SNP’s drugs ambitions

O’Neill highlights what the DUP’s new mates are up to now they have their hands on power – they want to import class A substances. Will we have a similar statement from a DUP minister soon?

I used to write and get paid, now I read and don’t.

Former UUP staffer, currently living in London. @mjshilliday

  • eranu

    you couldnt copy and paste that? the site was filtered for me in work.

    as far as class A imports go, i thought NI already had a close relationship with columbia for that sort of thing? 🙂

  • Rapunsel

    Sensible policy. As far as I recall there is a shortage of pharamceutical grade Morphine worldwide and is it not one of the best drugs available needed for pain relief.

    Buy up the supply – allows Afghan farmers to earn mucyh needed money legitimately and could reduce the illegal supply here by removing the option for criminals to control the trade. Probably cheaper than any war on drugs

  • Nevin

    Eranu, you can read the story on the BBC Scotland:

  • eranu

    cheers nevin.

  • Pól

    Sounds like a good idea in theory. I suspect that it would ultimately be useless though. It would have the same effect as a massive increase in garda resources to seize loads more heroin.

    It would just drive up the price and drag more people into producing it.

    Its simple economics. Supply will always increase to meet demand as long as the price is right.

  • SlightReturn

    This strikes me as a particularly weak attempt to have a go at the DUP. I’m no fan of the DUP, but surely they have some actual policies of their own that Mr Shilliday could take on?
    I’m not sure why the MSP in question and the BBC report have put so much emphasis on prescribing heroin to addicts, the fact is that clinical grade diamorphine is greatly needed in the treatment of those suffering terminal illnesses and perioperative pain among other things. And yet we are attempting to destroy one of the largest sources of the raw drug, and in the process losing the ‘hearts and minds’ of those whose livelihoods we are taking away.

  • Mick,

    Not related to this topic, but just a question. For the sake of balance on this site what has happened to leading threads from those contributors from a Nationalist perspective?

    No sign of any whatsoever in the last dozen or so at least. Are they on holiday or what? If so, what contingency measures are in place for this type of occurence.

    The whole thing is very unbalanced at the moment and a bit boring, as a result.

  • This strikes me as a particularly weak attempt to have a go at the DUP

    Just a bit. Weakest post on Slugger for a while.

    I’m glad that some politicians are thinking outside the box on drugs issues, and this is pretty much how the Turks dealt with their domestic production in the Aegean region in the ’70s.

    The problem in this case is that Afghanistan is a desperately poor country with no centralised law and order and the price of an illegal crop will always exceed the price of a legal one for the farmer; also, the Turkish Mafia realised in the ’70s they could make more money smuggling Afghan and South East Asian gear than producing the stuff locally, and left the production side fairly quietly. I don’t think that’s an option here.

  • GavBelfast


    Ahhh, Bless!


  • Inspector Clouseau

    Scraping the barrel a bit Sillyboy? Do want DUP Minsiter to make a statement on every SNP policy? lol

  • It is an excellent idea but unfortunately the US government will never allow it, as they rarely [if at all] allow the use of Dia-morphine/heroin in the US health care system, preferring synthetic pain killers, despite Heroin being as someone has already posted the pain killer par excellence and as safe as houses if administered properly.

    This would also enable the NHS to provide pharmaceutical heroin to long term drug addicts. Surely even the most brain dead reactionary has now concluded it is not the drug itself that causes the social problems that society in general faces due to the increase in drug addiction, but the lack of it or the means to self medicate via an illegal market. Again it will be the US administration [what ever its political complexion] which will oppose this sensible strategy, plus it has to be said a section of the NHS drugs mafia who get a very nice living by prattling into ministers ears that all drug addicts are mad, sad or bad.

  • Sammy,

    Turkey itself was pretty poor in the 1970s and back then was a major source of H for Western Europe etc. It seems to have worked out pretty well.

