TOBACCO, ALCOHOL AND PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRIES MUST LOVE THIS CAMPAIGN
Celebrities and millionaires with no history of addiction research or helping addicts to reclaim destroyed lives campaigned globally in June to make drugs even more available – citing reasons based on theory not fact.
David Raynes tells the truth.
BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions: The drug policy debate in early June mentioned an organisation in which I am involved – the UK National Drug Prevention Alliance – many times, so we must respond. In doing so, I hope to convey proven facts about the dangers of legalising drugs.
Nadine Dorries was correct that much modern cannabis is stronger than years ago but we do not agree with her figures. Typically, modern cannabis is three to four times stronger in THC, the psychoactive ingredient, than even the strongest cannabis of the 1960s and 1970s. This has been achieved by selective breeding and in response to consumer demand.
But the picture is more complex than ‘just’ THC strength. The presence – or rather absence in modern forms – of another chemical, CBD, appears to have aggravated the brain-damaging potential of cannabis.
Use has also changed. Age of first use and regular use is earlier than in the 1960s and that is another damaging factor. The evidence caused the UK government, with cross-party agreement, to reclassify cannabis upwards two years ago.
At the time (Sky News, 6 April 2008), prime minister David Cameron admitted that a parliamentary committee, of which he had been a member, had been wrong about lowering the classification of cannabis. Lessons have been learned and are unlikely to be overturned.
Cannabis contributes substantially to academic under-achievement and very poor mental health, regardless of other effects.
On the wider question of decriminalisation and even legalisation of all drugs, the NDPA believes that a monstrous, well financed and very slick fraud is being perpetrated internationally and that this fraud has fooled some of the “great and good” who signed up as supporters.
There is no evidence at all that either measure could reduce the total harm from drugs. The reverse is very much the case, with academic opinion saying that either measure would inevitably normalise and increase, use. The manifest harm from the legal drugs and the legislation on alcohol and tobacco, as variously applied around the world, confirms that.
Comments on wishful good effects from decriminalisation were profoundly incorrect and reflect manipulative messages.
HARMS OF LEGAL vs ILLEGAL DRUGS
* “More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined,” states the US Centre for Disease Control. UK figures are below.
* 880 deaths/year involve heroin or morphine (latest figures from the Office of National Statistics).
* 8,664 deaths/year involve alcohol (government statistics)
* 81,400 deaths of people in England alone aged 35+ were attributable to tobacco (NHS Information).
* An estimated 462,900 hospital admissions in England alone of people aged 35+ were attributable to smoking (ibid).
For years, we have been bombarded with the Netherlands as the example of sound drug policy – despite the fact that the country, through its policies, created the largest base for drugs-related criminality in Europe with supply, warehousing, distribution and manufacture at astonishing levels. At one stage, the Netherlands had more drug-related murder than anywhere else in Europe. The Netherlands is changing. It spends proportionally more than the UK on enforcement and is currently more effective and better organised than the UK.
- Portugal and decriminalisation appears now to be “the new orthodoxy” for those with a certain direction of travel and for those “user advocates” who want more freedom to use, regardless of the wider social effects. But Portugal is being misrepresented, as demonstrated below.
- The number of new cases of HIV and Hepatitis C in Portugal is eight times the average in other EU countries.
- Portugal has the most cases of injected drug-related Aids, with 85 new cases per million citizens. Other EU countries average 5 per million.
- Since decriminalisation, drug-related homicides have increased 40%.
- Drug overdoses have increased substantially, by over 30% in 2005.
- There has been an increase of 45% in post mortems testing positive for illegal drugs.
- Amphetamine and cocaine consumption has doubled in Portugal, with cocaine seizures increasing sevenfold between 2001 and 2006.
Finally, the suggestion that legalisation would somehow remove criminality from drug supply is ridiculous. Criminality loves use-reinforcing substances and behaviours. Over 20% of the UK tobacco market is smuggled, counterfeit or both. In some other countries, the figures are worse.
Legalisation or decriminalisation of substances unfit for human consumption should occur only if a demonstrable “public good” can be evidenced. The problem for the legalisation lobby is that it cannot.
David Raynes is executive councillor of the UK National Drug Prevention Alliance.