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Thoughts on our heroin debate?

Eddie Mair | 17:07 UK time, Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Put 'em here!

Comments

  1. At 05:18 PM on 22 Nov 2006, marymary wrote:

    It's an interesting idea. I'm frankly rather impressed with the police at the moment coming up with more radical ideas than our own dear labour government.

    It's absolutely the case that most of the crime that most of us come into contact with is in some way connected to heroin addiction. I'm not sure though that prescribing the drug would stop the crime or substantially reduce it. The problem would be how much would a person be prescribed and if when they ran out of their prescription would they then go out and commit crimes to top up the official levels (as they do with methadone). Also alcohol is legal but it doesn't mean there is no criminality associated with it.

    If people could be allowed drugs legally, however, I suppose it would knock the bottom out of the illegal drugs industry and thus put a stop to much more dreadful crimes (including funding for arms and terrorism).

    My personal jury is out on this one, but the idea at least merits serious consideration.

    Mary

  2. At 05:21 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Abigail Osborne wrote:

    I was very offended by the policeman in this debate talking about the problem of drug addicts, and he said "People living on estates will know about this" or words to that effect. I live on a council estate, I am a hard working parent and I don't know any drug addicts on this estate. Most of the people who live here, live here because ex-council housing is cheaper in London and house prices are so stupidly expensive that nobody can afford anywhere else. People on this estate are hard working London commuters, it's not a drug addict's den. I have never been a victim of crime on this estate and cannot be the only one who thinks council estates unfairly get a bad reputation. I think drug addicts are just as likely to live in "nice" three bedroom semi-detached houses.

  3. At 05:24 PM on 22 Nov 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    Ok, well I posted this on the previous thread, pre-empting my invite! So excuse repetition. Taking the petty crime out of it could be straightforward, and not a bad idea methinks.

    BUT I was led to think about the country of origin, and the war on drugs, which is largely a US war which includes trade tariffs as well as funding localised efforts. All crops are sprayed, not just the coco/opium crops, effectively denying anyone any other means of cultivation even without the localised brutality which 'persuades' people to grow a marketable product.

    The crime we suffer here is largely petty crime, although there is nothing petty about the experience of those who suffer it. At the beginning of the trail is the organised crime, which is very organised.

    I realise an overall solution is huge, complex, and multifaceted, but we can’t forget we don’t exist in isolation.

  4. At 05:24 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Nicolas Boulton wrote:

    I cannot believe your pious 'professor' sitting on the moral high ground pontificating about the prevention argument. What about removing the 'ganster' element from the expanding herion use in this country? Heroin was a prescription drug back in the sixties and the 2000 or so registered addicts mostly did just fine with pharmecutical grade drugs, no nastily cut rubbish which causes all manner of dreadful trauma both physical and mental in its users.
    The professor proposes a program that will cost multiple millions to implement, if heroin is so cheap then prescribing it is surely a virtual no brainer for caring, and at a distance, influencing the users. Not to mention putting the bloody criminals out of business in this department at least.

  5. At 05:24 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Frances O wrote:

    Well, you got your lead story, Eric! Posting while on air, too. Will this be the one to fill tomorrow's email and blog slot?

    As far as I can tell, the only long-term way for heroin addicts to stop using their drug and thus to cease committing the crimes needed to feed their habit is to help them come off the drug and then to provide rehabilitation and other support.

    I'd need to think a bit more about the suggestion of providing heroin - wasn't there a system whereby addicts got prescription heroin? Possibly many years ago?

  6. At 05:24 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Nick wrote:

    Completely support the Chief Constable. In my view, the many arguments for his proposal trump those against. I really hope the Home Office and NHS get together very soon to roll out such a policy nationwide. I suspect the diehards in opposition to this policy would soon fade into the background as soon as we started to see real improvements in the crime rate.

  7. At 05:24 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    As noted elsewhere, we could solve two problems by just buying the record crop of Opium from the Afghani farmers and converting it into good quality product for both the NHS medical use and to supply to addicts.

    It's an old suggestion, but of course it'll never happen because involvement of various security services in the illicit trade finances much in the way of "black" operations, whatever denials may be made.
    Grrrr!
    ed

  8. At 05:28 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Larry Page wrote:

    I believe that durgs should be made legal and sold through licenced "drug stores"
    The drug themselves are not as harmfull as the muck in them - I wouldn't like to inject baby powder or or some cleaning product that they have been adultrated with.

    These drugs should have a strength code on them, I wouldn't like to go into a pub and just ask for a pint of alcohol and not know if I am getting vodka or shandy, which is the reality of the back street buying of drugs.

    Keep it legal and keep it clean - it may not have the same appeal.

    Larry Page

  9. At 05:30 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Dr Douglas Seaton wrote:

    If heroin and other illicit drugs were decriminalised and the State took proper responsibility for supervising the supply side for addicts and other users, some progress might be made. Prohibition of alcohol in the USA was a complete flop and the same could be said for the prohibition of other drugs in this country and elsewhere. What is needed is a fresh approach with education and support. Thiswould remove the market from the illegal drug trade and would enable the transfer of much needed funds from policing crime to managing addiction.

  10. At 05:33 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Brian Mathew wrote:

    I absoluty agree with the correspondent who suggested buying up the heroin and opium from Afganistan, if ever there was a case for killing two birds with one stone this is it. It would stop the fighting in its tracks and could also be used to supply the medical demand for opium.

    Regards

    Dr. Brian Mathew

  11. At 05:41 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Jason Good wrote:

    We struggle with our morality. "If we were to give these drug addicts heroin we'd be condoning their lifestyle choices" versus "If they were helped they wouldn't need to commit crime and ruin more people's lives".

    We need to act to educate young people to stop them chosing to start using. But, sadly, it isn't that simple when so many young people are being failed by their parents or by the interventions of the State that should be helping them.

    We could stop most street crime and burgulary, much drug smuggling and solve part of the Afghanistan problem in one fell swoop.

    It's just that morality that gets in the way. If you can't give teenagers condoms you'll *never* get away with this one. Sadly.

  12. At 05:46 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Penrose wrote:

    Dear Edwin and team

    Heroin should be prescribed to drug addicts to curb crime says the deputy chief constable of Nottinghamshire.

    Limiting the sale of alcohol would do just as much to reduce crime in town centres. If you accept that it is OK to modify your brain chemistry by imbibing a substance, then the distinction between different brain altering compounds disappears. Addiction, and addictive behaviour is a major part of the British social make-up - whether it be alcho-pops, tobacco, red wine, coffee, cocaine or heroin.

    Legalise it. Tax it - and spend that money on education and treatment for addicts, while at the same time removing it from the control of criminal gangs.

    Just a thought.

  13. At 05:52 PM on 22 Nov 2006, gossipmistress wrote:

    I can't speak form any personal experience of knowing anyone with a heroin addiction, but presumably addicts have to want to give up, however much help they may or may not receive.

    In which case it seems sensible to prescribe it, not just to reduce the crime statistics but also to have addicts within the grasp of healthcare before they present as an overdose.

    I wonder, though, what will happen when an addict demands a higher dose than their doctor can or will prescribe. Will doctors then be allowed to prescribe potentially fatal doses in order to prevent addicts from accessing drugs elsewhere?

  14. At 06:15 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Big Sister wrote:

    Frankly, once somebody is addicted, there's no point in trying to act as if they can do without the stuff, or can make do with a substitute which doesn't have the same effect .....

    I thought your interview with the addict's mother was very interesting. What a hell it must be to have a child in the grip of an addiction! It was most sobering, and she clearly is torn between stoicism and desperation.

    Hearing the mother of a celeb (the one who is marrying a supermodel - if you get my drift) and reading about how she and her husband have coped with the changes in their son comes back to me as I write this.

    But, back to the point - We cannot keep sticking our heads in the sand and imagining that, once addicted, it will be easy for anybody to cope with 'getting off' the stuff. As things stand, all that is happening is that the number of addicts is increasing, and crime to support drug habits rises in tandem. And the drug barons, pushers, etc., are the only winners in this particular sport.

    A reality check is in urgent order.

  15. At 06:25 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Spriddler wrote:

    Since the prison authorities have had to pay compensation to prisoners for withholding drugs, and condoms are available free to underage youngsters and gay people, should smokers campaign for free cigarettes and dedicated withdrawal facilities, and alcoholics for free booze?

  16. At 06:38 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Fearless Fred wrote:

    Unfortunately any debate in the public media about this topic will generally polarise very quickly to the "Liberal namby-pambies who want to sell drugs to our children" and the "Beat 'em till they hurt, it never did me any harm, let's lock 'em all up and bring back conscription" talking heads we know and "love" so much. It's time for a mature debate on what, for want of a better phrase" can be called chemical stimulants. It amazes me that we are perfectly happy to legalise some (tobacco and alchohol) whilst cracking down hard on the users of others (heroin, cocaine, cannabis). All chemical stimulants should be considered on the basis of the harm they do to the person, and the harm they do to the community. Also, instead of demonising the users of those stimulats that are classed as harmful to the person and the community, it should be the suppliers who are targeted and made to deal with the consequences.

  17. At 06:48 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Having read the other contributions thus far, I feel compelled to be one of the few to take a different stance on this subject.

    Taking drugs is a selfish act and is currently against the law. These addicts that are committing crimes to feed their habits - sometimes violent assault and murder - are not deserving of our pity and help, but ought to be treated as the self-serving, weak scum that they are.

    Why the hell should my taxes go towards funding their (only potential) release from the hell that they willingly entered into? We are denying vital drugs to innocent, law-abiding people whilst we consider throwing millions at this? It is outrageous!

    I suspect many addicts, having willingly become so through their own selfish arrogance, won't be weaned off crime as well, should they be invited onto such a programme. The majority of them, by definition, have little to offer to society and therefore will find society has little to offer them back. This will only encourage them back onto this stuff and will certainly to dissuade them from crime to fund other aspects of their "lifestyle".

    We should be realistic about this.

  18. At 06:54 PM on 22 Nov 2006, b.stone wrote:

    The Deputy Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire would be better off using his police force to prevent the import and spread of drugs rather than campaigning to give herion addicts free supplies.
    As a first step, may I suggest that he use some of his staff currently patroling the M1, who make Nottinghamshire one of the toughest forces against the motorist, on anti drug activities.
    It would help considerably to reduce crime and many people would feel that the police would then better be able to justify their generous salaries and associated benefits!

  19. At 07:05 PM on 22 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Golly, I thought there would be some content here by the time I arrived. I'm with almost everybody - on almost everything!

    I don't do illegal drugs myself, nor do I have much experience of those who do, so I do not claim this as a knowledgeable perspective on the subject of drug abuse and related problems. However, it is apparent that there are a number of separate problems including crop source, organised crime, distribution, use/abuse and related crime. Yes, they all contribute to the problem that is "drugs", but they are not all the same problem. Use/abuse requires action on treatment programmes and support. Crop source - well, that's a whole big "other" problem! But the issue of related crime is just that - the reality that each of these illegal users who relies on the sale of stolen property to fund their habit must be committing hundreds, if not thousands, of acts of burglary and robbery each year. The result is that thousands upon thousands of families live in fear. I do have experience of people being blighted in this way - somebody I know who suffered what from an external point of view was a relatively simple burglary ended up having to move home because his young daughter was so traumatised as a result of the incident. I don't honestly think that most of us care a great deal about other people being addicted to drugs - I don't mean that in a callous way - yes, we care about the misery, but somebody taking drugs that they can afford to buy is not something that most normal people stay awake at night worrying about. Therefore, it is not the taking of the drugs, or the addiction as such that is the key problem - that is the related crime.

    Somebody earlier pointed out that alcohol related crime suggests that drug related crime will still take place. Of course it will. But that is a different issue. What we want to tackle is the fear that a family's hard-earned thousand quid telly isn't taken and sold for a couple of hundred behind a pub. Such a culture is surely far more corrosive than what is being proposed by the Nottinghamshire copper? And, bear in mind, the addition is already there - it's not about creating drug use, it's simply taking the use that is there and trying to break the link with people thieving stuff to finance it.

    Bold and courageous view. I applaud it!

  20. At 07:06 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Belinda wrote:

    One of my concerns about heroin being available on the NHS is a practical one: Say an addict received heroin from the NHS and then went out and got some illegal drugs on top of that, then died of an overdose. Would the NHS be liable for his death as they supplied one of the drugs that killed him? Could families demand compensation? It sounds implausible, but if, as last week, prisoners could sue the government for NOT providing them with illegal drugs, it would seem to figure that families of addicts could sue the health service because they WERE provided with illegal drugs.
    Plus, would this mean that Heroin is regraded to a Class 'C' drug alongside prescription drugs? How would police charge criminals for supplying and taking a class 'A' drug when it is widely available on the NHS?
    And while I am on a roll: Isn't this just a way of delaying the inevitable? If the clinics saw a 15-year-old heroin addict, would they really give him the drug constantly for the rest of his life? At some point, wouldn't they most likely stop prescribing it (acting rather like job-seekers allowance if you're not actively looking for a job/haven't gone clean after a certain time) meaning that the addict would go back to illegal sources?

    I'm not completely against the idea in principle, but there are a million potential problems with this which do not seem to be considered a factor. It was a good thoight-provoking interview, Eddie though. I did feel sorry for the mother of the addict though, she appeared to be completely deluding herself, understandably.

  21. At 07:52 PM on 22 Nov 2006, sheila imbach wrote:

    At least 25 years ago!!!! after several trials, Switzerland decided to give heroin to addicts. They had several bases in the towns where addicts were given heroin (free fresh needles) It was considered a great success. Many addicts started to work again and our streets were free of needles and the aids and hepatitis levels dropped. As I have stated, this was at least 25 years ago.

  22. At 07:58 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Kazza wrote:

    This is a really interesting and professionally challenging one. I'm a pharmacist and for the last 22 months have had problems securing a reliable supply of diamorph for legitimate use for patients at my hospital. The addicts on the street don't appear to have the same problems!

    From a professional point of view I have come into contact with addicts. Most of the ones who I have dispensed methadone for are perfectly reasonable people. When you find out their backgrounds a recurring theme is a troubled or difficult childhood. The purpose of the methadone programme in the UK is to stabilise a chaotic life and not to wean them off. The concept (as it has always been sold to me) is that once they know that they are not going to be getting withdrawal symptoms they can start to address the other aspects of their life and prepare to make an attempt to quit illicit drug use. Regular contact with the healthcare provider (GP, Drug Clinic, Pharmacist) can give them support to start to address some of the other issues in life and bring them back into community. Some addicts are obviously a little more challenging and I often doubted the suitability of these clients for the methadone substitution programme.

    From a personal point of view, my brother in law died of a heroin overdose 4 years ago. He didn't use heroin before he went into prison for a short custodial sentence. He came out hooked. He got into more trouble to go back into prison because it was easier to get supplies of his drugs there. He was prescribed methadone but he didn't want to quit and wasn't ready to quit. He died on my nephew's birthday.

    Every time I start to feel angry about another drug-fuelled violent crime I think of the chap I knew who had huge abscesses and necrotic tissue behind his kneecaps because they were the only places he could inject. The pain that he was in was incredible and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

    Whilst I can see a rationale for prescribing heroin to reduce crime this needs to be within some sensible framework. We also, as a society, need to be doing something to address the problems of drugs within our prison system.

    Illicit drug use is a tragedy for everyone - the 5 year old whose uncle doesn't make the party because he's dying in intensive care, the family who have to manage an addict who has had both legs amputated, the crime victim and the taxpayer. Ultimately it's a case of working together to try and solve it.

