-payer funded methadone addiction. Getting addicts clean needs to be the stated goal from the outset with appropriate performance standards set for treatment agencies. The "harm reduction agenda" was a very damaging ideology and has in my opinion been almost as much to blame for this country's current drug problem as drug dealers themselves.
    I would add that after years of engaging with these services my immediate approach when I eventually decided to make a genuine effort to get clean (whatever I said at the time I took drugs because I enjoyed it) my first approach was to sever all links with any treatment agencies and do it myself with the support of friends / family etc.
    I now work for a charity that provides accommodation, work, training and social activities for those trying to combat addiction but does not engage in any needle exchanges, methadone prescriptions etc and offers help to those genuinely ready to turn themselves around.

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  • 69. At 2:38pm on 06 Feb 2011, John Ellis wrote:

    interesting story... court can only offer a leaflet on drug use but can't offer rehab or any other help.
    http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/local-news/cannabis_addict_is_told_by_court_have_a_leaflet_1_2382769

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  • 70. At 7:47pm on 18 Jun 2011, revitguru wrote:

    Who the hell asked drug uses to take to drugging? No one forced them into it, so why should the non users pay for their recovery / treatment? Drug users brains are so badly damaged they will make no positive contribution to themselves or society so let them die in their drug dependency state. That's the best way to get rid of trash and show the younger people the consequences of using drugs.

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