The need for New Politics on Drugs

“Whatever the options on the table, whatever the decision to be made, the same questions must be asked: will it put more power in people’s hands? And will it equip Britain for long-term success?”

(David Cameron and Nick Clegg, UK Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, 3rd August 2010)

Apart from drug policy, everything seems to be up for discussion and possible revision by the UK’s new Coalition government. This includes a range of services for young people such as Connexions, bizarrely criticised by the Government for focusing too much on those with greatest needs, the “N.E.E.T.s”, young people who are not in employment, education or training at the expense of the needs of more ‘mainstream’ teenagers (BBC News, 4th August 2010). It is difficult to see how maintaining the embedded approach by politicians to drug policy, ignoring the reality that it is failing a generation of young people, can be useful. In a rational world the argument proposed by Sebastian Saville in this week’s ‘Observer’ that we need to “move from dogma to science in the way we manage drug use” would hardly be regarded as radical, despite there being a range of opinions about what policy should eventually look like and how necessary changes might be introduced.

Following others, Sir Ian Gilmore, former President of the Royal College of Physicians, has this week made a useful contribution to the discussion, arguing that our current approach with its focus on criminalising people rather than dealing with drugs as a health issue has led to both increased crime and health problems. However, the Coalition’s knee-jerk response, saying they don’t agree, has once more highlighted politicians’ fears and insecurities about exploring new options in drug control policy. The media are negligent in their coverage also; for example, the BBC this morning reported uncritically that “anti-drugs” campaigners criticised Sir Ian’s comments. Who are these “anti-drugs” people? What does “anti-drugs” mean? Is Sir Ian Gilmore “pro-drugs” then? In my own experience, earlier this year I was asked in a BBC interview whether I felt “vindicated” in resigning from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs because two young men in Scunthorpe who had died, reportedly with a connection to the use of Mephedrone which was then legal, had not in fact taken the drug. I thought it was an inappropriate question. How could one feel vindicated when two lives have been cut short and when two families and many friends are mourning? Whether legal (alcohol) or illegal drugs had caused this tragedy, two young people were failed and are tragically no longer with us.

I have to say that I find the hypocrisy of the UK Liberal Democrats on the drugs issue to be particularly astonishing. For example, consider the current Deputy Prime Minister’s comments in 2007:

 “The present debate on classification of drugs is nonsense, with politicians second guessing science and evidence…If you’re interested in reducing harm, you need to revisit the spectrum of drugs, both legal and illegal and categorise them according to the evidence.” 

(Nick Clegg, 2007)

Of course politicians can always find ways to explain their revisionism: For example:

“I did lots of things before I came into politics which I shouldn’t have done. We all did”.

(David Cameron, 2005)

Lucky for David Cameron that he was born into privilege. For his youthful experimentation, he was neither arrested, nor excluded from school, nor dragged into the circle of harms, including but not limited to addiction, that are made both more likely and more extreme for the most socially disadvantaged people in our communities. Where illegal drug use is concerned, as well as the majority of UK property crimes being related to people’s needs to ‘feed’ a drug habit, we have countless horrific examples such as the murders of three sex workers in Bradford this year and five in Ipswich in 2006 which were directly connected to their need to work the streets to raise the cash for heroin and crack.

But it seems to me that support to intervene early with evidence-based initiatives to prevent and reduce problematic drug use remains a low political priority. I have previously criticised the consensus reached by Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to abandon the last Government’s commitment to make drugs education compulsory in schools.  It’s not all that it is needed but it could be a vital component which would help improve the quality and range of drugs education provision in schools.  Young people themselves consistently ask for more and better drugs education, even where they have already begun experimenting with drugs. Although a new survey by the charity YouthNet found worrying levels of drug use among young people, for example, with one in four reporting cocaine use, they also found that young people are crying out for more reliable and readily available information about drugs.

More than anything, our political leaders need to be brave and properly open up the drugs policy discussion to all options. This will require finding more useful language: let’s dump “pro” and “anti” drugs, “prohibitionist” and “legaliser”. Everyone knows that establishing appropriate regulation of drug use has to be a part of any drug strategy. Criminal justice measures should be used to contribute to preventing and reducing health and social harms but the focus should be on drug use as primarily a public health issue. Transform’s ‘Blueprint’ report,, explores the potential for introducing a new, improved regulatory framework. I don’t agree with all the conclusions drawn but nor do I disagree with everything. Of course it includes assumptions, positions based on political beliefs and some inconsistencies and gaps, such as what to do with those, particularly young people who might choose not to go along with their suggested new regulatory framework. However, it is exceptionally useful in highlighting some new options that the new Coalition Government could at least put on the table. As Professor Gilmore put it this week,

“There are really strong arguments to look again.”