  23. At 08:17 PM on 22 Nov 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    marymary, interesting isn't it that the police have been agents of the state, but now seem to be asking us to be more rational that government policy allows. I wonder if they are tired of ticking boxes, to meet irrelevant targets, & are being much more objective and pragmatic about the application of law. I'm just listening to the Moral Maze discuss under age sex as I write.

  24. At 08:52 PM on 22 Nov 2006, admin annie wrote:

    nothing to do with heroin but to do with the police - Helen the police are not agents of the state. 'The police' are actually a group of locally controlled and governed forces; one of the reasons that so many people, both lay and police were against the recently suggested force amalgamations were that they laid the basis for a national police service. I'm sure Tony Bleagh and his cohorts would just lurve to have a national police force, the rest of us should resist this with every ounce of influence and strength we have.
    I'm not saying the current system is perfect, but I honestly believe it is a better guarantee of liberty than a national force which would be controlled and governed and administered on a national level.

    Sequin is doing yet another prog on R4 even as I type. Does the woman not need sleep?

  25. At 09:07 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Anne Maria Rennie wrote:

    I am given to understand that Methadon rotes the bones so it will be a drain on the national health eventualy and fail to undersand why this has not been picked up by doctors. The issue of the use of Heroine could surly be adressed if a program of the effect it has on the body is put into every community in the land. We are an Isle land if they realy wanted to stop it comming into our land then I am sure someone in goverment could come up with a workable plan. Can I also add it is my firm belife that if we paid the mothers to return to the home raising their of springs instead of pampering their children and appease their own guilt. I also would like to remind you that this is a way for those that wish to control society a free hand, if our children are on drink or drugs they are not there to defend our country if and when they are requiredto do so. this type of slavery goes back to the building of the pirimids. It is important that we get on top of this errosion of the young. Anne Maria Rennie

  26. At 09:48 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Russell Gower wrote:

    I think it rather shambolic that teaching unions moan and groan about school inspections and the results that they get. Does the general public appreciate that schools get months of notice that the inspectors are coming so they can prepare? How bad would the ofsted reports REALLY BE if they turned up with little or no notice as happens in industry with enforcement officers etc?
    Come on its the future of the nation thats being inspected, not just a teachers results who will no doubt retire early with stress !!

  27. At 09:54 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Deepthought (John W) wrote:

    Admin annie (24),

    Sequin has confirmed the answer "Yes". I know. Incredible. But I asked, and she replied.

    Having had a recent run-in with the Highway Patrol, a force I did not know as a separate force before a break-down on the M4... I was OK, I'd done more than enough to put me on the right side of thge law, but the idea they would "request" my fingerprint...and check my drug status...

  28. At 09:55 PM on 22 Nov 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    Hi admin annie, I take your point, and I hadn't realised that about the amalgamations were being resisted for that reason, which is interesting. Agents of the state could be the wrong phrase, but I should maybe be clearer about what I did mean, which wasn't a national police service.

    It is a term I applied in reference to those who work tightly within a framework of legislation and public policy, which would include the police. The environment all public servants work within reflects the legislation framed, and the policy agenda, both largely defined by the party in power.

  29. At 09:58 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Deepthought (John W) wrote:

    Monday's PM newsletter just arrived (21:55, Wednesday)

  30. At 10:02 PM on 22 Nov 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    I only know that many young, committed, and enthusiastic teachers are turning their backs on the profession because the checks in the system are no longer seeking to root out bad teachers, or failing schools, but rather thoroughly demoralising everyone. I am not a teacher, but methinks we shall next be spending a fortune replacing those we lost, and their sense of vocation is irreplaceable.


  31. At 10:54 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Lynne Armstrong wrote:

    I'm pleased most people think prescribing heroin is a good idea.
    I saw on TV there are 250000 heroin addicts now, and my son is one of them. That's 250000 families grieving for a family member desperately begging for money all the time, not being able to help any more, knowing they are throwing up, suffering terrible stomach cramps and diarrhoea, having 'ghosts jumping out of their arms and legs' as my son has described it, unable to keep still for more than a few seconds. That's what the withdrawal symptoms are like, and they will do anything to avoid them. After 3 years of trying to get off heroin, taking methadone, doing 3 detoxes, my son absolutely hates being a heroin addict, his life is dreadful, but he is in the grip of a terrible scourge. Like PD's mother says 'heroin takes people'. Heroin is safer than methadone, and there are all those poppies in Afghanistan, let addicts register and get it on prescription, that is the only way to make a real difference to the drug-driven crime figures - and fight the major dealers - who exploit addicts to do their distribution, pulling in new customers etc. The Deputy Chief Constable has got it right. Help us, please.

  32. At 11:02 PM on 22 Nov 2006, di wrote:

    I think that it would be very cost effective for those drug addicts who are in prison to be treated as they would in Rehab.
    When you think what a Rehab Centre offers addicts, it is many months away from their drug ridden environment; & a strict regime,virtually a prison,with psychological support,& most importantly development of skills & training.
    I think drugs are often taken out of boredom, so that if enthusiasm & job skills are acquired,the desire to go back to drugs is reduced & therefore the need to fund the drugs with crime.
    It shouldn't be too expensive to have specialist prisons for addicts; and to use their imprisonment as an opportunity for change.
    As a health professional I've seen many drug addicts, & few were motivated enough to leave home to go voluntarily for months into rehab; or if they were,had difficulty getting funding.

  33. At 11:43 PM on 22 Nov 2006, lenny vincent wrote:

    I speak with some experience. Back in the sixties I dabbled with opiate drugs, I knew the consequences and took care not to become addicted. I knew many addicts, although compared to today, there were very few. The supplies in those days came from robberies from chemists shops where heroin, morphine and omnipom were available, there was also a very small supply to be had from
    'leakage' from registered addicts who attended N.H.S. drug clinics where heroin and in some cases cocaine were prescribed.
    Some time in the early seventies the policy of prescribed heroin was stopped, I may be wrong, but I believe this decision was made on moral grounds by the medical proffession who did not like prescribing drugs for 'pleasure'. This decision lead to an overnight saturation of 'Chinese Brown' heroin on the streets. Since then the number of addicts has exploded. International smuggling and gangsterism, domestic crime and personal tragedies have proliferated to an extent that we have arrived at a situation where over 60% of crime is estimated to be drug related. You could argue that the supply of opiates was privatised when prescribed heroin was abandoned.
    Ironically the system of prescribing heroin through drug clinics was known as the 'British' system when it was adopted by Switzerland and the Netherlands. The idea is not initially to ween addicts from opiates but to stabilise addicts so that they may achieve better health, jobs and keep away from trouble. By this, addicts can devlop the will to quit their habit.
    I believe that the nature of opiates is little understood. Opiates per se do not kill, they do not damage our organs the way other drugs may and it is possible to live a long life as an addict. It is the prohibition that kills, addicts recieve a variety of dubious quality supplies on the black market and consume them by the most unhealthy means.
    When opiate prescription was first abandoned addicts were prescribed a variety of substitutes including barbiturates which has far more dangers than opiates. I think barbiturates have been abandoned now but methadone has been adopted. As your interviewee claimed methadone presents a further addiction. I have heard that methadone is a worse drug than heroin. The present policy of threatening offenders with prison sentences unless they agree to a drugs rehabilitation programme is risible as, I believe, it is not possible to force someone to adopt the willpower to quit any strong addiction. Such willpower is only achieved by personal decision.
    Some time ago, the late eighties/early nineties, a trial programme was adopted somewhere on the Wirral. Addicts were invited to attend a clinic where they were prescribed a heroin mixture in which their cigarettes were dipped. A polce spokesman claimed that drug dealers closed shop and crime instances had significantly dipped. This programme was stopped by the local health authority on financial grounds. There was however speculation that it was stopped because of U.S.A politcal influence which was also being applied to the Netherlands who resisted.
    It is also interesting that this problem has spilled over into the mainstream medical practices. As Kazza writes opiate supply for medical use is now scarce. Pain relief in hospitals and hospices has been so reduced that patients now suffer. A friend of mine visiting from Eire left his prescription drugs back home. His medical problem was something to do with high blood pressure and he presented a list of 6 or more drugs at my local G.P, he was allowed all but one of them which was a
    sleeping drug, no longer allowed in this country because of it's opiate content. Since the Harold Shipman case doctors are staying clear of opiates.
    Marymary writes that she is impressed by this policeman's comment and I agree. It is worth remembering that it was also a police initative to impress on David Blunket the good sense of the declassiffication of cannabis.
    Prohibtion has long been the policy of control of dangerous drugs.Unfortunately prohition has only lead to the proliferation of such drugs and the authorities have reliquished their so called control to organised crime.

  34. At 11:46 PM on 22 Nov 2006, Penrose wrote:

    Dear Simon Opinion [17]

    I was struck by the powerful certainty of your contribution here, which I found most thought provoking.

    "Taking drugs is a selfish act and is currently against the law. These addicts that are committing crimes to feed their habits - sometimes violent assault and murder - are not deserving of our pity and help, but ought to be treated as the self-serving, weak scum that they are."

    I would say that I agree with you in this - to some extent.
    To take drugs is a selfish act. Whether one sets out for the evening with the sole intention of getting drunk enough to vomit, or whether one decides it's OK to share that last bottle of wine because someone else will be driving you home etc, or whether one seeks out a substance which will more severely restrict higher cognitive functions - the focus, the pay-off, is perceived sensations of pleasure, and an accompanying expression of empowerment (however false).

    The initial impetus to take illegal drugs comes from this place - maybe because your curious about what you might experience, or because it's in an emotionally safe social setting and is seen as a normal part of having a 'good time.' For whatever reason, pharmacological or personal, one feels on some level that it's OK. As with all forms of pleasure it can also be seen in the context of degrees of selfishness, and of consequences of course.

    However, I feel that a consequence of the imbibing of powerful intoxicants (such as tobacco, alcohol, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, crack etc) has been over-looked in your contribution and replaced by certain judgementalism:

    "I suspect many addicts, having willingly become so through their own selfish arrogance, won't be weaned off crime as well..."

    What has to be remembered with addictive compounds is the very fact that they are highly.. er... addictive.
    A week of heavy drinking on holiday can easily produce the overwhelming changes in brain chemistry to initiate alcohol dependency. Pharmacological compounds have a far more profound effect and fast acting effect than that.
    Once dependent, the constant un-balancing of brain and blood chemistry has inevitable, unavoidable knock-on effects on both physiology and psychology. Very quickly a personality can become subsumed by the intense physical and mental cues generated, to a point where an individual will become a slave to their own chemical needs - in a way the dependent personality loses a large portion of responsibility for, and the ability, to make rational objective judgements about, their own behaviour.
    In this context fulfilling chemical need becomes the imperative; the norm, and if that means thievery with violence for example, that becomes 'OK' to the addict because the 'drugs' have quickly come to inform every aspect of their personality. Any element of 'life-style choice' about taking illegal intoxicants soon melts away... In this they are most deserving of our pity and help.

    Addicts are sick people who are viewed as criminals by the law; people who commit crimes because of their sickness, ironically in order to feel less sick. People who not only consort with multinational criminal organisations, but are also at the mercy of same, in desperate attempts to maintain, in a very real though very skewed way, some semblance of normality.

    If criminality can be removed from the situation, as proposed by the deputy chief inspector today, and addict offered treatment for their physiological and psychological illness, then the addict themselves, and wider society in general, will be all the richer for it; and the criminal uberlords all the weaker. That has to be a good thing.

    Achieving this outcome though is very difficult against a social background which places such high regard on an equally powerful, but legal, intoxicant - alcohol. Drawing false distinctions between good drugs (legal) and bad drugs (illegal) only blurs and obscures the unavoidable statement of fact that addiction is a blight on modern day Britain and a social tragedy.

  35. At 12:07 AM on 23 Nov 2006, steve wrote:

    Admin Annie (24) I wish you were right but I think you will find that one of the recent Home Secretaries (Clarke or Junket) quietly took on overall control of all the police forces when no one was looking. Didn't a recent Home Sec. sack (or exert strong enough pressure for him to resign) an uppity Chief Constable somewhere north of Watford in the past 3 years. Something to do with the Soham tragedy I think.

    Apologies for the convoluted sentences and poor grammar, but it's getting late.

  36. At 12:26 AM on 23 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    And if we bought the whole opium crop, let's not forget that it would make money for the farmers and give us a reliable and adequate supply of relatively inexpensive high quality opiates for all requirements.

    The only losers would be the criminal middlemen and the handlers of stolen goods. There would be no incentive for anyone to introduce the young and the number of addicts would probably decline over time.

    I forgot to mention the loss of funding for 'black' operations - a pity.
    Salaam, etc.
    ed

  37. At 01:49 AM on 23 Nov 2006, Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso,CPUR wrote:

    The Colombian Singer Juanes once said that the road to peace in Colombia maybe the legalization of heroin and marijuana.
    Libertarian Gubernatorial Candidate in Alabama is a believer in legalizing marijuana because it is the right of the person to do what he or she wants with his/her body without the state interfering. Her website is www.lorettanall.com

  38. At 02:51 AM on 23 Nov 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso,CPUR, hi, my original post (3) on this issue was with Colombia in mind interestingly enough. I knew nothing about the country when I looked into it for some research about 8 years ago, but I was just interested in finding out if the war on drugs was more damaging than effective, from the perspective of killing it at the supply level.

    I still don't know enough, but I was lucky enough to work with someone from Amnesty International who knew more, as well as with The Institute for the Study of the Americas. What I did find is now being taught on a PG program at UCL/Birkbeck and it is an abomination that the western world still punishes the campesino who are beleaguered enough by the various factions at work.

    Funnily enough, I found US trade tariffs prohibited the supply of carnations from Colombia, which would be a viable alternative crop, although they were happy to continue funding the paramilitaries who perpetuate a civil war. In the meantime, all crops are sprayed, leaving any farmer vulnerable to make a living via illicit means.

    It is a complex arena, and one man's freedom fighter can be another's terrorist, but the solution needs to be a multi-faceted partnership between transnational agencies including the very active grassroots NGO's.

    This isn’t the stuff of sound bite meeja friendly politics, and I guess that the grandstanding is the problem with politics, and they are never going to deliver because it would be a platform of long termism. Eradicating the illegality of drugs here would be a sound measure to take, as well as eventually providing opportunities for the suppliers; no demand = differerent ?

    I wish I was an extremist who was wildly inaccurate, but any war on drugs needs to start with the user base and a legitimate supply base might just override the rhetoric of 1st world leaders who need to find a use for their staff and survive, in a post-cold war context, while retaining their hegemonic status.

  39. At 06:26 AM on 23 Nov 2006, Rosalind wrote:

    Good morning.

    I have realised that I am very ignorant about the making of drugs (much else as well.......). Are most drugs opiate based? Because if not then helping heroin addicts is only part of the problem. What about the other illegal drugs we read about?

  40. At 08:10 AM on 23 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Dear Penrose (34),

    Thank you for your response to my earlier posting (17), although I am fully aware of all of the arguments that you put forward. I have thought them over and discussed them with others on many occasions.

    I am very aware of what an addiction is, although pleased to say that I have never been in the grip of such a powerful dependency as the subjects of this debate undoubtedly are - cigarettes were my only vice until about 9 years ago. Why have I never been in such a grip of dependency? Because I chose not to. Was education about the harmful effect of drugs taken into account when I made this choice? Certainly. But I am not some self-righteous, pious individual.... I am far from exceptional in this regard.

