The UK Drug Policy Commission has issued a report stating that the UK has the highest level of drug use and the second highest number of drug-related deaths in Europe . Drug addiction rates in the UK are double those in France, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.
The UK illegal drugs market is worth about £5bn/year, drug-related crime is estimated at more than £13bn. About one in five people arrested is a heroin addict. There has been a 111% rise in drug-related offences between 1994 and 2005. This is not surprising when you consider that the heroin street price has dropped, falling from £70 a gram in 2000 to £54 in 2005.
The Commission said: "Tougher enforcement should theoretically make illegal drugs more expensive and harder to get. The prices of the principal drugs in Britain have declined for most of the last 10 years and there is no indication that tougher enforcement has succeeded in making drugs less accessible."
More addicts are being treated than ever before, but the UK Drug Policy Commission said that: “the benefits were limited, and there was little evidence education schemes had had an impact.”
Jan Berry, Chairman of The Police Federation of England and Wales has said the Federation believe cannabis is the number one illicit gateway drug.
“Cannabis is a problematic drug not least because of growing evidence of links to psychotic illness in young people and contemporary attitudes to the drug as being ‘soft’.
We expressed our concern over a year ago over on whether the correct decision had been made to reclassify the drug from a Class B to a Class C, as we felt it would create confusion among the public on the legality of possession.
This has already presented problems for police officers throughout the country who are tasked with enforcing this confusing law and we would therefore support the reinstating of cannabis to a Class B drug category”.
According to a study by Queen's University Belfast, teenagers as young as 14 are using cannabis every day. Dr Patrick McCrystal said: "These young people are telling us that by the age of 15 they have moved beyond experimental or recreational use of an illegal drug to more sustained usage." Of daily cannabis smokers, a quarter reported being in trouble with the police on more than 10 occasions while almost one fifth had been summoned to court in the year prior to the survey.
Ken Jones, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has called for an increase in the prescription of diamorphine (also known as heroin) on the NHS.
The British Medical Association say Afghanistan's opium-poppy harvest should be used to tackle an NHS shortage of diamorphine. Diamorphine is also used to relieve pain after operations and for the terminally ill. Due to a shortage doctors are having to rely on less effective drugs.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said: "If we actually were harvesting this drug from Afghanistan rather than destroying it, we'd be benefiting the population of Afghanistan as well as helping patients and not putting people at risk. There must be ways of harvesting it and making sure that the harvest safely reaches the drug industry which would then refine it into diamorphine. It should be possible, and really government and the international groups that are in Afghanistan should be looking at this and saying how can we convert it from being an illicit crop to a legal crop that is medicinally useful."
Dr Jonathan Fielden, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine in Reading, said: "The biggest difficulty will be changing the views of those countries, particularly the US, where this drug is banned. That will take a great cultural change to let them realise that a very cheap drug, easily produced, beneficial to patients, can be brought back in and used, rather than being seen as a drug of abuse."
The Afghan authorities and the UK government are against using the poppy crop to produce medicines and are stepping up their efforts to destroy new crops. Diamorphine is still in limited supply more than two years after the government was warned there were serious shortages. The amount being used in the NHS is a fraction of what it was before the current problems with supplies began.
So, should we make Heroin available on the NHS, would it take away the cool factor and reduce drug related crime? I would like to think so, the Police and drug experts seem to think it would. This is something that could easily go on trial in one town or city and the crime figures would give an immediate indication of it’s effectiveness.
As for Cannabis - the drug is believed to be up to ten times as potent as it was only ten years ago. Medical experts are growing increasingly concerned about the link between Cannabis and Mental Illness. The Police want it’s reclassification reversed back to a class B drug and I think it was a serious act of incompetence by the Government to reclassify it in the first place. God alone knows how much damage it has caused or what mental health problems our teenagers are going to have in the future.
What do you think?