Let’s do drugs

Drug policy in the UK has been fairly consistent over the last 30 plus years. It is essentially one of opposing the legalisation of practically all the drugs of abuse.

To briefly summarise the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act:

Class refers to severity of punishment for possession

Class A: Heroin, Cocaine (including Crack), Ecstasy, LSD
Class B: Amphetamines
Class C: Cannabis, Tranquilisers

The only recent change has been to reclassify cannabis from B to C, though this may be reversed.
Although drug prevention measures such as Just Say No are less favoured and a strategy of education about effects and harm reduction is now in vogue few seem to be prepared to advocate decriminalisation of drugs apart from people like the North Wales Chief constable Richard Brunstrom. He drew a storm of criticism though with his apparent love of publicity and recent problems with insensitive use of images of accident victims to bolster his views on road safety, Brumstrom is not in a good position to start a rational debate; and as such the messenger may have been as much the problem as the message.

Certainly his comments about aspirin being more dangerous than ecstasy are patent nonsense for a variety of reasons including the fact that most people do not take aspirin in overdose and in appropriate dose it is quite safe; also of course the bottle of aspirin in my house has a dose (300mg) which is in contrast to ecstasy tablets which clearly do not have stated doses. In addition there has been evidence suggesting the danger of long term neuropsychological damage from ecstasy.

The argument that cannabis is not very toxic is also very dubious with data suggesting a danger of schizophrenia and depression.

Cocaine is associated with heart attacks and strokes.

Heroin is obviously well known to cause death centrally due to stopping breathing. Most dangerously the tolerance to the pleasurable effects increases over time but not the resistance to the effects on breathing. As such the safety zone between euphoria and death gradually narrows. In addition due to varying purity the next does could easily be fatal.

My personal view (and not because of my religious beliefs) is that the current policy though highly imperfect is better than the alternatives. I am unconvinced that the Dutch model can be applied to the UK (or Ireland) and it seems that the Netherlands may be rowing back on its policy which is not as liberal as it is often perceived to be. I do feel, however, that these are issues, which should be openly debated, as simply ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.

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