    The simple fact is that there should not be one person in this country now that is not aware of the harmful effects of drug addiction - both physical and social - and any new addict is, in my view, another example of the selfish sort that I described above (17). I do not buy the argument put forward by many that any new addict today was forced into this lifestyle.

    I am sure that their total grip of dependency is a living hell which addles the mind, destroys health, rational thought, relationships and the future; not only for the addict themselves, but often also for those around them. I am equally sure that many of these addicts entered into this underworld of their own volition.

    We have to start being realistic about this, and fair to the honest law-abiding majority that live in fear of encountering some drug-crazed, low-life, irrational mugger who cares not whether you live or die, just so long as he collects anything of value about your person. The answer is not appeasement, but to start enforcing the message that drug-taking is against the law and begin dealing with transgressors to the full extent that the law provides. I am sick of hearing people making excuses for their behaviour and insisting that they are misunderstood, sorry individuals, deserving of our compassion and sympathy - I shall save that for all the poor, unfortunate victims of their crimes that were sadly in the wrong place and the wrong time.

  41. At 09:10 AM on 23 Nov 2006, neil sjoberg wrote:

    Agree totally with all those wishing to legalise drugs: we should learn from the prohibition experience of the USA. Such action would reduce crime, free up police for other duties get the troops out of Afghanistan and reduce the power of the Taliban. For those unfortunate to be hooked on drugs or parents/public workers dealing with the effects of drugs it would bring it out in the open and make it easier to discuss/educate around. After all the 1963 "Control of drugs act" was only an experiment (Which obviously has failed)
    The downside? Where would the drug gangsters turn for their lavish lifestyle? Probably something else just as bad.

  42. At 10:32 AM on 23 Nov 2006, ian wrote:

    Wonder Woman was my favoutire heroine.

  43. At 10:36 AM on 23 Nov 2006, Fiona wrote:

    Very interesting debate! I agree with the vast majority of the points put forward here and believe that the proposal made by the Police is definitely a step in the right direction. As has been said many times here it is the illegality of the drugs which causes so much of the problems we need to address - particularly the crimes committed by addicts to feed their addictions. Take away that illegality and you, to a large extent, kill the street trade which causes so many of these crimes and suffering. I agree also with the idea of buying the source crop. I could waffle on for ages but I think so many have said it better than I possibly could! Interesting post from Sheila Imbach (21) - I wandered what the outcome of this trial was? If that was 25 years ago what is the situation now?

  44. At 10:47 AM on 23 Nov 2006, Simon Worrall wrote:

    Ooohh, a real controversy. An, as always on this blog, being conducted in a friendly manner by people on both sides of the argument. I have being very much impressed by the lenghty and well-considered opinions on offer.

    I'm on the harsh side of this one, I'm afraid. I have much sympathy with the views of my semi-namesake Simon Opinion. I don't believe that there are too many people in Britain who are unaware of the dangers of addiction. So it's fair to assume that most addicts go in with their eyes wide open.

    I'm sure that the reason why many become addicted are too varied to list. That, in itself, mitigates against any attempt to develop a broad approach to tackling the problem.

    I find myself caught on the horns of a real dilemma here. I can see that organising state-sponsored addiction treatment with heroin will substantially cut out the criminality, if not entirely. But what about those for whom the state 'dose' is not enough? They will still need to resort to other methods to top up their fix. Eliminating the criminal gangs would be an undoubted bonus to such a programme.

    But the counter-arguments are many. Consider the practicalities of administering the drug as a prescription medication. In order to maintain control of the drugs the addicts must take their 'medication' in a controlled place and under expert supervision. The entire dose must be administered and nothing must be removed from that place, otherwise it will disappear into a black market.

    Will medical staff be found in sufficient numbers to deal with the administration of drugs to addicts? I would suspect that many medical professionals would face a harsh moral dilemma in being involved with treatment programmes of this kind. And there is the potential risk that they might become personally corrupted.

    What if the addict demands a higher dose and is refused? The resulting aggression will intimidate the very people administering the treatment? Doctors & nurses would carry out every every clinic in fear of assault.

    What about the employment status of addicts. Many currently hold down jobs, although surely with varying degrees of efficiency, and are able to do so because their addiction status is secret. But the state could not permit registered addicts to work whilst intoxicated by prescription drugs. So many would find themselves either out of work or perhaps demoted into roles where their addiction and medication will not be a problem.

    The same argument applies to things like driving whilst intoxicated by prescription drugs. Their are certain medical conditions and medications which automatically remove the right to hold a driving license. Registered addiction would have to be added to that list.

    In a related thought, what about operaors of machinery? How would the state, and their employers, deal with them?

    Who will register for these programmes knowing that it will remove their driving license and their job?

    I heard it said by a GP on BBC TV Breakfast News this morning that the effects of Heroin/diamorphine wear off after a relatively short time, i.e. 4 - 6 hours, requiring the addict to repeat the dose two/three/four times a day, whereas methadone lasts a full day. So addicts are put onto methadone to ease the administration of the addict programme, if for no other reason.

    We have known about this problem for decades. Thanks to the complexities we are no nearer to a resolution now than at any other time.

    Personally I could never condone or sympatise with any kind of approach which dealt lightly with addiction. This is unusual for me. Normally I am in favour of the state dealing with a light touch in matters of personal freedom. I believe that less intervention from the state in people's lives is a good thing.

    But the physical and mental damage wrought, not just on addicts but on every life they come into contact with, and the criminality which results from addiction demands the harshest response. I'd be all in favour of changing national policy to deal with addiction by enforced 'cold turkey' treatment.

    That would have dealt with the remarkable settlement the Home Office was forced into last week in regard to prisoners having their rights infringed. That case could only be brought because the prisoners were being treated differently to other categories of addict. Treat them all the same, no case to answer.

    In general each member of society is free to indulge their personal likes, dislikes, habits, whims, etc. as they please, provided that these cause no detriment to other people or society as a whole. This is exactly as it ought to be.

    We frame just and fair laws to protect society from the unpleasant results of people's undesirable habits. We have laws to deal with discrimination, drink-driving, physical attack, libel, sexual misconduct, noisy neighbours, and the results of over-indulgence in alcohol or illegal drugs.

    The law should be obeyed. Where it is not obeyed transgressors must be punished. The punishment must serve as a deterrent to further transgression. Continued breaches must result in harsher punishment and/or incarceration.

    Prisons must become drug-free zones. The methods by which drugs are smuggled into prison must be eliminated, so that they don't become easy options for addicts. It can only be the visitors, the staff or the external services, such as foodstuff suppliers, who bring the drugs in. It can't be that difficult to close these routes down?

    I didn't hear the package last night, sadly. I gather that Pete Doherty's mother was interviewed, although I don't know what she said. My personal opinion about her son is that he, and others like him, seem almost to revel in the notoriety that drugs bring to them. He had some fleeting success with his band, which soon dried up. The newspaper coverage he gets seems almost to glorify him as an anti-hero and serves to keep him in the public eye. His fame now is only derived from being a seriously troubled addict. His contribution to society is nil. How he maintains his freedom, I don't understand?

    For those who would argue that alcohol is a drug, and treating alcohol differently to drugs is hypocrisy, I agree. We have laws to punish those who drink and drive, or who are drunk and disorderly, for example. Alcoholics, (my simplistic definition; those who have an addiction to alcohol) should be treated in the same way as other drug addicts. A little, in moderation and occasionally, is fine. But once it's unpleasant effects become a problem for other people then a line has been crossed.

    Si.

  45. At 11:11 AM on 23 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Rosalind (39),

    Morphine, diamorphine, and Heroin are Opiates. Cocaine and 'Crack' are based upon the coca plant, mainly grown in South America.

    Both poppy and coca cultivation are subject to massive eradication efforts on the part of "the west" as an effort to control their illegal use. These efforts not only destroy land and livelihood for peasant farmers, but subject them to the bullying of warlords and illicit traders (including our own beloved 'security' services), and are doomed to continuing failure.

    Other drugs are the result of diversion of pharmaceuticals such as tranquilisers, sleeping pills, amphetamines (crystal meth), etc.

    Still other drugs, cannabis, mushrooms, peyote, etc. are herbal, and in my humble opinion, not very much of a problem.

    The opiates and cocas are highly addictive, as are some of the pharmaceuticals. All drugs are habit-forming to some degree. Addiction and habituation are somewhat dependent upon both personality and genetics, as many detox or support groups will know, for example Alcoholica Anonymous (my brother is a longstanding member).

    I hope the above is of some help, but you now know almost as much as I do...
    xx
    ed

  46. At 11:59 AM on 23 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Simon, Penrose and Simon - interesting and contrasting comments. I find them all extremely interesting. A while back, I was having an exchange with Drinks when I managed, in a small way, to "formalise" for myself the concept of "acceptable" but "contrasting" opinions - and this illustrates it for me.

    I would like to comment on Simon O's contributions. I can't help thinking that the gist of your argument is basically "if I (and other people) don't take drugs, then that proves that nobody should". You know, I can't honestly say that I don't find this argument quite compelling. It does have a certain logic to it.

    Because I can't actively refute it as a position, I find the only thing I can do is to attempt to illustrate that it may not be so simple. Simon says that he used to smoke. We all know that nicotine is highly addictive and that some people find it very difficult to stop. Some people find it relatively straightforward to stop. We also all know that smoking cigarettes is very, very bad for your health, is expensive and makes you smell. Why did you start smoking, Simon? I can imagine that you grew to adulthood and got your own place and then made a conscious decision to start smoking for a purely "why not" reason, smoked only in your own home and did not subject others to your smoke. I can imagine this, but suspect that this is not what happened. You may have started smoking before the age of 16, in which case it was against the law, as far as I know - well, it would have been to buy them. You may have been part of a group, you may have been miserable. You may come from a family of heavy smokers and have been mildly addicted to nicotine all your life. I don't know, but suspect that something you can identify contributed to your beginning to smoke.

    I think that it would take an enormous imagination failure on your part to not be able to imagine an alternative scenario where an individual might come to try an illegal drug which could then lead to the sort of addiction we are talking about. And it should be noted that you don't really get much of a "kick" from smoking cigarettes - whereas standard opinion seems to say that heroine gives a real high.

    Now, if I get my ladder out to attach a shelf to the wall, and lean over - knowing full well that good safety practice on a ladder dictates that I should get down and move the ladder - and the ladder slips and I fall off and break my arm and crack my skull - do I expect the NHS to "repair" me? To be honest, yes, I do. Do I expect somebody to say, "self brought on, no pity" and leave me in a heap? No, I don't. Do I think that this example of injury through carelessness maps directly onto the heroine addiction issue? No, I don't actually, but there are useful parallels. The particular policy being discussed by the policeman yesterday, should not I think be seen as something to "help" the addict, but should be seen as an initiative to protect individuals from the crimes committed to fuel their habits.

    Once that is dealt with, then look at the problem of the addiction itself and deal with that as a separate problem. I recognise that our government operates a policy of cost limiting consumption (do a degree) when it comes to alcohol and tobacco, but to suggest (as the other Simon seemed to be doing) that a policy "difficulty of raising revenue through crime limiting consumption of heroine" works just isn't right! (Sorry, Simon, I know I'm misrepresenting you there!) To the people already stealing to feed an addiction, the notions of full-time jobs and driving licenses are probably not "real life". And do the people who are now not facing crime really care a great deal about whether somebody's habit is racing out of control? I don't think so. Remember, I'm not talking about support and treatment of addicts - that is a different problem that must be tackled differently - simply about trying to reduce related crime.

    The issues of how and where the drug could be distributed are practicalities - but I wouldn't advocate a local hospital and "normal" nursing staff. And sure if we implemented the policy be suggested by some of buying up whole crops,the cost of this sort of treatment would be an awful lot cheaper?

  47. At 12:27 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Chrissie the Trekkie wrote:

    Okay, legalise the darned stuff. Still got to buy it from somewhere and I'd bet the growers would happily become the ligitimate powers in the countries of origin.

    I'd also doubt that they'd do any serious research into the long term effects of their products, and I suspect we'd end up with a similar health situation down the line to the one we have with tobacco now.

    And finally - do we really want people wandering the streets or at work or driving around the roads under the influence of these strong drugs. Okay, it's a crime now, but that isn't stopping some, and how much worse would it be if it was legal to have and use them? How many more addicts would we get? Would there be as many as use alcohol now? Now there's a scary thought.

  48. At 12:44 PM on 23 Nov 2006, roger garnham wrote:

    Agree absolutely with issuing to REGISTERED addicts. Cut out the middle men, buy from the farmers at a pre-arranged contract price (market economics) , lets them plan how much to grow their crop and plan their lives better.
    Not mentioned in the cost of addiction over here, many street-prostitutes are addicts. So many sexual assaults do not get reported and many women/girls are forced by their pimps/ boyfiends , who have in many cases got them addicted in the first place.
    My son has cannabis psychosis , due to large scale smoking of skunk. Progressed to cocaine,crack,and eventually heroin, along the way taking L.S.D. speed ect.
    Managed after years to get him sectioned and hospitalised for several years, before being released.
    Is now permanently damaged, still misses the feeling the drugs give.
    Addicts are psychologically addicted to a feeling, we who have not tried these drugs can`t imagine.
    When high they don`t think about the next hit, they are so invoved in the experience.
    Roger from southend
    Thanks eddie for reading out text, made my day.
    Love the prog.
    By the way has anyone got the audio wall-chart from p.m. a few saturday`s ago. Mine lost in the ether i think.

  49. At 01:10 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Johanna wrote:

    Great debate!

    I'm for the provision of legal heroin to addicts and think Ed Iglehart's idea of buying up the source crop is a great one - after all we do need opiates for a variety of purposes and it looks to me like some areas already have a comparative advantage in their production.

    On a personal note and on the topic of addicts, my father was and my sister is an alcoholic and I know how destructive their addiction has been not just to their lives but to mine. It is a medical condition; it is an illness and they and I are victims of it.

    That said, the addict still has to take responsibility for their actions - that is what makes drug addication such a difficult illness to deal with.

    When someone has an chronic disease such as diabetes, we are able to feel sympathy for them, because it does not tend to make them lie, or steal or abuse the people around them.

    Drug addiction often makes the addict do such terrible things and makes those of us affected by it angry with the addict for subjecting us to such behaviour.

    And others, who don't necessarily have direct experience, are able to empathise more readily with people like me, an innocent bystander,but victim of the addicts abuse or lies or theft. And so the addict gets demonised.

    Yet, the addict is chronically and sometimes acutely ill. The rational part of me knows this, and so, is happy to have the addict treated as a patient rather than a criminal. And as it is the law's job to be rational, not emotional, and so the law too should treat the addict as a patient not a criminal.

    After all, some diabetics have become so as a result of their own unhealthy lifestyles but we don't go and make them buy their insulin from criminal gangs, do we?

    It's not that I let the members of my family off the hook automatically for their behaviour and I wouldn't let an opiates addict either! No way - I'm no doormat! If a drug addict commits a crime, then they should pay the consequences for it - but please let's stop criminalising their illness.

    A long post (for me) and I hope it makes sense to people!

    Jo xx

  50. At 01:11 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Rosalind wrote:

    Thank you very much Ed.

    I thought there were other substances, so buying heroin won't be enough will it?

    I am writing this listening to Eddie Mair on the death of Nick Clark, on the 1.00 news. There no words for things like this.

  51. At 01:42 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    I haven't heard the news Rosalind - I'm shocked - I thought he was doing well?

    Oh no. No words, you're right.