  • snakebrain

    Where does it say anything about importing heroin? It says they’d contribute to a buying-up policy, in order to aid farmers in one of the poorest countries, and I’m presuming there’s a subtext of making sure that the value of the opium crop ended up in the hands of the government rather than the Taliban.

    Some people can’t think about “drugs” without their knee-jerking so badly they kick themselves in the face.

  • snakebrain

    The NHS is short of dia morphine, if the tax payer provides the funds to purchase Afghan opium, what would you suggest they do with it? believe it or not some politicians are capable of seeing the bigger picture.

  • Turkey itself was pretty poor in the 1970s and back then was a major source of H for Western Europe etc. It seems to have worked out pretty well.

    Yes but no. Once the domestic production (the original French Connection) was halted and/or diverted, the people who used to run it started running the overland smuggling route from Afghanistan instead. And much as Turkey in the ’70s was poor, it wasn’t anything like as poor as Afghanistan is now. And in the early ’70s when all this happened, Turkey was quite stable politically (pretty screwed up later in the decade, but still not as bad as Afghanistan).

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not opposed to buying Afghan blow and using it to treat NHS patients in any event, and even less opposed if it takes money out of the hands of the Taliban. And I’m all in favour of some fairly radical experiments on drug policy in place of the failed policy of knee-jerk prohibition. I’m just not convinced that this is going to work… surely Afghan farmers are going to get much higher prices selling their crop to traffickers than the NHS… unless we find some way of short-circuting the middle-men… and then those middle-men are going to be really pissd off.

  • just plain dave

    Isn’t there some kind of quality filter on this website? Neither the original poster or the site to which he links seem to be able to distinguish the suggestions of a backbencher from government policy.


  • andy

    My sister works in palliative care and is often mentiniong the scarcity of opiates for effective pain relief. I think this is an excellent idea.

    Mick H – you are right the states dont use Diamorphine (ie heroin), I presume from ridiculous political reasons. They tend to use Morphine itself. I’m not an expert, but i think morphine is more addictive than heroin. I think heroin was predominantly developed as a non-addictive alterniative to morphine after the number of addicts left in the wake of the american civil war.

    Heroin is still a trademark of the Bayer company, the people who brought you aspirin.

  • Gav,

    Your post just indicates how nauseating things are getting round here…

  • joeCanuck

    One thing is for sure, trying to eradicate the crop is a futile exercise.
    These pisspoor farmers have no alternative crop.
    Even hemp, one of the world’s most versatile crops has been banned since the 30s(?) on behest of the USofA. (Oddly enough though, a few farms in Canada , including the former farm of my wife’s family, are now growing hemp experimentally under licence from the Canadian government.)

  • snakebrain


    I’m absolutely fine with that.

    I may have misread Shilliday’s post, not that it says much, but I assumed he was expressing opposition to the idea. I’m all for it. Buy it and use it.

    Joe’s comments about the lack of an alternative crop also stand.

    A few years ago, the US announced that they would subsidise any alternative crops that were grown in Afghanistan, and the crop fell hugely, partly due to Taliban enforcement. Then they didn’t come up with the money, so everybody grew opium again.

    I’m pretty liberal about drugs, legalise them all is my position, with the possible exception of some of the nastier synthetic stuff like certain derivatives of the methamphetamine family. Opium, no problem.

  • snakebrain,

    I agree with you about methamphetamine etc, the same goes for heavy cocaine use, as some people seem to suffer dangerously from paranoia and violent outburst when doing so. Funny how the media claims Heroin is the most dangerous of all the illegal drugs, for as far as I understand it the main physical effect of heavy H use is to send the user to sleep.[of course I am not minimizing its addictive qualities which are extremely high].

    Myself I am in favor in the long run of legalization, however I fear any such law would have to be accompanied by legislation which dealt with driving a car under the influence, using machinery, teaching etc and a host of other issues, that legalization may have such a detrimental effect on our civil rights that it would become a non-viable option.

    Thus perhaps we need to first come at drug use by looking after addicts with a 21st century version of the English way of treating addict which was practiced prior to 1967-9-71 and then if successful move forward from there.