(Professor Ian Gilmore, August 2010)


40 responses to “The need for New Politics on Drugs

  1. Peter Reynolds

    The drugs issue is gaining huge momentum. Government policy looks increasingly ridiculous. More and more people are “getting it”. Prohibition just doesn’t work. Cowardly politicans have failed to grasp this nettle for years. Change is coming.

  2. Peter Reynolds


    Would you be interested in putting your name to and getting involved in a new, professionally managed campaign for medicinal cannabis?

    With the recent approval of Sativex, why can’t we have a medicinal cannabis policy like America, Holland, Italy, Spain, Gemany, Israel and many other countries? In these countries patients can get pharmaceutical grade cannabis for one-eighth the cost of Sativex.

    This is a door waiting to be pushed open if the argument is properly presented. Will you help me put this together?

  3. thanks for this useful contribution the debate Eric – and flagging up Transform’s Blueprint. At least people are talking about these issues now.

    • Peter Reynolds

      I think it would be diverting your focus (of which I am in huge admiration) to ask for your participation but we desperately need UK doctors who are prepared to stand up and be counted. Any ideas?

    • Thanks Steve, I think Transform’s Blueprint report should be essential reading for all politicians.

  4. Excellent write up. Thanks for the Blueprint link!

  5. A typical and unremarkable piece of fence sitting Eric if I maysay so. It seems to say a lot yet says nothing. Your personal position impenetratable.

    You praise Ian Gilmore’s intervention yet quite plainly the media and even he towards the end of yesterday, found it difficult to understand exactly what he was arguing for. An eminent man but we are surely entitled to expect rather more clarity from him (and even from you though you do not have quite the eminence) when he rolls his grenade across the floor with the pin out.. Was Gilmore arguing for more prescription of heroin? For decriminalisation of possession? For legalisation. He was variously interpreted, that must be, primarily, his fault. The media who spoke to me were uniformly baffled by Gilmore.

    All of these matters are things we can discuss and Steve Rolles and I did. It was a great pity we had to spend quite so much time agreeing & clarifying terms and what Gilmore might have meant.

    You have spent a lot of worthy time in the drugs world now Eric, there are some things you ought to have made your mind up about. if you support legalisation and the “Blueprint” model, be aware it is built on very shaky foundations.

    It is not possible or practicable to take criminality out of drugs supply, even when we gave heroin away to almost anyone who requested it under the rampant “British System” of the 60s, we maintained an illegal market, at that time in Chinese Number 3 and Number 4 heroin. First time users back then were not getting their heroin by going to clinicians.

    If you personally support legalisation and normalisation of some or all of the illegal drugs, surely by now, you could tell us and put your arguments? Otherwise all this talk of “opening up the debate” is so much humbug.

    If people as steeped in matters as you, are not prepared to put your head above the parapet, it ill behoves you to criticise politicians.

    Myposition is always clear and I speak to the public in words they can understand (as incidentally does Steve most of the time), I say that legalisation is a very risky strategy indeed, I agree with Peter Reuter in his 1999 paper. “TOTAL HARM” is what really matters in this social policy and legalisation/normalisation is likely to increase TOTAL HARM though it may, as Reuter says, reduce some individual harms.

    The tobacco/alcohol model and variants as espoused by Transform has caused and still causes immense harm. Predicating a better future under legalisation as Transform do, as more or less an act of faith, is just not good enough.

    • Peter Reynolds

      An interesting contribution.

      You’re entirely correct about what Sir Ian Gilmore said yesterday. It was as clear as mud.

      Remarkable how, even though he specifically said that he was talking about Class A drugs, the BBC chose to associate pictures of cannabis and another story about cannabis farms with his interview. Just another example of how much misinformation and, frankly, incompetent journalism there is on this issue.

      I haven’t read “Total Harm”. All I can find online from Peter Reuter is “Drug War Heresies”. Do you have a link?