  52. At 01:45 PM on 23 Nov 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    Absolutely brilliant debate, oh I love it here. Afraid my post was written after a couples of shots of schnapps but I think the odd error doesn't detract from the overall sentiment; Ed clarifys brilliantly if it does!

  53. At 01:46 PM on 23 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Oops, sorry about "heroine"/"heroin" - I'd love to suggest it was some in-joke, but it was just my appalling spelling. Possibly influenced by Ian's Wonder Woman joke ("...in your satin tights, fighting for our rights...")

  54. At 02:16 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    We could also buy up the Coca crop with similar benefits for everyone except the criminal element. Cocaine is (I think) even more dangerous than Heroin, and actually physically destructive and even more emotionally so.

    I understand that Heroin/morphine addicts can lead relatively normal functional lives, given a secure and clean supply. I don't think this is the case for cocaine and its variants, though my expertise is severely limited, as noted before. Skunk is also somewhat problematic, compared to the rather pleasant euphoric of 'normal' cannabis.

    In any event, I reckon buying all the coca and poppy crops would turn out to be the bargain of the century, saving a lot of death and bullying and, of course, reducing the demand for small arms and helicopters for the drug lords' armies...

    Salaam, etc.
    ed

  55. At 02:47 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Dave britten wrote:

    It is amazing just how long it takes for the penny to drop with the authorities in this country. For years I've been writing to newspapers, politicians and this programme suggesting that the solution to the drugs problem is to provide registered addicts with a daily supply and help them to beat the addiction. After all this time, it's wonderful to find that a glimmer of intelligence is breaking through the wall of establishment resistance to radical thought. This latest suggestion of targetting only criminal addicts, however, is foolish, as it will be seen as a reward for crime and will probably encourage addicts to fall afoul of the law so as to get a regular supply.

    The main benefit of supplying all registered addicts, criminal or otherwise will be to massively reduce crime. Addicts would no longer need to steal to maintain their habit, drug pushers would have very few customers, the market would shrink so much that the illegal importation of heroin would no longer be worth the risks involved. It would also reduce the health risks to addicts who would no longer be injecting heroin cut with toxic compounds. Pure heroin is so cheap to the NHS that the cost of its provision to addicts pales into insignificance compared to the current cost of criminality associated with herion smuggling, distribution and use.

    All it will take is for the general public to get over its prejudice and for politicians to find a bit of spine, and we could kill the herion curse in months.

  56. At 03:28 PM on 23 Nov 2006, David Britten wrote:

    Having read through most of the contributions on this blog, I realised that an important point has been overlooked. The only reason that drug addiction is a problem is that drugs are prohibited. I have to ask an obvious question. Why is this? There are a siginificant number of people who, due to a specific medical condition unrelated to addiction are given a regular supply of herion. These people lead perfectly normal lives, holding down good jobs, and are net contributors to our society. Why should it be assumed that those using heroin for non medical reasons should be incapable of leading similarly respectable lives? Unfortunately, and solely due to the illigality of drugs, the toxic nature of the street variety and their consequent very high cost, many addicts descend into physical and mental deterioration and into a life of crime.

    If my understanding of history is correct, there never was a drugs problem until prohibition. Indeed, many historically significant people were addicted to opiates, including Queen Victoria, but I have heard no suggestion that she was a danger either to herself or to society.

    It does occur to me, however, that the criminal organisations that control the drugs trade, particularly in the USA, have a strong vested interest in maintaining the legislative status quo. It was mentioned by another contributor that pressure from the US was responsible for the abandonment of schemes for the supply of heroin to addicts in several European countries. This is very worrying, as it is widely suspected that the Mafia has significant political influence in US politics and through the DEA, it might appear, over our own government.

    With this in mind, one could be forgiven for speculating that certain politicians have interests in the drugs trade, as they seem to be the most energetic opposers of solutions that might threaten the continued existence of the trade.

    As a footnote I would add that, while we need laws to preserve a civilised society, some laws can have unintended consequences, such as creating criminals where none previously existed. We should be very particular about the laws we support.

  57. At 05:56 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    David Britten (56), makes perfect sense, although I would not go so far as to agree with his penultimate paragragh (I suspect that those interests are more likely to be found in the media and, as we know, politicians cannot/dare not (discuss) do anything without a certain amount of even tacit approval from the media).

    Having said that, your report just played (it's now 5.45pm) illustrates exactly why I would never have anything to do with illegal drugs and find those who do weak, selfish, pathetic and very often lacking in intelligence. Buying them even once may be causing someone harm/death. Shame on anyone who does it. Drugs fashionable? Not in my world.

    Thank you for your airing this issue PM. Keep up the great work.

  58. At 06:32 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Ooh, I came over all Roberto/Silver-Fox at the end there, didn't I?

    That is no bad thing.

  59. At 06:58 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    I've just realised that my 'condemnation' of those who buy and/or use illegal drugs may appear to lead logically to condemnation of addicts - not at all. An addiction is an illness like any other and its sufferers need support and understanding. I was merely outlining my own moral position on the use of illegal drugs for pleasure whilst they remain illegal and harmful to others. My particular issue is with the apparent attitude of many (usually non-addicted) users that what they are doing is fashionable, aspirational, or even just OK. But this would not stop me from helping them when they become addicts - I am not God: it is not for me to judge.

    Oh I think it's time to go and cook dinner!

  60. At 07:32 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Paul Geake wrote:

    What a good idea.
    It would ease the sufferings of many unfortunates, free oodles of police and customs time to do real work like tackling gun crime.
    Now that we have kicked the Taliban out and allowed the resumption of poppy growing in Afghanistan, and have an army on hand to collect the harvest it would cost virtually nothing.
    The only diadvatages would be to the smugglers, mafiosi and pedlars that addicts have to deal with and of course the banks, who currently launder the results of what is alleged to be the second largest global industry after armnaments. And all of it black
    We must propose the idea at the next EC and UN summits..

  61. At 08:02 PM on 23 Nov 2006, lenny vincent wrote:

    Although this may be a little off subject, 'skunk' has been mentioned and I wish to refute the current opinion often touted around the media, that skunk is the new devil form of cannabis.

    It is true that skunk has higher levels of T.H.C. ( the active intoxicant constituent of cannabis ) than the average imported cannabis resin. This resin is often of moderate to poor quality and sometimes adulterated in order to maximise smuggler's profits.
    Skunk is mainly home grown in this country and the growers aim to produce a quality product free from contaminants to supply the market that spurns poor quality imports.

    Skunk demands a higher price than imports and because of it's superiority, a little goes a long way. Experienced cannabis users recognise the superior strength and moderate their dosage accordingly, if you like, a comparison could be made between different strengths of alcohol, say whisky to beer.

    Some cannabis users avoid skunk from choice, others prefer it. Young people may not appreciate these differences at first, or if they do, they may enjoy boasting to their peer group. It may be much the same as the binge drinking culture. The government tries to educate people about the dangers of smoking and drinking but fails to inform us of different strengths of cannabis, perhaps because they do not wish to deliver 'the wrong message'.

    Today's news about the state of the cocaine market risks delivering the wrong message by informing cocaine users of dangerous adulteration and the unscrupulous practices of Columbian organised crime. However I don't think this will influence a cocaine addict too much. Cocaine is a seductive, highly addictive drug and is far more dangerous to health than any opiate. It is however beneficial to people who live in high altitudes when chewed in it's milder, basic form of coca leaves. The current state of cocaine market exists because it is illegal and therefore uncontrolled, but because of it's destructive nature, cocaine would be a problematic drug to legalise. The way to legalise may best be done through the clinic system as proposed for opiates.

  62. At 09:13 PM on 23 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    John H. (46) and others,

    Yep, you've got me banged to rights. Because I am one of those awful reformed smokers, kicking a relatively mild, though legalised addiction, I am judging heroin users against my own remarkable achievement.

    [Note tongue firmly in cheek and absence of aggressive retort]

    Quite simply, I started smoking because I was a fool. No heart-wrenching sob story, I'm afraid. Upbringing unremarkable and typical. Reasons the same as myriad others: wanted to look 'big' etc. etc. etc. zzzzzzzz.......

    Opportunity to progress to other stuff from there? Certainly. Shared the odd joint? Afraid so. Something of a hypocrite now then? Probably.

    Stole, threatened, menaced, assaulted, murdered? What do you think?

    But please, don't anybody think that I've become a narrow-minded, entrenched, right-winged Richard Cranium - which, incidentally, I'm not! - without considering all the aspects, all the angles, all the conflicting arguments of this issue.

    I will continue to side with the innocent victims of drug-related crime and not the perpetrators themselves. Although perhaps some addicts should be classified as victims. I don't consider them to be entirely innocent.

    Like so much of today's ills, the primary reason that we are even having this debate about how to reduce drug-related crime is because we have tolerated too much of that which is wrong within society. A move to zero tolerance and an enforcing of a clear message that illegal acts are wrong should be our starting point. If we can do this, I'll start worrying about how we can help those addicts that stay within the law - and want to help themselves - after that. Its not the other way around, I'm afraid.

    But I'm clearly in the minority here....

  63. At 12:39 AM on 24 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Lenny (61),

    I don't care if it is 'better quality' and home grown, it's still illegal and if people really want to use it they ought to press for its legalisation first, for the reasons given above.


    Simon (62),

    Who is "entirely innocent" then? Apart from the tiniest babies, perhaps. We all need to be forgiven and helped sometimes.

  64. At 04:47 AM on 24 Nov 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    Simon Worrell (44) “Prisons must become drug-free zones”. Not only are they not, but it is covet policy to accept drugs as a method of pacifying inmates. Overt supply is punished; the baby in the pram with the cocaine/heroin stuffed condom hidden it their mouth/blanket, that women is prosecuted.

    Belmarsh is our highest security prison, and housed IRA suspects at one time, but still has a drug culture. I don't know how but suspect it was with the approval of the authorities because subduing prisoners would be to their advantag3.

  65. At 07:39 AM on 24 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Aperitif (62),

    Who is "entirely innocent" then? Certainly not me. The tiniest babies are said to be full of 'original sin', meaning exclusively focused on their own needs etc. so we can probbly discount them too.

    The point that I was trying (unsuccessfully) to make with the 'entirely innocent' comment, is that, in my view, many drug addicts, whilst now in the all-consuming grip of dependency, probably entered that netherworld with their eyes wide open. Yes, probably in the same way as many of us start smoking ('cos our mates are doing it or whatever). But as far as I'm aware - aside from the 16 years old age qualification, which I'll admit I broke (have fun with that) - smoking is not yet entirely illegal? Smoking certainly didn't remove (all) my reasoning and drive me to violent crime. If I recall correctly, I only went as far as upsetting my mum and making my clothes ming.

    Back on track...

    If I appear to be just about the only one on this thread that is siding first and foremost with the innocent victims of drug-related crime - the burgled, the mugged, the threatened, the murdered and the bereaved - then it further emphasises to me the extent to which society's sympathies and priorities are out of 'whack'.

    Does anyone out there want to agree, or shall we all go out there and 'hug a druggie'?


  66. At 09:28 AM on 24 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Simon O. (various), I have to disagree with your suggestion:

    If I appear to be just about the only one on this thread that is siding first and foremost with the innocent victims of drug-related crime...

    My position is simply that prohibition and years upon years of trying to cut off the supply of illegal drugs have led to a reality of there being many illegal drug users. Some of these are responsible for all of the drug-related crime we are trying to discuss. My own position is that supplying these people with their drug of choice seems like a fair deal if it cuts the crime - not because those "lucky" drug users get their high, but because it stops them stealing to pay for it.

    You assert: Quite simply, I started smoking because I was a fool. Yes, quite possibly - and most smokers would probably concur. I think you said earlier that you rejected the opportunity to try illegal drugs. I find it astonishing that you cannot imagine a slightly more foolish "you" who did not - and therefore equally astonishing that you seem to imply that the small gap between these two versions of you amounts to the difference between "decent law abiding bloke" and "curse on society & probably responsible for all the world's ills".

    Those people whose lives, or who have family whose lives, have been blighted by drug addiction will, understandably, want to turn the focus on treatment and support. As I have stressed, I personally think this is a different issue. If the price for eliminating the hundreds of thousands of crimes that are carried out to fund drug addiction is to have a relatively small number of people out of their heads on drugs provided by the state - whether in prison or in some sort of controlled programme outside of prison, then, to me, that seems like a reasonable deal.

    There are some people who, when faced with questions about "people" and "society", have a propensity to want to tell it "as it should be". I'm one of them. And for a lot of these people, such a tendency will likely go hand in hand with a strong sense of personal responsibility, Thus, if somebody make a mistake, it's up to them to pay the price. Personally, I've come to recognise that of the many mistakes I've made and continue to make, the fact that some of them haven't led to homelessness, drug addiction, etc, whilst mostly down to me, does owe just a little bit to good fortune. I guess you could capture this revelation rather more succinctly with the saying, "there but for the grace of god go I". So, yes, once you deal with the crime problem, I probably would want to turn attention on treatment and support, but that is a different problem.

  67. At 10:58 AM on 24 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Simon O,

    None of the commentors have tried to trivialise the troubles of those who suffer drug-related crime.

    The simple fact is that these crimes are driven by the fact that what the addicts 'need' is illegal and therefore grossly overpriced. If their 'need' could be satisfied in legitimate channels, then Presto! No burglary, mugging, no crime lords (though I'm sure they would find some other prohibited thing to trade in), no peasant farmers surveying destroyed cropland, no bullying warlords or CIA thugs.....
    Vaya con Gaia
    ed

  68. At 01:47 PM on 24 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    John H. and Ed Iglehart,

    Sorry guys, but I'm obviously not as enlightened and opened minded as you, and many other contributors to this thread (I mean that seriously and not with any degree of petulance....honest!).

    Irrespective of whether such a government-sponsored heroin-on-prescription scheme is successful in reducing crime or not, I just could not accept a state of affairs in which (what is effectively) my taxes are spent appeasing drug users in the hope that one of them won't commit crimes against 'me and mine'.

    Of course, you could argue that my taxes are currently being spent on the aftermath of the drug-related crimes being committed (eg what is passed off as effective policing, prison sentences and so forth) and that would be fair comment.

    You could also argue that such a scheme will successfully wean many potential law-breakers off their addiction too, thus making the world a safer place. Again, fair comment,

    You could also argue that many addicts are in leave of their senses, know not what they do and are as much deserving of our sympathy and assistance as other victims of crime. Honestly, I hear you!

    But where will this appeasement end?

    At the risk of zooming off on a tangent, we've tried putting in more stuff for teenagers (skateboard parks, youth clubs and the like; certainly in my neck of the woods) and it has had b-all effect on reducing teenage antisocial behaviour.

    Has a softer attitude to cannabis reduced the number of users? I don't think so.

    Has making the prison experience less harsh and investing in prisoners educational and moral development reduced the re-offending rate? I dunno.

    To me, this idea is looking more and more like a government-sponsored protection racket, but one with no more guarantee of success as any other proposition. This being the case, I would much rather my protection money went on proper law enforcement that makes 'me and mine' more secure. If we've tried that for aeons and it hasn't worked, then lets keep on trying and channel our innovation on making this more effective.


  69. At 02:11 PM on 24 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Simon O,
    Your last sentence says a lot more than you probably intended. Read it again.

    "When you've only got a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." -- Maslow

    If it's a protection racket, I'd rather the government (no friend of mine usually) was getting the revenue rather than their friends in organised crime.
    Vaya con Gaia
    ed

  70. At 02:30 PM on 24 Nov 2006, steve wrote:

    Simon O (68)

    I think you will find that cannabis use is dropping and if you look at what has happened in the Netherlands, you will find that cannabis usage has dropped markedly. Let's face it, it's hardly a rebellious statement if it's legal.