  • snakebrain

    Yep Mick

    Heroin, while extremely adictive doesn’t seem to preclude the user living a long and useful life, unlike, say, cocaine or crystal meth.

    Thomas DeQuincey’s account of 50 odd years of continuous opium use is a fairly good indicator of that. Not to say, of course, that it won’t have psychological and physiological effects, but they do seem to be much more manageable than the side effects of a lot of other drugs. Odd then that heroin is perceived as the big bad daddy of them all.

    Perhaps that’s because of the high price and the consequent poverty, disease, crime that follow when addicts inevitably try to maintain their supply.

    Not familiar with the treatment you’re referring to. Care to elaborate?

  • DC

    “unless we find some way of short-circuting the middle-men…”

    Smoke-em-out not sound familiar? Generally I think I have heard this proposal mooted before but I just can’t remember who else was advocating it.

    It makes a lot of sense so much so that I would support cultivation in a fertile spot in some stable region, overseen by the UN, as a means to offer locals an honest wage and to offset any undersupply of vital pain-relieving medicine.

    I know what you mean about the middle-men though all joking aside about smoking’em out; Afghanistan is close to Russia and its sphere of influence with all the horrible connections there to its iron-fist mafia et al, not least to mention the terrible Taliban who would tear out growers’ eyeballs should they have to suffer reduced profits or non at all.

    Have to say also agree with you Sammy about a cheap shot at the DUP it was so cheap I almost missed the implication until I realised Michael may be averse to the idea of a more progressive drugs policy.

  • lib2016

    Despite the way this is being spun it is the British (as usual) who are protecting the largest opium crop ever and cosying up to the warlords.

    The Taliban won power and public support partly because Russia tried the same policy and it’s certainly not the first time around for the Brits. In fact this will make the fourth time they are thrown out of Afghanistan in disgrace.

    I’ve no time for fundamentalists, Christian or Islamic but they’re not the ones with dirty hands around here.

  • snakebrain

    Basically it boiled down to the local GP looking after the addicts needs, by accepting that they were addicted to the narcotic and they could not function without it, but that was not the end of the world and thus there was absolutely no reason why, if given what they crave via a prescription, the addict could not lead a normal and productive life. As indeed countless heroin addicts did prior to the ending of the system in the late 1960s. A good few of whom, contributed greatly to English life and the professions, arts etc. [I am not sure if the same system operated in Scotland, Wales and the north of Ireland.]

    In the 1960s, the media having led the charge, politicians began to panic over increased drug use amongst the young; and a panicking politician should never be allowed near the legislative process as rushed law is always bad law.

    They decided to ban GPs from prescribing Heroin to addicts, instead handing the task of treating addicts to Psychiatrists, thus from that day on drug addict were seen as being bad, sad or mad, otherwise how could the state justify a psychiatrist becoming involved and thus no matter how awful the addicts behavior, it could be excused/justified on the aforementioned bases or the less fortunate[bad] could be locked up [within a short time the NHS drug treatment mafia had the bright idea of replacing H with the man made drug methadone, which was much more addictive than H as it stayed in the body far longer.

    To understand just how ridiculous and plain daft sending a majority of addicts to see a psychiatrist is, one should consider it it is like saying that the millions of people who are addicted to nicotine must be treat by a psychiatrist, as they are mentally ill, not least because smoking is far more harmful than heroin and the cost to the nation is far far more than drug addiction. So if you smoke look out you may soon be on the way to Bedlam.

    Drug addicts were sent to see psychiatrist because the government of the day regarded what they were doing as being anti social, a la Soviet Union’s treatment of dissidents.

    Forgive me for being brief but this is a long story and a national disgrace, as so many lives have been ruined by this ill-informed decision.

    best regards.

  • DC

    “Despite the way this is being spun it is the British (as usual) who are protecting the largest opium crop ever and cosying up to the warlords.”

    I don’t think they ever intended cosying up to the warlords but something has gone array.

