The failures of the war on drugs

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Jim Barlow’s article “Tackling drug dependency” (January SR) revealed how damaging the government’s War on Drugs is. Its refusal to countenance the Scottish government’s proposal for safe places for those dependent on drugs to inject and dispose of needles will condemn more and more of the most vulnerable to dreadful ill health and early death.

Its refusal is despite the fact that supervised injection sites have been operating in The Netherlands for decades, more opened in Germany and Switzerland in the 1990s, followed by Spain, Luxemburg, Norway, Australia and Canada in the 2000s. None have reported an increase in drug addiction. On the contrary, drug-related issues have decreased significantly.

Portugal’s experiment with 40 publicly funded treatment centres for drug addicts has helped transform the country from being among the most controversial in terms of deaths related to drug addiction. Following its example, several US cities are now opening supervised injection sites and associated treatment centres.

The UK government’s Daily Mail-informed hardline drugs policy doesn’t only stop drug users getting the help and treatment they desperately need.

The mums of children afflicted with acute forms of epilepsy continue to be forced to purchase cannabis-derived medicine — the only medicine they have found that relieves their children of terrible trauma — from overseas, and at enormous cost, because of the government’s foot-dragging over permitting its provision here. And again, this is despite professional medical evidence that this should be the case.

Some of these women have, in desperation, tried to obtain the medicine illegally, only to be convicted under laws that should have been rescinded years ago.

The War on Drugs not only condemns the vulnerable and desperate mums to yet more agony. It has resulted in the most terrible levels of gang warfare in cities across the world. But in that lies another filthy story about the crimes of capitalism.

Alan Gibson
London