    Surely the most important question is why teenage antisocial behaviour is increasing. That is where the answer to the problem lies. What a sick society we have produced when fame, not achievement, is the goal of so many youngsters.

    On a general point, am I correct in observing that most of the pro-frogs use facts in their arguments (comments) whilst most of the anti-frogs use morals and emotions for their stance. Please correct me if I am wrong on this point.

    Sorry not time for more, maybe later.

  71. At 03:23 PM on 24 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    C'mon Ed (69), help me with my last sentence, please. I know what I was trying (unsuccessfully) to articulate, but please tell me how you have interpreted it.

    Steve (70)
    Yes, probably. But I haven't spoken out against the use of any amphibian!

    Fun this, isn't it?

  72. At 04:19 PM on 24 Nov 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Simon (71),
    Re your final two sentences:
    We have indeed been trying enforcement of prohibition for aeons with no sign of success - quite the reverse, it seems all we have done is make fortunes for criminals and without any diminution in drug-related crime. Yet all you can recommend is that we do more of the same, but with 'innovation'?

    What sort of innovation? Life sentences for possession? Amputation? Shooting smugglers?

    Like the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., this war on drugs is un-winnable with the present methods. It is related to these wars in that it is a war against peoples and their lands.

    Trying to control the world?
    I see you won't succeed.

    T'ien hsia shen ch'i
    The world is a spiritual vessel
    And cannot be controlled.

    Those who control, fail.
    Those who grasp, lose.

    Some go forth, some are led,
    Some weep, some blow flutes,
    Some become strong, some superfluous,
    Some oppress, some are destroyed.

    Therefore the Sage
    Casts off extremes,
    Casts off excess,
    casts off extravagance.

    Use TAO to help rule people
    This world has no need for weapons
    Which soon turn on themselves
    Where armies camp, nettles grow;
    After each war, years of famine.
    The most fruitful outcome
    Does not depend on force,
    But succeeds without arrogance
    Without hostility
    Without pride
    Without resistance
    Without violence.
    If these things prosper and grow old,
    This is called not-TAO.
    Not-TAO soon ends.
    Pu tao tsao i

    Lao Tzu

  73. At 06:57 PM on 24 Nov 2006, decon wrote:

    news comment on
    drug harm miniumisation solutions
    http://www.pep-pills.co.uk/news/news-items/heroin-on-the-nhs-a-great-idea

  74. At 08:35 PM on 24 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Ed (72),

    Wow, aren't you well read! I suppose that I should bow down to your obviously superior intellect, but I'm afraid that I can't. I'll just have to remain outnumbered and outgunned on this thread without any sign of support. Poor me. Still, you get used to it after a while.

    I had this vision, you see. I was strollin' along, minding my own business with a hundred notes in the pocket of me strides. Suddenly, out from the shadows, stepped this smartly-dressed man who introduced himself as Mr Goverment. Around the next corner, he informed me, is a drug addict carrying something long, sharp and very pointy. He is desperate for his next fix and is prepared to do whatever is necessary to secure the funds to buy it.

    Mr Government goes on to tell me that he is aware that I've got £100 in my pocket (his best mate Gordon told him, apparently) and gives me three choices: -

    [a] I could bid him farewell with now't more than a cheery grin, wander around the corner and take my chances. I might get home unscathed. I might lose my money. I might lose my money and my life. I might be lucky and some other poor blighter will turn that corner before me to an uncertain fate.

    [b] Instead, I could hand Mr Government £10 from my ton (for the sake of argument) and he will pass it over to a very nice man in a white coat who, in turn, will stick a needle into the arm of the drug addict, thereby rendering him unable to negotiate the £100 transaction with my good self. Whilst said addict is relaxing in a comfy chair in the Green Room, cup of tea and biscuits on a tray beside him, TV in the corner, I can make my way safely home. Every time the effects of his dose pass, I simply hand over another tenner and Robert's your dad's brother. If I'm very lucky, the recipient of the drug will eventually be cured of the need for a fix and I can stop passing across my periodic tenner. Maybe we can buy the drugs wholesale, get a good price and make the growers happy. With the money saved, we could get the reformed addict a nice flat, put him on a nice vocational training programme and learn to love him again.

    [c] Or, finally, I could hand over the same tenner (or perhaps a tad more) and, instead of giving it to that nice man in a white coat, Mr Government will hand this to a very large policeman carrying a very large truncheon. This very large policeman will walk around the corner, tapping said truncheon menacingly in the palm of his hand. And he will stay there or thereabouts in order to ensure my safe passage home. His very presence will also deter other crimes in the neighbourhood - a nice bi-product.

    Which to choose? Which to choose?

    Thanks for the nice poetry, by the way.

  75. At 01:34 PM on 25 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Hm, my "inner tosser" is actually suggesting I keep my mouth shut (fingers still?) at this point, but Simon O. (74), you are clearly warming to your task. Your vision seems to combine both comic and slightly sinister streaks - capturing as it does scenarios that bare only a passing resemblance to those that exist, whilst promoting a good deal of worthy indignation: "By god, these scoundrels should be thrashed!"

    Policy in this country pretty much aligns with your choice [c] and has done since the drug problem was first identified. Yes, of course you can have more and more and more police men and women - and you are surely right that having a few more on the beat would probably be a good thing - but until we have a situation where every person is shadowed 24 hours a day - or at least approach such a situation (oh, and who then will watch the watchmen?) - it simply will not work. And surely you are not going to suggest that the good police men and women only watch the "bad" people?

    The figure being reported today is that addicts commit on average just short of 500 crimes a year to fuel their habit (and I guess this must be "addicts who steal to finance their habit"). Giving such a person clean, (relatively) safe fixes to stop them carrying out the crime still seems like a good deal to me.

    Clearly we disagree at a fairly fundamental level.

  76. At 03:14 PM on 25 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    John (74) and others,

    Rocks and wet sponges at the ready...

    I don't agree that policy in this country aligns to my choice (c). We have migrated from a police FORCE to a police SERVICE in the past 30-40 years, such that they are now pretty much a fire brigade, speeding to the scene of a crime, rather than maintaining a visible, constant presence in all communities. I heard recently of some London neighbourhood - sorry, forget which - that, having reported a string of burglaries to the police, found that their only response was to come round and put a "warning, thieves operate in this area" sign up. This sort of thing is becoming pretty commonplace. As there is a danger of moving off into the wider realms of the crime and punishment, I'll try and get back to the main topic of this thread...

    Let's say that 59,999,999 people in this fair land are right (we are! you all shout) and I'm wrong (you are! etc.) and we embark upon this policy which, I am informed, has been successfully implemented in other countries. So... we have X number of addicts queueing up to register for their free daily/weekly/whenever fix of whatever that the rest of us are paying for with montly charitable donations to Gordon's Gang. Presumably said addicts would have to give some form of consent to the state's desire to cure them of their addiction? What if they don't? Will the state round them all up and enforce the programme? What is an appropriate period of time on such a programme before it can be reasonably expected an addict should be cured of his/her addiction? As others have said, once registered, how will such a programme impact upon their qualification to drive, to operate machinery, to care for children etc? Yes, of course, they're doing it now and we don't know what danger we're all in 'cos nobody knows they're addicts, but the fact is that once registered, surely the state/society has a responsibility to ensure all aspects of the subject's life are 'joined up' and some meddlin' social worker or HSE official has to carry out some form of risk assessment right across the board? If I was an addict, I'm not entirely sure that a state-sponsored weekly fix and offer of a cure somewhere over the horizon was enough of a motivation for me to risk my job, my driver's licence, my family or something else. Perhaps that's a bit drastic, I dunno?

    I am concerned too, that enrolling on such a scheme is a rational choice and we've discussed previously that many addicts have had rational choice blitzed out of them by industrial strength space dust. Whenever there's a knife amnesty, its generally the (relatively) law-abiding that hand in their potential weapons. I suspect that only those that want help will come forward here and that very few of this bunch are responsible for the major drug-related crimes.

    What about those that have already committed crimes? Will there be an amnesty for them if they enrol, or will we take their fingerprints, DNA and inside leg measurements in case there's an opportunity to match them to an unsolved crime and frogmarch them off to the clink? I bloody hope so! Oops, there I go again, getting all emotional. But the point is, they're hardly likely to come forward and voluntarily enrol, are they? Or perhaps there's someone out there who'll tell me that they will?

    I'm not completely heartless. Really, I'm not. I conceded in [62] above that I'm prepared to consider those that stay within the law and want to help themselves, but only after we've addressed the dreadful shortcomings of the crime and punishment system first (no, don't go there again, Simon!). Those that really want out of that hell should be given assistance.

    There, I've conceded a little, haven't I?


    PS Liked the "inner tosser" bit. I probably let mine out too much.


  77. At 03:27 PM on 25 Nov 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    Simon Worrell (44) “Prisons must become drug-free zones”. Not only are they not, but it is covet policy to accept drugs as a method of pacifying inmates. Overt supply is punished; the baby in the pram with the cocaine/heroin stuffed condom hidden it their mouth/blanket, that women is prosecuted. But, Belmarsh is our highest security prison and still has a drug culture. I don't know how, but suspect it is with the approval of the authorities because subduing prisoners would be to their advantage.

    I heard once that alcohol was the most dangerous kind of addiction because we have alcohol in our blood already; therefore the body easily assimilates it, and becomes accustomed to a supply. Perhaps it is just the withdrawal which is the worst, not the substance, but Rain in my Heart can live us in little doubt of the dangers (despite the intrusion of the documentary maker!).

  78. At 06:29 PM on 26 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Hi All, I've been away so it's taken me a bit to catch up with this thread. As I've read I've wanted to say all kinds of thing - but JH keeps beating me to it. The paragraph beginning "You assert..." at 66 sums up the (I agree, astonishing) position of many on the right of the polictial spectrum in respect of many issues, not only drugs. Sound thinking from JH, among others, as always.

    Simon Opinion, re The tiniest babies are said to be full of 'original sin', meaning exclusively focused on their own needs etc. so we can probbly (sic) discount them too.. I hope your tongue was in your cheek here - I was raised in the Catholic faith and deliberately made the 'tiniest babies' distinction with the ridiculous idea of 'original sin' in mind. Or perhaps you are indicating that they ought to be punished for their 'sins' too? People aren't born 'good' or 'bad' - experience and circumstances make us what we are and, I'll say again, we all need compassion and support sometimes. That aside, the practical arguments for the initiative discussed here are also very convincing, so even those who don't like the idea of helping those with drug habits and criminal records ('criminal', is of course a social construct with its origins in subjective moral standards, but that's a whole other discussion)... even those people should see the beneift for themselves and those within the boundaries of their comapssion/care, even if only in financial terms. And I just have to say that your post at 65, in which you assert that you are "the only one on this thread that is siding first and foremost with the innocent victims of drug-related crime" is naive and, I'm afraid, somewhat offensive to those who care about victims - whether of crimes or circumstances. It doesn't have to be one or the other: you may choose to 'take a side'; many of us address it in a different and, I contend, more constructive way. I'm being careful to criticise your views rather than you here, and don't intend to offend, but I can't pretend to agree, so must take that risk.

    Steve, I've read back with your following comment in mind On a general point, am I correct in observing that most of the pro-frogs use facts in their arguments (comments) whilst most of the anti-frogs use morals and emotions for their stance. Yes, I think you are correct.

    Loads more to say but I've gone on for long enough already.

  79. At 08:06 PM on 26 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Aperitif (78) and everyone else,

    Don't worry, if I was easily offended I would probably either keep my views to myself or start getting more personal with others contributors here.

    I'm quite obviously in very much the minority on this thread, but have found much sympathy for my point of view with friends and colleagues and a number of columnists in the national press. Of course, there are also a number of commentators that share your position.

    Perhaps I live in a small enclave of emotional, naive, closed-minds tossers (I might have forgotten some of the other adjectives, but I really can't be bothered to read all 78 postings again).

    I guess we'll have to agree to differ then. I look forward to this great social experiment, 'cos it'll probably (I'll hit the "a" this time to keep you happy) happen. I can't really lose, can I? Either I'm wrong and the world's a much safer place, or I'm right and.... well, who knows....?

  80. At 09:48 PM on 26 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Well, I guess it's a good thing that we can disagree so fundamentally without resorting to falling out or being abusive.

    I do love this blog.

  81. At 09:49 PM on 26 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Would anyone like to have a stab at the practicalities of such a scheme, were it to happen?

    I posed a few questions in [76] above which have, thus far, remained unanswered by many of you, perhaps indignant that "many on the right of the polictial spectrum in respect of many issues" should dare to hold a differing view.

    Right, so you're all caring individuals, better equipped than I to see the bigger picture. You use facts when putting forward your sound-thinking comments, rather than to stoop so low as to employ morals and emotions. Oh, and you also have the taste for a better class of poetry. So, c'mon, take me through in detail how this thing might work. Address my concerns, some of which are unashamedly plagiarised from earlier threads. Outline for me a scheme that allays my fears that this is nothing more than a surrender.

    Or perhaps you'd struggle to come up with something that's not full of so many holes as to render it impracticable?

  82. At 10:17 PM on 26 Nov 2006, victoria short wrote:

    Dear Eddie - had been meaning for many a long while to write to you, and had never got around to it. The death of the [almost universally loved] Nick Clarke has finally shoved me into action. [I, like many, regarded him as a personal friend - and life will truly not be the same without him].

    However, what I have long wished to say to you is this - your lovely wry humour and wit have enabled me to endure the daily misery of the news - and indeed look forward to the PM prog. - well that is, as long as YOU present it!!! Have had many a long battle with depression and had deserted Radio 4 for Oneword, as an escape and antidote - which [despite it's repetitions and rather odd programming of late] it has been. But YOU lure me back to good old four --- THANK YOU so much!

    I am sure that you and your colleagues miss Nick even more than we, the audience, do -- bless you all.

    Yours - Vicki Short

  83. At 10:14 AM on 27 Nov 2006, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    Still going, then? I was disappointed that no anti-prescribing views were broadcast on Friday's programme, even though we seem to be in the minority.

    If my failure to read all previous postings has deprived me of facts that I appear to be ignoring, sorry. But does not the consumption of various drugs have an adverse effect upon people's general performance? We had a French visitor once who consumed a lot of whisky; he was utterly convinced that he performed better under its influence, but it was obvious to us that the reverse was true.

    The economic argument may stack up, but does the bottom line always have to be the only line?

    And, apart from the odd "French Connection" example, no-one has to take heroin. If it were prescribed purely on the basis of addiction, we could expect the same of the NHS for cigarettes, sex, or any other addiction!

  84. At 11:20 AM on 27 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Hm, I was expecting this to have withered over the weekend, but I guess Drinks' arrival has given it a shot in the arm (ho, ho, ho).

    Whilst generally agreeing with her "nobody is born good or bad" type contention - well, in theory, anyway - I think in practice that it's not so clear cut. I generally believe that most people have the propensity to behave in any number of ways and that "nurture" is the key factor. However, I do also believe that nature of "nurture" (ho, ho, ho - again) is that its effect is intrinsically linked to the individual. Hence the indignation of many law abiding people when faced with a delinquent claiming a "difficult childhood".