    In the UK drugs policy comes under the Criminal Justice remit and those within the CJ Working Groups were privy to information which suggested that the British were intent on eradicating drug barons and sorting this particular problem out; but as you state it has all gone a bit lame, indeed Afghanistan is something of a forgotten, if not failed, foreign policy.

    To link in also, I heard the new PM Gordon Frown state that he will honour the “international commitments” to Iraq, although, I never knew Iraq was an international commitment, to me it was always at the behest of a determined few states who avoided the UN by derision yet sought comfort in it when things turned sour.

    I even think the Italians have left Iraq it’s just a shame Gordon didn’t do the same, but then he was strictly opposed to Trident.

  • joeCanuck


    As I recall too, part of the paranoia whipped up by the press was due to the trial of one rogue Doctor who was prescribing willy-nilly to anyone who turned up at his door.
    Can’t remember his name.

  • Joe

    You are absolutely correct, the main dodgy doctor was a Dr Petro and it was David Frost who was responsibly for exposing him and he did so without a thought to the consequences of his [Frost] actions. Although there was another, Lady some one or other, I forget her name. It is a good point you raise as what occurred was the British government, not the medical profession changed the strategy of dealing with addiction etc because at most a handful of incompetent doctors had over prescribed or failed to govern their patients intake of narcotics adequately.

    Personally this law and the anti terror laws passed not long after demonstrate my point that legislation passed in haste amounts to bad law.

  • Turgon


    I accept some of your complaints about methadone etc.

    Heroin is however not really less dangerous than tobacco. Heroin is not only addictive but tolerance develops to it. This means that larger and larger ammounts are required for the same “high”. Hence people who are addicts gradually use more and more, move from smoking ti iv use etc. Then if and often when they reduce their heroin useage their bodies become less tolerant. This is an unpredictable process and then if and when they take heroin again if they start anywhere near the dose they were on before they can accidentaly take an ammount which is fatal.

    The morphine / heroin issue is interesting. It is indeed correct that the UK is one of the few countries where diamorphine is a legal medicine. Diamorphine (heroin) is in some ways better as it is more easily dissolved. I would have thought though that it could be quite easily manufactured in a lab, it is only the diacetylated version of morphine

  • Turgon


    Also methadone causes less of a “high” so it is less useful in abuse and lasts longer so can more easily be gradually reduced to help the addict to stop. It is not perfect but probably better than other things.

    A fundemental problem remains, however, that if the addict remains in the same place in their life social set up emplyoment etc they are more likely to go back to drugs. That of course is a societal problem and not a medical one.

    Also strictly speaking psychiatrists do not regard drug abuse as a mental illness though I accept the definition of mental illness is quite complex

  • snakebrain

    Thanks for that Mick

    I see what you meant now; you were talking about way back in the age of reason.

    The whole debate’s become intensely politicised now, to the point where it’s difficult to speak rationally. I’m surprised nobody’s been on here yet going, “Drugs, drugs, they’re evil!”


    Your point about overdose is fair, though it’s a bit of a special case. A bigger worry in the same area is the range of quality that means even the most experienced user who knows exactly how much s/he wants to take can overdose because the heroin itself is much stronger than they expect.

    For that reason, a lot of users prefer pharmacological opiates when they can get their hands on them, as they know exactly what they’re getting. There was a spate of deaths a few years ago in Glasgow caused by a batch of very strong heroin getting onto the market, and several people died totally needlessly.

    (As an aside, I just read that cannabis is the only known substance for which an LD-50, a dose above which the substance is lethally toxic to 50% of test subjects, has not been found. Every other substance, from Paracetamol to sugar has an LD-50 measurement. That’s actually quite interesting.)

  • snakebrain


    “…LD-50, a dose at which the substance…”

  • Turgon


    A lot of drug addicts take overdoses. I do not have the figures but it really is very high.

    Where did you get the LD 50 stuff from, I am interested. I would suggest that may be because no one has done the appropriate experiments. The LD 50 for sugar would be unbelievably high.

