Give them all the crack they want

By Lunar Loops · May 30, 2006 ·
  1. Lunar Loops
    Certainly an interesting viewpoint.

    This from

    Give them all the crack they want

    Rachel Campbell-Johnston
    [​IMG]DRUGS CAN BE FUN. There are only two problems. They ruin your life. And they ruin the life of everyone around you. And I don’t just mean that coke-head who assaults you with his monologue. I mean homes smashed apart by robberies and broken promises. I mean entire worlds demolished by violence and distrust. Drugs may have been part of our culture since prehistoric man first experimented with psycho-active plants, but they present an intractable problem to modern society. And government policy clearly can’t cope.
    Millions of pounds may be spent on policing the drugs industry from the poppy fields of Pashtun farmers to Old Compton Street, but I could still wander out of my front door right now and score within minutes. All right, it would probably turn out to be talcum powder. I could probably sue under the Trade Descriptions Act, but still, right here in Soho, in the heart of London, where the electronic surveillance systems are among the most sophisticated in Britain, an illegal trade thrives — and with it, crime.

    The light of morning bears testimony: the stolen purses discarded in gutters, the last gangs of stragglers squaring-up in the streets, the pools of blood clotting in alleyways, the fluttering cordons of police crime-scene tape. And this is not just Soho. The same scenes are witnessed in town centres throughout the country. According to a recent BBC survey, almost three quarters of Britons consider drugs to be a problem in their area. Something has to give.
    A report has just been published by the Independent Working Group, an advisory panel of experts from the police and the legal and health sectors. It suggests that Britain should consider a proposal already in action in eight other countries. This involves the creation of drug consumption rooms — “shooting galleries”, as they are nicknamed — to which addicts can come for free needles, for medical support and even for companionship. There is no evidence that it decreases crime, the chairman, Dame Ruth Runciman, says, but it might at least help to prevent the spread of hepatitis and Aids. And it brings one of the most marginalised groups into touch with social services, often for the first time.
    The idea has the support of senior police officers, including Andy Hayman, the chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers Drugs Committee. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has declared that his party would not rule it out. The present system of directing drug users into treatment was not working as well as it could, he said. “We should look at it as part of our policy review.”
    Of course, many are outraged. “An obnoxious proposal by a committee of do-gooders” was the opinion from Civitas, the institute for the study of civil society. Many join them in deploring an encouragement to further drug use. Yet the real problem with the proposal is that it does not go far enough. These “shooting galleries” should offer not just free needles but free drugs.
    Would that increase abuse? Not necessarily. Alcohol is freely available and heavily advertised and we are not all alcoholics. Legalisation might even have a beneficial effect. Would those first snorts of cocaine seem so temptingly salacious if they were not forbidden? Would Pete Doherty have been voted a “rock hero” by NME readers if he was stripped of his rebelliousness and revealed as the wilful loser he really is? Scampi would probably taste better if it were a banned substance.
    Drug addiction has a natural life cycle. You start taking drugs because they make you feel better. But the heartbreaking pleasure is soon replaced by a washed-up desperation. The heroin that wrapped a dark stole round your skull becomes a marauding compulsion that ravages your nerves. The crack cocaine that led you soaring through the sky-lights leaves you empty and fragile.
    You are trapped in a cycle of fast diminishing returns. You chase that first feeling like you chase the first sweet memories of love. But you can never recapture it. You can go only onwards and downwards into sad isolation. Soon you need your first shot just to make you brush your teeth in the morning. The embrace of the angels has turned into the sneer of a devil. Drugs promise freedom, but they imprison you in compulsion. You set out open-armed to experience. You end with your whole life narrowed down to one repetitive experience. The entire world is focused on to a needle point. You feed like a vampire on your own veins. But every time you shoot up, as a friend of mine put it, you are shooting up your own tears. You crave for release.
    No one can give up until they reach this point. It is no use clapping some offender into prison at vast state expense. But to supply the addict with drugs is to force the endgame. You can’t maunder on for decades with heroin or crack cocaine. You go down fast. You either die of an overdose. or you are brought to your knees. And it is only from your knees that you can beg for help. This is when the State should step in, offering withdrawal programmes and counselling, paid for with the money that it has saved from policing the drugs industry. And there is also Narcotics Anonymous, a true model of democracy, with a network extending throughout Britain. It asks for no fees, no leadership, no dues. No one forces you to join. You can walk out if you like. But people go because they want to go. They go for support. That is why, if you have compassion for the drug addict, you should give him more crack.

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