    That aside, I can't ignore Simon's plea for practicalities. I can't actually answer it, in the way he seems to want, but I can try to clarify part of it. As Drinks points out, "criminality" is a social construct. Most "right-minded" people align most of their personal values with the prevailing law (at least in this country) and thus are happy that "illegal" is akin to "wrong". However, it is readily apparent that some bastions of conservative attitudes are willing to dismiss the law "as an ass" when they find that the law doesn't suit them - think of the vociferous minority of the hunting brigade - and in doing so look rather like the anarchists that would usually abhor. The point, here, is simply that "criminality" of (illegal) drug use is not based on objective reality. The distinction between legal and illegal drugs is at best arbitrary and at worst a justification for conspiracy theorists everywhere. Let's not worry about that, though, because that's just The Way It Is. I dwell on the point only because of it's impact on the nature of prescribing said illegal drugs - it's not like prescribing "killing people" to serial killers.

    I now have to address what Simon is asking in his post 76. The questions you ask are either based on a conceit (for the sake of your argument) or a mistake and a fundamental misunderstanding of (1) what I believe the police officer was trying to say and (2) what I have been trying to say. Taking the latter first: I, personally, am not advocating that free drugs be handed out to everyone who wants them (although I am sitting firmly on the fence on the "legalization" issue). We are therefore talking about a relative minority of people. The conceit (or mistake), I believe, is your apparent assumption that all drugs users are, or aspire to be, utterly frazzled addicts. Because of this starting point, you ask a whole load of questions that ultimately build to "what about those who have committed crimes" - well, frankly, they're the only ones I'm talking about at the moment. The sort of registration scheme you describe, and related treatments involved, may have merit - I don't know. But do you really believe that somebody who is committing nigh on 500 burglaries and robberies a year has any hope - or expectation - on maintaining any sort of involvement with what most of us would consider "normal life"? These are people who are probably in and out of police cells, magistrates courts and prison on a continuing basis. More police officers on the beat should certainly mean that they are caught more quickly and harsher sentences should mean that they spend longer in prison unable to commit more crime. This is why your position has a certain logic. But is it a sensible approach? I'm not so sure, especially when it is all based on the arbitrary classification of a drug as illegal.

    Whether or not the drugs themselves are legal, the offences committed to fuel the habit are, without doubt, Crime. If you can take the small number of individuals locked into this sort of drug-crime-prison cycle, give them the drug they crave, then you potentially achieve the desired result of stopping the crime, without locking them all up. If the figure I'm quoting is even vaguely accurate, that is a lot of misery you're stopping without doing something which is morally corrupt (and when I write that, I mean both administering proscribed drugs and the questionable practice of consigning people who have physical and psychological addictions to over-crowded prisons).

    I'm sure I was going to add something else, but I've worn myself out. Since I missed the show on Friday, what was said?

  85. At 01:24 PM on 27 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    John H. (84),

    My conceit and/or fundamental misunderstanding are, to an extent at least, somewhat deliberate. I'd hoped to provoke reaction and improve my understanding of the issues in equal measure. Both objectives achieved, and I thank you all for that (no patronisation intended).

    Yes, I am sure that I am guilty of aligning most of my personal values with the prevailing law. But this does not stop me from questioning whether certain laws are appropriate or not, in much the same way as is being contended in this particular debate.

    I'm not sure, however, that I should also plead guilty to the accusation that the scenarios (per 74) "bare only a passing resemblance to those that exist" - exaggerated certainly.

    Its one of those "we'll have to agree to differ" ones, isn't it? Vyle Hernia (83) - a welcome ally, it would seem - rightly points out that there was not one anti-prescribing views broadcast on Friday's programme.

    As I am happy to accept that the correspondence aired on the programme is proportional to the balance of opinion on any given subject, I conclude that the anti-prescribing view is very much in the minority (or perhaps just the least vocal).

    You know, if such a scheme was to significantly reduce related crime, then there is an obvious appeal. But I cannot think of this as anything other than a surrender. This is the fundamental disagreement, I feel.

  86. At 02:17 PM on 27 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    As I said in my previous comment, I didn't hear the show can so can only try to imagine why both views weren't broadcast. It seems odd because, clearly, both camps have a legitimate point to make. My only explanation must be that "not prescribing" is the current status quo and so it's a "given" that it's a legitimate position.

    Incidentally, I don't know if you took it that way, but I was in no way criticising the alignment of personal values and law. In a democratic society, you would hope that the law of the land would represent some sub-set of the people's values. It's just that "laws" are funny things. At some point in the past, it was decided that the national speed limit on motorways was 70mph. It's so simple - drive at 70mph and you're within the law, drive at >70mph, and you break it. But how do you measure the speed at which a car is travelling?

    Apparently, the limit was introduced in 1965 - what means had a police officer trying to enforce this limit at his/her disposal in 1965? The most accurate, I'm sure , would have been a stop watch and 2 suitably distant landmarks between which a vehicle's journey could be timed. The practicality of such a measurement would be limited by the ability of the observer to see the vehicle at a "suitably distant" starting point if located at the finishing point - if the points were too close, then too much error would be introduced. If a stopwatch isn't that practical, you could follow and read your own speedo - but then you have potential errors in speedometer readings, maintaining separation, etc.

    I'm sure all this comes over as meaningless waffle. I'm simply trying to make the point that when this very simple legal limit was set, for all practical purposes, it was "about 70mph". Now here we are 40 years later and radar technology can apparently measure a vehicle's speed at very great accuracy - does this mean that we can finally enforce the (previously partially unenforceable) law? And prosecute every driver doing 70.1mph? Or should enforcement attempt to capture the previously unwritten "about 70mph"? If the latter, is this surrender to the vile overly fast driving public?

    Perhaps it would have been easy to point to examples in, say, soccer or cricket where the laws of the games were written to be enforced by a match official, but are now subject to the technological examinations afforded by multiple cameras.

    It occurs to me as I write this that there is a more far reaching parallel with the notion of grammaticality in language. A language's grammar is abstracted from the language as it is used, but is then elevated to a position such that the subset of language it describes is deemed to be "correct" and that which it doesn't, "incorrect" or "sloppy". "Laws" are a similar abstraction of the prevailing views at the time and then come to characterise the nature of those views. Implicitly, we all recognise that views can shift and that laws must shift with them (witness the topical discussion on slavery at the moment). Perhaps the disagreement that has been highlighted here hangs on the belief or not that the illegality of some drugs is "justified and certain" rather than "potentially arbitrary". It seems to me that this fundamentally affects whether it should be a "line in the sand" issue (as you feel it is) or one that should be circumvented for pragmatic reasons.

  87. At 03:52 PM on 27 Nov 2006, Vyle Hernia wrote:

    Trying as usual to be brief, and probably lacking clarity as a result - one of the arguments for making heroin more freely available seemed to be that "We" could buy-up the entire Afghan crop, thus assuring the farmers of a decent wage. Of course, that could be done anyway and then the entire crop destroyed humanely.

    But then we might as well let them join the EU, designate Afghanistan a "Set-aside" and pay them to grow nothing.

    John H (86)
    The average UK government gets in with about 40% of the votes from about 70% of the electorate, i.e. 28% of all possible votes. It then proceeds to execute its "Mandate". Laws may indeed represent a subset of the public view, but usually a vry small subset.

    WRT the 70 limit, received wisdom is that it was introduced to enable the Railway to compete with express coaches, as they didn't all have governors fitted in those days.

    "There are only 2 kinds of car driver - fools who get in my way and idiots who want to overtake me."

  88. At 10:51 PM on 27 Nov 2006, lenny vincent wrote:

    Milton Friedman was a legalise cannabis campaigner. He said that to prohibit cannabis successfully required nothing less than a complete police state. And that's just cannabis! Check out
    http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/2006/11/16.html

    I can't think of any culture or society where people practice a complete abstinence from mind altering substances. It seems to be part of our human nature to want to alter our state of consciousness one way or another.
    Overindulgence can lead to social problems that lead to a moral backlash which develops into the extreme prohibitionist/zero tolerance position that compounds the problem even further.

    It's mainly the highly addictive opiates and cocaine derivatives that lead to drug related crimes, shop lifting, muggings, robberies, burglaries, prostitution,etc.. Alongside ordinary drug
    offences of smuggling, dealing, and possession, these constitute over 60%
    of all crimes. Our prisons are bursting (it's happened before ) and the politicians have to contemplate a further prison building programme to avoid being seen as soft on crime.

    I heard recently on radio 4 a spokesman
    claim that the average cost of prescribing heroin to addicts to be £30 per month. This beats the £500 per week to imprison an offender who might not consider crime if stabilised at a clinic. The costs of imprisonment are the tip of the iceberg when considering
    the total costs of the war on drugs, customs and law enforcement, the courts, the environment when spraying
    Columbia with a different brand of agent orange,etc..Not to mention the personal tragedies, break up of families, and human tragedies that do not come with a price tag.

    Simon O (post 74) worries about his proverbial tenner. He would rather it went to a big policeman. This would'nt be the same policeman as the senior officer who wants to try a different approach to the war on drugs?

    Again Simon O (post85) sees the fundamental disagreement that adopting the proposal would be a surrender. Is calling the law an ass a surrender? Or should the magistry of an ill-considered series of laws pulled this way and that by moral debate, be sacrosanct?


  89. At 11:23 PM on 27 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    I cannot comment on the veracity of lenny vincent's sources or claims, but I wish that I were as eloquent as he.

  90. At 06:29 PM on 28 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Oh but you are JH, you are. This will be the last compliment I give you for a while, as I fear it may cause your head to swell. But praise where praise is due, you make a lot of sense - eloquently.

  91. At 11:34 PM on 28 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    You are too kind, Drinks. I've always made a habit of meandering around whatever point I'm trying to make - usually only partially realising the "point" as I do so. So whilst it is a far from unfamiliar feeling, I do rather marvel at the "Yes, and that!" feeling whenever anybody else comes along and expresses their own opinion so much more clearly. I guess we've finally put this frog to sleep.

  92. At 01:35 PM on 29 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Lennie (88),

    YOU SAID
    Simon O (post 74) worries about his proverbial tenner. He would rather it went to a big policeman. This would'nt (sic) be the same policeman as the senior officer who wants to try a different approach to the war on drugs?

    MY RESPONSE
    No it most certainly wouldn't! Sadly, the sort of "Big Policeman" that I'd want to pass my tenner to are few and far between these days. The police 'service' much prefers right-on, university grads nowadays. As you're more likely to be arrested for your views, rather than your actions, I'd better shup up (Phew! I hear you all chorus).

    YOU SAID
    Again Simon O (post85) sees the fundamental disagreement that adopting the proposal would be a surrender. Is calling the law an ass a surrender? Or should the magistry of an ill-considered series of laws pulled this way and that by moral debate, be sacrosanct?

    MY RESPONSE
    Help me here. Are you suggesting that the outlawing of highly addictive, mind altering drugs are "ill considered"? Please clarify, as I'm having trouble deciphering your "eloquence".

    *******************

    John H. (91),

    YOU SAID
    I guess we've finally put this frog to sleep.

    MY RESPONSE
    What on earth are you talking about?

    *******************

    I know that we do not live in a perfect world and that we never will. But I also believe that we should not simply give up on 'stuff' simply because its too hard (or "not working" as you all endlessly argue).

    No, we don't want a police state. No, we shall never rid ourselves of the drug menace. Nor shall we ever eradicate problems associated with alchohol abuse or gambling addiction. We shall probably never solve the problems of feral kids, violent gangs, domestic violence and football hooliganism. There will always be muggers, murderers, rapists, paedophiles, war mongers and any other type of criminal.

    Some of us will call for greater empathy and understanding for some of these individuals, or in particular and individual cases. Other will just call for the gallows.

    Now we can argue about this until the bovines come home. We can quote sophisticated poetry and the thoughts of Chairman Mao to illustrate how educated we are. We can show the world how well-read and how compassionate we are. We can accuse others of having a closed minds. We can suggest that they're using flawed morals and emotions, rather than the flawless reason, fact and intellect (like wot we're using).

    Not one of you has made any sort of attempt to explore the practicalities of such a programme, with the partial exception of John H. (84). There are many, many questions that would have to be answered should such a scheme be implemented. Many posters on this subject have asked a number of them, including myself.

    Vyle Hernia (87) has asked why not buy up the crops in their entirety and simply burn 'em? Yeah, why not? if you advocate buying up these crops and controlling the supply, does it follow that you advocate doing business with Colombian drug barons and the sort? Are we going to give legitimacy to there vocation? if not, and we'll only deal with the 'good' drug producers, how shall we deal with the inevitable reaction of the 'baddies'?

    Will there be an amnesty for addicts that have committed crimes already? John H. (84) asked if I really believed "that somebody who is committing nigh on 500 burglaries and robberies a year has any hope - or expectation - on maintaining any sort of involvement with what most of us would consider "normal life"?" No, I don't believe that for a second. There is no way that that sort of individual would wish to enrol in such a programme as is being touted here. So, if this is the case, why have one? Aren't they the one's that are causing all this hassle with nasty crimes in the first place? If the scheme doesn't touch them - and it appears that it won't - then what's the point of this argument?

    Bright you lot may be, but boy are you naive as well.

    [Give that Mr Hitler another shot of Sudetenland and perhaps he won't steal another Poland? Yeah, that'll work]

  93. At 03:00 PM on 29 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    Simon O.:

    John H. (84) asked if I really believed "that somebody who is committing nigh on 500 burglaries and robberies a year has any hope - or expectation - on maintaining any sort of involvement with what most of us would consider "normal life"?" No, I don't believe that for a second.

    ** There is no way that that sort of individual would wish to enrol in such a programme as is being touted here.**

    Why on earth not? You accuse people on here of being naive. Well, possibly - there are worse crimes and failings. But if you are suggesting that you are more of the real world, on what basis do you suggest that somebody who is so frazzled by physiological and psychological dependency that they are committing crimes at the rate of more than one a day - where each every one risks criminal sanction, and many carry a genuine personal risk - would continue in this way rather than turn up at a clinic of some sort for their fix?

    I have no experience of somebody suffering from heroin addiction, so perhaps I'm having an imagination failure. But faced with the challenge of identifying a house which may or may not contain a few items with immediate resale value, may or may not have a big dog, may or may not be owned by somebody who quite honestly will set about me with a claw hammer if they catch me, dealing with whoever I need to to offload the stolen items and dealing with whoever I need to to get the heroin of questionable quality that is all I have access to, why on earth wouldn't turning up to a secure clinic of some sort, to get safe, free heroin, be something I would prefer?

    I think you have a view of "people outside the law" which means that you treat all the same. That's fine and it is your right. However, it also makes it likely that you haven't taken on board any of the comments about the nature of illegality with respect to drugs. Your impressive list of crimes, criminals and problems that will always exist is all very well but I would suggest that the *vast* majority consider these "wrong" (rather than a good number thinking the opposite and another load being ambivalent). If somebody has the money to buy heroin to feed their habit and so causes no crime against others to continue using it (obviously buying it and having it are probably criminal activities, but I'm not sure this is what we're talking about), is this really the same as a husband beating his wife up? I would have thought it was possibly closer to the young daughter of this couple who is her room self-harming.

    I don't know if you take a drink, Simon O. (and note I didn't say "take a Drink(s)"), but I'm sure you know people who do. If we make the drinking of alcohol illegal - and there is no reason why such a thing could not happen - would you expect these people, who patently disagree with the new law, and all others like them, to quit forthwith? Bearing in mind that free borders would mean that there would be a rampant black market. Or perhaps you would consider it a ill-judged law, maybe dabble a little, and campaign to have it abolished?