    I know there may be howls of protest on this but cannabis is actually very dangerous. Cannabis smoke is much more carcinogenic than tobacco smoke. Also it is a strong promoter of psychosis.

  • “Also strictly speaking psychiatrists do not regard drug abuse as a mental illness though I accept the definition of mental illness is quite complex”


    You are correct here, however addicts can have mental health problems ‘just like the rest of us’, but in itself addiction is not a mental health problem. Thus the real question here is why have a small number of psychiatrists within the DDU allowed themselves to be used by central government over this issue. I doubt there is a DDU in the UK or Ireland which is not overseen by a psychiatrist, and in all probable this doctor will be responsible for deciding what drugs are to be prescribed to the addict etc.

    You get my point, if addiction is not a mental health issue why the hell are psychiatrists using their pressure time and resources to pretend it is.

    On the matter of addict OD ing on methadone, you will find the majority who do so have taken oral methadone. If the DDUs had not ceased prescribing injectable methadone, few of these deaths would have occurred. The problem with the oral drug is it takes a long time to work, thus inexperienced users are liable to top up before their first dose has worked, hence catastrophe strikes.

    Whereas if taken by injection the drug works immediately, the addict is happy and rarely takes another shot immediately. Once again the pretense of harm reduction has caused more harm.

    Im off to bed now but I have enjoyed this debate and reading the opinions expressed, as they have encouraged me greatly, for the reason already given, they have gone beyond, drugs kill etc.

  • snakebrain

    Not sure exactly where I saw it, it may be a factoid, but it looked pretty well supported.

    try, you’ll get a link from there at least

  • Turgon


    Thanks. I am afraid I am going to follow Mickhall’s example.

  • DC

    In Northern Ireland there is already a ‘substitute prescribing’ scheme where methadone is provided to long term addicts as a means to get them off heroin.

    The debate is whether this is working or if morphine/heroin itself should not be used in a phased withdrawal program.

    The argument for the use of heroin over methadone is a strong one its just fighting and winning the political battle in terms of morally justifying it, as the conservative public would argue it is a sop to the addicts and also an admittance of failure by the state.

    If you’re addicted to nicotine you get nicotine patches although if you’re hard-up on heroin you end up with morally-right methadone yet in medical terms not quite the real deal.

    To add to the debate about nicotine/heroin usage -I remember the story of a GP who led a pretty much normal life on Heroin, even though the he admits the battle was overcoming addiction to it, he still managed to have a fairly normal life and is still a GP; however, at one-point he did overdo it:

  • DC

    Interesting post about the doctor, imo one of the reasons why what became known as the English method of treating Drug Addicts was so successful, was because it accepted that human beings are far from perfect and attempted to deal with Drug Addiction from that angle.
    i e we have a drug addict, how can we make them a productive member of society and in the process reduce their load.

    Now look at how they deal with addiction today as you write, “In Northern Ireland there is already a ‘substitute prescribing’ scheme where methadone is provided to long term addicts as a means to get them off heroin'”

    We live in a nonsensical world in which we expect, and politicians believe they can/must solve every problem that is thrown up by human frailty, which is bloody ridiculous. Addiction has been about since man discovered plants that made them high etc.

    Some people will be drug addicts for most if not all of their lives, we should accept this as fact and act accordingly by if the addict so wishes giving them a prescription for life or until they decide enough is enough. Whilst offering alternative help to those whose monkey is not so firmly attached to their back.

    Success in this field should not be judged on how many addicts become ex addicts, as important as that is. But whether an addict becomes a productive member of society and starts taking responsibility for there own lives.

    If we take into account the numbers of people who are in prison and clog up the courts for what are comparatively minor drug offenses, it is clear we still have a long way to go. Thus as someone posted it is vital we begin to think outside the boxes on this issue. As many of todays politicos are so enamored by the phrase, they must make ‘bold and courageous choices’. For even if some of these ‘bold decisions fail’, as far as drugs policy is concerned, we will be in no larger hole that we currently find ourselves in as a society