NORMAN J CLEMENT RPH., DDS, NORMAN L.CLEMENT PHARM-TECH, MALACHI F. MACKANDAL PHARMD, BELINDA BROWN-PARKER, IN THE SPIRIT OF JOSEPH SOLVO ESQ., INC.T. SPIRIT OF REV. C.T. VIVIAN, JELANI ZIMBABWE CLEMENT, BS., MBA., IN THE SPIRIT OF THE HON. PATRICE LUMUMBA, IN THE SPIRIT OF ERLIN CLEMENT SR., WALTER F. WRENN III., MD., JULIE KILLINGWORTH, LESLY POMPY MD., NANCY SEEFEDLT, WILLIE GUINYARD BS., JOSEPH WEBSTER MD., MBA, BEVERLY C. PRINCE MD., FACS., NEIL ARNAND, MD., RICHARD KAUL, MD., LEROY BAYLOR, JAY K. JOSHI MD., MBA, ADRIENNE EDMUNDSON, ESTER HYATT PH.D., WALTER L. SMITH BS., IN THE SPIRIT OF BRAHM FISHER ESQ., MICHELE ALEXANDER MD., CUDJOE WILDING BS, MARTIN NJOKU, BS., RPH., IN THE SPIRIT OF DEBRA LYNN SHEPHERD, BERES E. MUSCHETT, STRATEGIC ADVISORS
Republished: AL JAZEERA, March 20, 2021
‘These people are broken’: Why the UK’s war on drugs has failed
“There was a time when drug use in the UK was not considered a matter for the police and judges, but for the doctor. Then it adopted the US’s punitive approach to addiction.”
“How the UK’s punitive approach to drug addiction empowered drug gangs“
“Pat Hudson never leaves her house without a syringe of Naloxone. She will not be needing it for herself, but she wants to be ready for any emergency on the street. Naloxone is injected into the muscle and blocks the effect of opioids: If somebody has taken an overdose of heroin, it can save their life.
“It’s a bit late, of course,” she says: Hudson’s 32-year-old adopted son, Kevin Lane, died in 2017 after taking heroin.
Hudson, 72, and her husband, Tony Lane, 83, are both academics and live near the town of Carmarthen in the west of Wales in the United Kingdom. She is a professor emeritus of economic history and still teaches classes at Cardiff University. For a long time, she did not know much about heroin. It was only when Kevin was in his mid-20s that the drug started to play a big role in her life.
She found Kevin in an orphanage in Liverpool in 1986. He was 16 months old and he was not doing well. “He repeatedly knocked his head against the wall and held up his arms to anybody because he wanted to be picked up,” says Hudson. The signs of neglect and abuse were obvious. But a few weeks after being adopted, Kevin began to smile. “He would probably look back and say he had a happy childhood.” As a teenager, he had many friends, he was lively and always up for mischief.
“There was a time when drug use in the UK was not considered a matter for the police and judges, but for the doctor. Then it adopted the US’s punitive approach to addiction“
But school was a struggle in Wales, where the family had moved. Kevin suffered from ADHD as well as dyslexia. “In the classroom, where everything had to be written down and read out aloud, he had trouble keeping up,” says Hudson. He became “unruly” – constantly being told off for lack of concentration and for challenging behaviour, and, finally, he was expelled at the age of 15. “The childhood trauma and the rejection by the school were key reasons why he began using drugs,” says his mother. First, it was cannabis, which he started using in his early teens. Smoking a joint calmed him down; Kevin found comfort and an escape from a society he did not feel he fully belonged to. From time to time, he was caught smoking it and ended up with a criminal record.
There was a time when drug use in the UK was not considered a matter for the police and judges, but for the doctor. Until the late 1960s, the British authorities pursued a progressive drug policy that stood in stark contrast to the militarised, punitive approach across the Atlantic.
The United States authorities had long considered drugs a moral vice, an evil that had to be eradicated with brute force. In the early 20th century they embarked on a moral crusade against drugs – starting with the Opium and Coca Leaves Trade Restriction Act in 1914, and intensifying ever since. Washington used its diplomatic weight to try to force the rest of the world to follow suit. But, at first, Britain declined.
Heroin addiction in particular was treated with a decidedly liberal approach in the UK. It was called the British System: Addicts received their prescription from their general practitioner, then they went and got their dose from the pharmacy – Boots on London’s Oxford Street was one of the main suppliers. The users led mostly healthy lives, they did not need to resort to criminality, and their number remained vanishingly small: In 1964 there were only 328 heroin addicts known of in the UK, whereas in the US, it was hundreds of thousands. But, under constant pressure from Washington, the British system began to buckle.