  94. At 06:38 PM on 29 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    John H. (93),

    I suggest that those that commit such crimes as you describe - braving the big dog, the clawhammer and possibly a dreadful taste in interior decor - have long since passed the "what's best for me?" dilemma.

    If we were talking about the NHS providing proper treatment for addicts that truly wanted to help themselves then I'd probably go along with it and we wouldn't be having all this fun. But many of you are still suggesting legalising all this undoubtedly harmful stuff, and that we have a type of NHS Soup Wagon trundling around providing the regular fixes that they really crave(sorry, my exaggeration).

    This quite mad.

    If your motive really is a reduction in crime - and I'm beginning to wonder whether this really is your primary motive - then let's talk about taking the worst criminals (addict or not) out of society altogether. Let's talk about introducing proper deterrents such as the death penalty. But of course we can't possibly have that and we shall trot out all the usual pony about hanging innocent people etc. etc. yawn, yawn.

    Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime? We ain't nothing of the sort and never will be for so long as we are governed and steered by Namby-Pamby idiots. Go on, trot out all the usual stuff. Accuse me of being a right-wing fascist. None of which is true, incidentally.

    Yeah, I drink. No, I don't drink to excess. No, I don't go looking for Friday night punch ups, kebabs and air-biscuit floating down some dank alleyway. No, I'm not self-righteous either.

    My initial thought on alcohol is this. The majority of the population are unremarkable in their occasional drinking habits in much the same way as me. Fully aware of their obligations to those around them, they drink in moderation and leave it like that. A small minority have a greater problem and are alcoholics. A small number within this subset (I would imagine) may well find themselves in similar surroundings as drug addicts, perhaps even committing crimes both to feed their addiction and because of their addiction (domestic violence, for example). I have as much contempt for that group as I do for drug addicts. But I have an equal measure of sympathy and compassion for alcoholics that truly want to help themselves recover (if indeed that's what you could describe it as).

    Where the similarity to heroin use ends, however, is that the majority of moderate alcohol imbibers are not on the same dangerous conveyor belt as those starting on heroin. Heroin use (and I'd argue cocaine too) is a downward, ever-accelerating spiral. You are not a moderate user for long. You either get off as soon as you can, or you stay on a ride to hell.

    Anyway, fancy a stab at answering the practical questions that I posed (93)? None of you really want to go there, do you? Why is that?

  95. At 03:39 PM on 30 Nov 2006, John H. wrote:

    You seem to have gone off on one there, Simon O. I think we shall have to agree to disagree. Alternatively, if you like, you can disagree to disagree, but that that doesn't really involve me (or anybody else, presumably).

  96. At 05:25 PM on 30 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    John H. (95),

    I'm going off to get p***** on some 'tramp-shelter red', after which I'll be found by a roadside near you, picking fights with shadows....

    In the meantime, I concede defeat on account of the fact that there is overwhelming support for this proposal on this site.

    I shall, however, be assuming that the whole thing is clearly unworkable in the real world, owing to the fact that nobody seems to want to address the practical issues (although I strongly suspect that only you and I are still alive here).

    Anyway, where else have you ventured your considered view so that I can "go off on one" there too?

  97. At 06:01 PM on 30 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Oh Simon, you come up with all of this questions of practicalities - why don't you answer them, instead of carping that no-one else does? (Actually, I imagine that this is mostly because people have moved on and only a very few odd sorts like us keep coming back to look through old threads.)

    Anything worth doing (and many things that are not) brings with it practical problems to be surmounted, but the theory and practice should not be held hostage to practical problems unless the effort to overcome them weighs disproportionately heavy. You seem to think it does; I don't think that we have investigated far enough to establish that - it's worth a trial project and further analyis to find out, at least.

    As for this "Let's talk about introducing proper deterrents such as the death penalty. But of course we can't possibly have that and we shall trot out all the usual pony about hanging innocent people etc. etc. yawn, yawn." Come on - you doing a bit of trolling there aren't you? I mean "yawn" in reference to hanging anyone, let alone someone who hasn't committed the crime for which they are being hung seems about as right-wing as one can get to me.

  98. At 08:23 PM on 30 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Yeah, OK, whatever.

    You lot win. I'm worn out.

  99. At 09:06 PM on 30 Nov 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    "Whatever"? Oh I expected better than that.

  100. At 09:52 PM on 30 Nov 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Whoah! Hold your horses! I'm having an epiphany... this is actually a very good idea. And you're right, its time I stopped carping and came up with the solutions to all the practical problems, isn't it? After all, we're all in this together now, aren't we? So, here goes... straight off the cuff... might need some fine tuning afterwards... but I think it'll help...

    SUPPLY
    We're going to have to maintain ethics and standards here, which means setting up our own plantations, manufacturing facilities and logistical solutions; most of which would have to be abroad because of the climate required. As it would be unethical to trade with established drug barons - and they would be hardly likely to just sit back and watch their livelihood dwindle - we will need to make sure that our facilities and people are well protected.

    ENROLMENT
    All users wishing to join the programme will need to be registered and assessed. The assessment will involve determining the extent of their addiction and tests for HIV and other diseases. It is important that staff administering the treatment do so in a safe and secure environment and that each patient is given the appropriate dosage - hence the necessity for accurate assessments. Of course, these tests will have to be conducted upon every visit, as it is important that addicts have not had independent fixes between visits. Because of fear of overdose etc. staff cannot afford to get the diagnoses wrong. Assuming demand at the facility will be high, each assessment will have to be quick and accurate. The premises will have to be secure if stock is to be held there. Staff will need to be vetted on an ongoing basis.

    LEGALITIES
    We will have to decide whether to legalise heroin or not. If we legalise it, then it is sensible for there to be age limits in the same way as for alcohol or cigarettes. Of course, we shall have to ensure that minors are not tempted simply because their elders are using. As we know that that is how many of the young start smoking or drinking, perhaps we should not make it legal but control its provision exclusively through the programme.

    CURE?
    We'd certainly want to encourage patients to seek a cure from addiction - if such a thing is possible. This would mean controlling doses and using subsititute treatments such as methodone. But what about those that don't want to be helped? We wouldn't want to lose them from the programme, where at least they can be monitored and perhaps discouraged from seeking other means of supply (and financing this supply), so we'd have to keep them on board - and perhaps surrepticiously reduce their treatment on the quiet.

    AMNESTY?
    If we're to reduce the crime rate directly attributable to drug addiction then we'll have to implement some sort of amnesty, else those we'd most like on the programme may be dissuaded from enrolling. Ethically, this presents a problem if some are responsible for unsolved crimes, particularly crimes involving violence. But if this is to work, we'll have to perform some sort of trade-off, making escaping prosecution contingent upon staying with the programme.

    PRISONS
    We'd have to implement the same scheme inside prisons.

    OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
    It is important not to appear to favour drug users over other addicts, such as gamblers or alcoholics, so we'd have to invest funds into these areas too. These solutions are currently outside the parameters of this.

    EUROPE ETC.
    If this is simply a UK solution then we'd have to ensure that other Europeans addicts don't travel here simply for free fixes. This presents a problem, particularly if migration is en masse and the more, shall we say, undesirable addicts are coming over. Perhaps it would make sense if we lobby the EC for additional funds to finance this service for the whole of the continent, on the assumption that not enough member states follow suite and adopt the scheme.

  101. At 07:47 AM on 01 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    I love you Aperitif... It is important that you know that.

  102. At 11:38 AM on 01 Dec 2006, Big Sister wrote:

    Did anybody hear the story on Today about the seal that was found by the road?

    Sorry, I just thought a change of tack might take the heat out of the argument...

    I'll slope off now.

  103. At 12:04 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Anne P. wrote:

    Simon O. (100) thanks for such a thoughtful contribution.

    I have thought for a long time that the parallels between Prohibition in the US and our current attitude to other drugs means that we will eventually have to concede that simply making something illegal does not make the problem go away, and indeed makes it much worse when the addict (or casual user) is dependent on criminals for their supply.

    You have made a serious attempt to discuss what an alternative world might look like and I salute you for it.

    Just hope someone in a position to do something about it is watching.

  104. At 12:15 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Simon,
    And all of your practicalities (actually objections, I suspect) would cost a mere fraction of the present 'war on drugs', not to mention the cost of drug-related crime and imprisonment.

    Good work. I suspect there would be no need for specialised corporate growers as the peasant methods are sophisticated enough, and control would be unnecessary in the absence of prohibition and its resulting black market. If it ain't illegal, no opportunities for organised (or dis-organised) crime. If it ain't illegal, no incentive to draw in new users, young or old. In an ideal situation (which this approaches) the problem should slowly diminish.

    Salaam, etc.
    ed

    BTW John, I found your description of the nature of law in society Vs grammar and language very useful. Regarding language, I commend The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram.

  105. At 12:51 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Fifi wrote:

    Wow. I never looked at this thread till today ... what an interesting debate.

    Although I didn't start from quite Simon O's standpoint, my gut reaction to the 'free fix' idea was to scoff.

    Reading (nearly) all these postings though, I see it differently. What I didn't understand till now was that addicts, once stabilised and able to stop worrying about the next fix, are better equipped to sort out their social problems.

    Then they HAVE THE WILL TO COME OFF HEROIN!! (That was the link I'd missed.)

    Punishment isn't a deterrent to someone in the grips of addiction. We'd all like it to be, but it isn't. It's just punishment and serves no helpful purpose.

    I too would like to know how things stand in Switzerland.

    And I would like to know why the informed and thoughtful comments in this wonderful blog, on both sides of the debate, have not filtered through to the general media frenzy.

    Short attention span? Not sound-bitey enough?

    Well, it might make the basis of a Panorama.....? Has anyone contacted them?

    Fifi

  106. At 01:04 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Gosh, thanks everybody. This means so much to me etc........

  107. At 02:00 PM on 01 Dec 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    Fifi, I only just popped back here too, and am truly engaged with the debate, although don't quite have time to read all 104 posts.

    What I have recalled is a Guardian article, from quite some years ago, which was about professional couples with a drug addiction who had an income high enough for them to avoid being directly involved in crime to fund their habit. I have no recall at all about why they had started taking drugs, but it was a completely different perspective on the addict, and included 2 doctors who self-medicated somehow.

  108. At 03:01 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Anne P. wrote:

    Simon (106) no need to blush. You have just demonstrated that the art of intelligent discussion is not dead, but seriously alive and well, and that while we may have our silly side while strolling on the beach and in the woods we do care about real issues and finding real solutions.

    More power to you, and froggers everywhere.

  109. At 03:19 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Has anyone ever visited the Polictical Compass website (address below) to see where they sit?

    I have been there periodically over the past 5 years or so and found that my position has hardly moved, despite the questions asked being regularly updated.

    It may come as a surprise to many of you, but I'm two clicks left and one north of the centre - not way out far-right as you'd think!


    http://www.politicalcompass.org/

  110. At 03:57 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Anne P. (108)

    How dare you accuse me of intelligent discussion - even my wife doesn't throw that one at me!

    [... and I'm even uglier when I blush]

  111. At 05:31 PM on 01 Dec 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    Thanks for the device Simon, it will come as no surprise to anyone that I came out as:

    Economic Left/Right: -7.00
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.56

    Quite south west I believe, though I didn't realise I was such a libertarian, might try again later because whilst I know I am a card carrying liberal, I have a value system which includes a pretty sound moral base, I thought...

  112. At 05:42 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    I don't rate that political compass site at all Simon, sorry - I'd prefer to decide for myself where I sit that have someone else tell me.

  113. At 05:57 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    But thanks for loving me Simon.

  114. At 06:48 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Aperitif (112),

    Not going to share the result with us anyway?

  115. At 07:07 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Helen (107),

    It would have been interesting to read the Guardian article although, as I'm sure you have come to realise by now, it is not a newspaper that I am familiar with. It is a shame that you can't recall how they came to be heroin addicts as this may have been quite enlightening.

    I am totally on board with the notion that prescribing heroin to addicts would probably reduce the crime rate - at least that directly attributable to the need to fund the habit. I'm unclear whether violent crime committed by addicts that are high would be affected.

    Where I am clearly vastly outnumbered here is in putting forward the argument that the idea is tantamount to appeasement or surrender. I won't dwell on this again as all reactions are already well served throughout this thread and, as I say, I'm clearly outgunned.

    What I will say, however, is that there is a fixation with "reform" in this country; some of it good and some of it bad. The problem is that bad reforms seem never to be acknowledged and reversed. I know that I am something of a dinosaur - most certainly on this site - but much of what we have seen happen deliberately in the past 20 years (by both sides of the political divide I may mention) have, on balance and in my humble opinion, had an adverse effect on the general well-being of society.

    Its just my view and I'm sure many differ.

  116. At 07:52 PM on 01 Dec 2006, madmary (formerly marymary) wrote:

    "Violent" crime includes robbery, which is a frequent method of acquiring goods for sale regarding the acquisition of drugs.

    Also there are violent crimes such as assaulting police officers during arrests for drug related crime.

    Addicts do not often commit violent crimes through drug use in my experience.

    Mary

  117. At 08:04 PM on 01 Dec 2006, HelenSparkles wrote:

    Simon, it is uncommon for addicts to commit any crime whilst experiencing the effects of their drug use, other than the fact that it is a crime to consume the drugs in the first place that is!

    Re The Guardian article, I think it was just access which led the professional couple to use, & the most prolific users I have known have simply had enough money to buy drugs.

  118. At 08:22 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Anne P. wrote:

    OK Simon O., so Appy thinks you were being ironic and certainly I initially read what you suggested straight.

    Actually whether or not you agree with the suggestions you put forward I still think they do offer some useful insights into how to deal with an intractable problem.

    At its most basic, I think if you make something desirable illegal people will still want it, and by making it illegal you push them into the hands of the black market. You may regard it as a moral failing that they continue to want it, I would prefer to try to moderate the situation by reducing the opportunity for criminal activity and then attempting to deal with those who, for whatever reason, continue to want to indulge in the undesirable behaviour.

    You are of course right that we are likely to continue to differ - but thanks for the debate anyway.


  119. At 09:01 PM on 01 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Thank you, its been an education.

  120. At 10:31 PM on 01 Dec 2006, RobbieJohnDo wrote:

    I honestly don't know enough about this area to contribute but I've backtracked for over a week now to listen to the contributions.

    I’m a bit wiser but not any more opinionated and I thank you for that.

  121. At 01:22 AM on 02 Dec 2006, Annasee wrote:

    Big Sister - I heard the seal story this morning. I loved it. But I did comment to SO that if the story had been on PM, Eddie or Lissa would have made sure there were pictures on the blog to go with it. "Today" just haven't got that total dedication to listener satisfaction , have they?

  122. At 12:09 AM on 04 Dec 2006, whisht wrote:

    blimey - I started reading this at.... 10.30? its now midnight. And I'm too tired to take up any of this.

    Oddly enough I'm usually of one mind with John H and others (but esp. John H) yet some of his arguments re heroin didn't stack up. And I find myself veering close to Simon's emotive thinking... but Simon, its always worth an experiment. Its how we progress (well, how science has decided to progress but you get my point).

    I can't believe however that people really think that the legalising of very strong drugs is a good idea.

    We all seem to agree that very strong addictive stimulants are not a great thing (legal or illegal is irrelevant - they reduce freedom of choice by their nature).

    But legalising them?? take the provison of addictive substances out if the hands of the criminals and drug barons but into the hands of the.... corporations??

    erm... now, honest, I'm not a conspiracist but corporations are really really effective at supplying people with stimulants. and they have no intention of weaning you off. And they have far greater influence in government and the economy than even the organised criminals.

    Better to control dangerous addictive stimulants by keeping them illegal - ok, its not terribly effective at the moment but the alternative is terrible.

    And maybe there are experiments we can take as to how to make illegalisation more effective.

    I'm sorry this is a bit muddled but I'm tired and haven't any decent stimulants near me...

  123. At 08:10 AM on 04 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Wisht (122),

    You are my new bestest mate. I only wish that I could stay as rational and reasoned as you when putting forward my arguments.

    I do kinda agree with the idea that anything is worth experimenting with (I only wish that sometimes people in authority were not afraid to admit that they got it wrong and reversed some of these!).

    I have also repeatedly made the point that we should be prepared to help those that truly want to help themselves. This extends to supporting any programme that seeks to assist addicts with a recovery of some sorts (I'm not too clear whether they ever actually recover, but you know what I mean). But I agree with you that such a philosophy should not also include the legalisation of heroin etc.

    I would wish to see the experimentation extend in both directions, such that we have pilot said scheme and see whether it yields positive results, but also that we overhaul the crminal justice system to the extent that there is a very real deterrent against committing serious crimes and the concept of proper punishment (not just "rehabilitation") is re-introduced.

  124. At 06:58 PM on 04 Dec 2006, John H. wrote:

    et tu whishte

    Or perhaps that should have been "Infamy, infamy, ..." (etc)!

    Hahaha! Only kidding! Mind you, if whisht thinks I've gone wrong, I do feel that I should attempt to clarify my position (...in front of laptop, slightly to the left of the dog...). I know I've waffled about the legality/illegality of "hard" drugs, but I don't mean to suggest that I am actually all for legalisation. I think I mentioned some time back that I really was sitting on the fence on that issue. I read Ben Elton's book "High Society" a while back and it made me think about the issue. (I'll just add at this point that I don't really pick up books and "buy into" some particular point of view - however, I do have a habit of thinking about things after something else has acted as a catalyst - in this case, that novel.) I simply do not have enough knowledge about the subject to really have an "opinion" - or as it should probably now be called, "having a Simon". My point was really to indicate that whereas some things are viewed as PCM ("prime crime material" - understood as an act that the vast majority of people consider should Not Be Allowed), others are more arbitrary - or if not arbitrary, more subjective. Into the first, we have "murder", for example (although there are obvious difficulties when the boundary between "murder" and "self defence" is involved) - into the second, we might have "ripping a CD for your portable music player".

    In a society that has legal alcohol and nicotine, we must surely accept that legal/illegal when it comes to potentially harmful drugs is certainly not simply the identification of "objective reality".

    Now, the only reason I laboured this point was to suggest that handing out free fixes, whilst counter to the law as it stands, should not necessarily be considered a moral failure - depending on the circumstances.

    Now back to the "this is where we are now (and it's Not Good) so where shall we go from here" question. And we have come to this place with what basically amounts to "heroin prohibition" - most measures to deal with the problem have involved trying to interrupt the supply of the illegal drug and prosecution of those selling or possessing it. Yet, there are a (relatively) few individuals who, completely overtaken by their addiction, and once they have completely expended their own and probably their families' and friends "resources", commit masses of crime to fuel their habits. Each crime has the effect of subjecting an individual, a household, a family to upset, outrage and fear, and then goes on to fuel an underworld of selling stolen goods. We know that these individuals, when caught, are processed by the legal system - no doubt they are fined (but have no "resources"), given community sentences (but they are already in another world) and given jail sentences (where they can commit no further crimes against the outside world, but are usually able to continue their addiction). And in the absence of treatment programmes - and perhaps more fundamentally for the people we're talking about - no real investment in what we think of society (whether cause or effect - or both - of their addiction), this is a (not so) merry go round. The whole thing is repeated again and again. This is where we ask, "what should we do now?" Essentially, as I take it, apart from the concession to "those who want to help themselves", Simon O.'s proposal is that we reinvigorate the criminal justice system to properly punish these people. I can only interpret this as "we lock them away for longer" - and I assume that at the same time, we try harder to interrupt supply, and we probably try harder to stop drugs getting into prisons (I mean, for goodness sake, it's a prison, you wouldn't think it was that hard, would you?). I think this is an entirely acceptable view.

    The reason I question it is simply that, taken to a logical conclusion, it suggests that somebody who is, in almost all ways it can be defined, ill and, guilty of acting under the effect of that illness, commits many "relatively low level" (I know, I know...) crimes, will ultimately be treated as the very worst criminal that exists in our society and will be locked up for good. Yet there exists a proposal that these people could be given the drug that is destroying them - and so giving them at least a small investment in "society" - in order to stop them doing the crime. Will it "help" them? - well, I've read suggestions on here that it might because freed from the crime cycle, they may have the wherewithal to address the problem, and maybe because the programme could bring them into contact with treatment and/or support services. But the "helping them" bit isn't really the issue. Let me suggest a scenario:

    Let's take addict X. He's not a nice guy, but he's basically not violent. He's going to overdose at some point in the future - let's call it 2 years. In between stints inside (few months here, a few months there), he's regularly committing 3-4 crimes a day - usually TVs, DVDs, hi-fis, or little Johny's PSP, sometimes it's something precious, like grandma's diamond ring. OK, so he's caught again and has to do another few weeks/months inside for nicking the TV - what do we do with him then? Do we not let him out at all? Or do we allow him to enrol on a "criminal prescription programme"? I don't actually know! But it does seem like a good idea to me to take X out of the system which is failing him and everybody else and try something different, especially when the "something different" is not so patently morally worse than the other obvious suggestion.

    I'm in danger of really going off on one here, so I think I'll quit and go and put a film on as Mrs H is out. I will just add though that I recognise that I could never work at the coal face of the criminal justice system, simply because I want people to be "better" - I read something once in a Terry Pratchett book that made me realise this. You can legislate for the people who mostly don't need legislating, but the rest? (Oh god! I can't believe that I've only just got the Mrs Trellis moniker - thick, or what??) Somebody cleverer than me might explain how opportunity, or belief in opportunity is the key.

  125. At 09:29 PM on 04 Dec 2006, whisht wrote:

    Hi Simon and John H
    ak, I'd typed a bunch over me sarnie at work and now have to rewrite stuff as John H has posted. For god's sake I hope Simon doesn't say anything while I type....

    Simon, glad to be your new bestest mate and you seem like the kind of person who won't mind that I'm probably so left wing that I usually fly around in circles...

    The thing that did strike me as i lay in bed after fumbling my twopenny'sworth [ahem] was that you had been asked for answers as to how to change the drugs approach yet you were mainly saying that you didn't agree with the 'new' approach. The funny thing was its really up to people advocating a new system to explain how it will work.

    Personally I have no idea how controlling drugs provision to someone will work over stopping them getting any - I'm all ears and behind any (to a point) experiment to see how we tackle the variety of problems that this is about (theft to support addiction, criminalising of individuals because of their poor decisions, treatment of people who are addicted and no longer want to be... etc). I'm for "giving them smack and treating them" and expect the guy running the experiment/ programme to tell me how it will work. I then expect to see the outcomes from a rigourous trial of it and then "Bad Science" in the Guardian to champion it as an example to others of how this sort of thing should be done.

    I'm also for "giving them a smack" (at least the ones who've broken into my house and ripped me off a couple of times). Although that is a response I don't want the society I live in to act upon - otherwise why have a police force as we can manage well enough with vigilantes? I'm also incapable of giving anyone a smack and although this might muck with my internal representation of manhood, I'm actually probably lucky to be this way. And to be honest I don't think you're actually advocating baseball bats.

    To be honest I have a feeling that this 'debate' has actually wandered all over the place and that most people actually agree with most of the fundamentals:
    the current system is not good enough
    access to addictive drugs is not controlled enough;
    people who are addicted require treatment;
    people who are addicted made a dumb choice but one that has far worse consequences than most bad choices;
    people who commit crimes should be punished and rehabilitated.

    This last is possibly the key. Rehabilitation will require them to be able to exist without stealing/ trafficking and unless they can make that choice (and its choice that addiction weakens) then they have little chance. and so do we. Hence a copper trying a new (ha! 25 years old!) approach that will require quite a lot of dependencies(!) on other social factors and services.
    Fair enough. and I think we all agree with those points (don't we? now now, don't all try and hug each other at once, its emotional and makes me uncomfortable).

    Now, another suggestion was buying crops of opium and burning it/ using it for healthcare. It sounds like a great idea but the details kept me awake (although not the fumbling with my twopenny'sworth).
    This is gonna be tricky unilaterally isn't it? Can a nation do this and not act illegally? Can one nation decide that this crop is legal outside of the wider world community? If we bought the crops would we not be funding drug barons and "freedom fighters" aka FARC, Taliban et al? and all the other illegal groups that get their money (often by necessity) illegally? We might help a few farmers (ok - I'm deliberately making light of their plight) but we will be causing serious trouble by introducing a large amount of money to the gangs that were forcing them to grow it and the wider community of groups that are funded by this sort of money.
    Can't see this working and can't see it worth the experiment without a lot of detail being worked out first!

    One thing I'm not though, is a corporal or capital punishment advocate. It makes no sense and merely teaches society and its members (us!) to devalue life. It does play to my more visceral feelings - I think I would like the b***ards who robbed me to feel pain, I see 'Retribution' in films and think "Yeah!" but actually, I want my society and criminal justice system to take the emotion out and deliver me something closer to justice and improvement.

    bloomin' eck - far too much there from me that time. But it ain't midnight!! ha ha!!
    I'll get my gear and go...

  126. At 09:45 PM on 04 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    John (124),

    Thank you for an intelligently written piece.

    Simon


    PS Please help me with the Mrs Trellis monicker If you're thick, then I'm thicker!

    PPS Have you worked out the Simon Opinion too?

  127. At 10:10 PM on 04 Dec 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Blimey boys - are you still at it???

  128. At 10:53 PM on 04 Dec 2006, John H. wrote:

    SO: "PPS Have you worked out the Simon Opinion too?" - have I heck!?!! I don't get the clever stuff, hence my comment. When I was typing previously, ISIHAC was on - Mrs Trellis is the source of all letters on that prog. I've listened for years and yet it didn't click.

    And Drinks' exasperation always makes me laugh!

    Was just going to submit that and go to bed, but I have to say that I love this frog. That silly women who wrote the Times piece should partake!

  129. At 11:37 PM on 04 Dec 2006, whisht wrote:

    "infamy, infamy.... they've all got it in-fer-me"

    ;¬)

    yes, i like it here too. Where else can one talk about a subject one didn't think they had an opinion on (moi, here) and then go off and write something I absolutely do have an opinion on??

    yep, that'll be me talking about Jackanory then....

  130. At 07:55 AM on 05 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    John H (128),

    Aha, we have some common ground! I absolutely love ISIHAC. Particularly enjoyed the "Dear Mrs McCartney, what a mess... I bet you're kicking yourself?" contribution.

    Thought you'd figured Mrs Trellis to be an anagram or something and ended up lying awake until the early hours trying to figure.

    Nice to see Dentures dropping by for a quick chat, too!

  131. At 10:30 AM on 05 Dec 2006, John H. wrote:

    Oh dear. I called her Dentures once and she had a hissy fit.

  132. At 12:37 PM on 05 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    An excellent choice of pseudonym then... sorted!

  133. At 01:50 PM on 05 Dec 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    Hi,

    I don't think I "had a hissy fit" JH - I recall I said that I would prefer if you didn't because it kind of missed the point. I'm not a "hissy fit" kind of girl.

    I've been reading all of this. Didn't feel inclined to intervene. When the lovely Whisht joined in as well it reignited my interest.

    JH, I too thought you'd come up with some additional twist on Mrs Trellis - not realising it was from ISIHAC? Dunce's hat for you!

    SO (Significant Other? Whose?) Are you going to explain the "Simon Opinion" thing then? I suspect you of also being another frogger in disguise. Are you likely to admit it or do I just keep it to myself?

    Carry on chaps.

  134. At 05:09 PM on 05 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Gnashers (133),

    Another frogger in disguise? Moi? Surely shome mishtake!

    Anyway... if your interest has been reignited on account of the entrance of the "lovely Wisht", then I'd be interested in learning what the Political Compass scored you as, as I have a suspicion that the site was pooh-poohed on account of it giving you a rating that you vehemently disagree with.

  135. At 06:07 PM on 05 Dec 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    I presume you are addressing me Simon (134).

    A friend emailed me the political compass site years ago (I imagine if it isn't exactly the same one then it is very similar). I did fill it in at the time - but remember it is only someone else's judgement of what makes one north/south etc. and I prefer to rely on my own judgement thanks. As it happened it came out about where I would expect (although I don't remember how it works exactly all these years later). Your suspicion that I would dismiss it just because I didn't agree with it is therefore inaccurate as well as rather unkind.

    Are you going to answer my question(s) now?

    By the way, I'm sure "the lovely Whisht" is far too polite to mention it, but there are two "h"s in his name.

  136. At 08:50 PM on 05 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Whisht - sorry, my mistake. I shall endeavour to spell this monicker correctly in future (ever so 'umble).

    Of course, you're quite right that it should be your own judgement as to where you sit on particular issues. I think the site is supposed to show where you are "on balance"; and I don't think that that is necessarily inappropriate. To be honest with you, I was initially surprised at (and dismissive) of my initial result but, having taken the test on a number of occasions and finding the same outcome, it had me thinking some more.

    I had expected to be somewhere right of centre because of my views on the apology for a criminal justice system that we have in this country. Also, because of the way that the welfare state is expanding to the benefit of those only too willing to take, take, take and the disbenefit of those trying to keep their heads down and work hard. Sorry, but I'm driven incandescent by these.

    But, as it turns out, I'm actually within spitting distance of the centre. Egotistically, this convinces me that I'm a reasonably well balanced individual. There is something of the "point in time" stuff about the Compass, though, and I happen to also believe that the free market economy is a bad thing if left to evolve without a certain degree of regulation - I think we have given too much freedom here for too long to the extent that the 'Haves' have an awful, awful lot and the 'Have Nots' have precious too little. This may appear to contradict my welfare state comment, but I don't think that that is really the case.

    Anyway, another weird insight into the Opinion Brain.

    Your questions? Well, I'm.... oo-er, the batteries are going on the lappie. Perhaps later.

  137. At 09:50 PM on 05 Dec 2006, whisht wrote:

    erm, Hi there people.
    Aperitif - thanks for that, but does that make me "the lovely Whisht" in a ISIHAC "the lovely Samantha" kind've way...?

    maybe no bad thing... but...

    :¬)

    and of course I'm too polite to mention someone misstyping my name.

    It beats "Whist" though!

    btw anyone else annoyed by the appearance of "complain about this post" forms in each and every posting??

  138. At 11:11 PM on 05 Dec 2006, Aperitif wrote:

    You can be lovely in whichever way you like Whisht!

  139. At 11:23 PM on 05 Dec 2006, whisht wrote:

    ignore me (137) - I turned off javascript and saw all these horrendous (though perfectly accessible) forms on each posting.

    Simon - I assume you're Simon with an Opinion in an over-stimulated way... like P Elliot I s'pose... though I'd back from the caffeine...

    oh, btw I did that Political Compass (for what its worth) and came out....

    ... somewhere near the Dalai Lama!!!!!

  140. At 12:21 PM on 06 Dec 2006, Simon Opinion wrote:

    Whisht (139),

    Careful of being anywhere near the Dalai Lama as I've heard that they spit....

    Caffeine? No, cup of Horlicks and a good Mills & Boon is about as racey as this get at Chez Opinion.

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