In the 1960s, successive laws were introduced to criminalise possession of various drugs, among them LSD and amphetamines, and the prescription of heroin for treatment was restricted. The decisive piece of legislation was the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, which created the offence of “intent to supply” and increased penalties for trafficking and supply.
Kevin spent some time in young offender institutions in his teens and, finally, in an adult prison in Cardiff during his 20s. “He did time for relatively minor offences such as shoplifting, petty vandalism and, later, joy riding,” says Hudson. “He didn’t do it because he needed money for drugs, but because he craved excitement and distraction from his mental health problems.
“He never did anything violent. Kevin was somebody who was struggling with life, and that sometimes expressed itself in antisocial behaviour.” But the authorities had neither the time nor the resources to see individuals in this way. “The criminalisation at an early age compounded the feeling of being rejected,” says Hudson.
She believes Kevin began using heroin in prison. To begin with, he seemed to have his drug habit under control. He trained as a tree surgeon and got a job he enjoyed and was good at. But then a new contract came up to cut down trees along a power line. It was a dangerous task that required regular drug tests for the workers, so Kevin had to own up to his problem and lost the job. Soon after that, he decided to seek professional help at a drugs treatment centre. “We were so relieved,” says his mother. “We thought, ‘finally we’ve got the experts involved’.”
But the availability of treatment centres was faltering. In the course of the Conservative government’s austerity programme following the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, there was less and less money for drug treatment services.
“The 2010 Drug Strategy led to a removal of what was referred to as the ‘ring fence’ – which protected public money for drug treatment,” says David Best, professor of Criminology at the University of Derby, who has done a lot of work on drug policy. “As local authority budgets have been cut, this has had a huge effect on drug treatment, particularly on residential treatment.”
In addition, the authorities increasingly opted for an abstinence model of treatment. Under this approach, drug users are encouraged to wean themselves off their habit. But this has its dangers, says Best: “People newly detoxed – or just out of prison – are at the highest risk of overdose mortality, and the risk of relapse in the first year, post-detox, is 50 to 70 percent.”
The government’s own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs highlighted this danger in a report in 2016: “Many people who become abstinent will not sustain [their abstinence] but will relapse to opioid use. This is a known risk for overdose and death, as users lose tolerance to opioids during periods of abstinence,” the authors write.”
‘We allow these dangerous substances to be controlled by criminals. It’s absurd’
Indeed, Kevin had taken a relatively small amount of heroin when he suffered a heart attack on December 12, 2017, at 9:30 in the morning. He had locked himself in the toilet of the department store, Marks and Spencer, in the town centre of Carmarthen. For a long time, nobody noticed him. “By the time the staff had broken down the door and got to him, he had been without oxygen for too long, possibly as long as 50 minutes,” says Hudson. When he arrived at the hospital, he was already in a coma. The machine that kept him alive was turned off the next day.
Kevin was one of 3,756 people in England and Wales who died from the effects of drugs in 2017. For many years, this death toll has been steadily increasing. The most recent figures are for 2019 when 4,393 drug-related deaths were recorded – a new record. Scotland, where 1,264 deaths were recorded in 2019, has the highest per-capita death rate in Europe. Apart from Sweden, there is no country in Europe where so many people die as a consequence of drug use. Why so many?
Kevin’s mother sighs. There were many moments when his life could have taken a different turn. If he had not been abused as a toddler. If his school had known how to support children to learn practical, rather than academic, skills. If the treatment centres had had more resources for mental health support.
But, for Hudson, there is one decisive fact: Kevin was doing something illegal. “If possession and consumption of cannabis or heroine hadn’t been banned, he wouldn’t have had a criminal record. And he wouldn’t have had to lock himself in a toilet, where nobody noticed him. There are so many cases of heroin users dying behind closed doors. A combination of drug prohibition and the stigma that accompanies it is killing our young people.”
Since her son’s death, Hudson has done a lot of research into the UK’s drug policy. She has joined the campaigns, Transform Drug Policy Foundation and Anyone’s Child, which try to achieve liberalisation of the UK approach. Hudson supports decriminalisation of possession of all drugs for personal use, and the establishment of Drug Consumption Rooms (DCRs). In these facilities, users can consume in a safe, controlled and clean environment. “In this way, the authorities can ensure that safe doses are injected, that the quality is good, and that young people are given advice and help if their drug use has become problematic,” says Hudson. She also advocates the legal regulation of the supply of drugs through prescriptions, licensed premises where users can consume drugs safely and pharmacies that are licensed to distribute them, so that people know exactly what they are taking. “Instead, we allow these dangerous substances to be controlled by criminals. It’s absurd.”
“THANK YOU PETER and PAUL”
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
CONGRESS THIS IS HOW YOU CLEAN UP THIS MESS
FOR NOW, YOU ARE WITHIN