      I don’t agree with your central point though. Prohibition is proven to be a failed strategy. By definition it militates against regulation and regulation/control is what is needed. Transform does a magnificent job of promoting a rational approach. Surprise, surprise, it’s ideas may not be 100% perfect!

      I don’t think heroin or cocaine should be freely available. I’ve used both. I had a coke habit for about 10 years and spent the last two or three as a daily crack smoker. I haven’t touched it for three years now and have no interest in doing so. I smoked a little heroin and injected diamorphine several times with a doctor friend. I thought it was way, way overrated, certainly not worth the downside.

      I do think we need a system which ensures users can get an unadulterated product of known purity and that there are facilities for clean needles, health checks, etc. Also, it must make sense for addicts to be able to get a maintenance dose legitimately so they don’t commit crime to feed their habit.

      It also makes sense to undercut the illegal trade in heroin and cocaine, to pull the rug from underneath organised crime, the Taliban and the warlords and narco-states in South America. Our heroic soldiers die every day at the hands of an enemy financed by the illegal opium trade. Why don’t we just contract to buy the whole crop for the next 10 years?

      Of course, you will never completely remove criminal interest from the drugs trade, just as it persists in legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol. Prohibition is a completely barmy approach though. Our cowardly politicians who won’t grasp this nettle are directly responsible for much of the death, misery and degradation caused by drugs and drug laws.

      The simpler issue is cannabis. It’s a moral outrage that this benign, wonderful plant is denied to adults for recreational and medicinal purposes. How can it be right that in America, Holland, Spain, Israel, etc, etc, patients can obtain pharmaceutical quality cannabis at one-eighth the cost of Sativex but not here in the UK? How can it be right that patients whose doctors want to prescribe Sativex but are prevented from doing so by their Health Authority, are prosecuted for growing their own cannabis?

      It looks as if Proposition 19 will pass in California in November. Then the UK will eventually follow down this inevitable path.

      Two quotes to finish with:

      Baroness Meacher, House of Lords 15th June 2010:

      “There is no more obvious waste than the £19 billion cost of the UK’s war on drugs

      Julian Critchley, Director, Cabinet Office UK Anti-Drug Coordination Unit. 13th August 2008:

      “I think what was truly depressing about my time in UKADCU was that the overwhelming majority of professionals I met, including those from the police, the health service, the government and voluntary sectors held the same view: the illegality of drugs causes far more problems for society and the individual than it solves. Yet publicly, all those intelligent, knowledgeable people were forced to repeat the nonsensical mantra that the government would be ‘tough on drugs’, even though they all knew the government’s policy was actually causing harm.”


  6. If you Google you will find the 1999 paper.

    I have it in my records, here is the relevant extract, I was quoting from memory but I had the gist right:
    Thus, the choice between drug control models involves a central tradeoff. If average harm went down under legalization without an increase in use, we’d clearly be better off than we are today.

    But if legalization produced a significantly large increase in total use, total drug harm would go up, even if each incident of use became somewhat safer. Because Total Drug Harm = Average Harm Per Use � Total Use, total harm can rise even if average harm goes down [15].

    At present there is no firm basis for predicting the relative magnitude of these effects. Thus, legalization is a very risky strategy for reducing drug-related harm.
    END INSERT>>>>

    Now there is no basis whatsover for suggesting that legalisation & normalisation would REDUCE TOTAL USE, indeed the evidence of the tobacco/alcohol model as variously applied around the world (including States where religious or legal taboo applies) rebuts that suggestion Also plainly based on the evidence of the last 30 years, in just the UK, there has been an increasing appetite for use-reinforcing substances, legal or ilegal. The one exception in the UK is tobacco where widely unpopular legislation about freedom to use has been applied. Other countries show increasing use of tobacco.

    From this I deduce that Blueprint is just an act of faith, without a scientific or real logic base, produced by those paid to lobby for a certain position.

  7. Peter Reynolds

    Firstly, the evidence from Portugal is that total use does not increase following legalisation. Conversely, certainly with cannabis, use is higher where it is more strictly controlled.

    You fail to factor in the issue of individual freedom. Regrettably, it’s never been enough to change laws but it can’t be ignored. In fact, I believe it’s the biggest issue. We might have to use economic or health arguments to achieve change but it’s getting intrusive and arrogant government out of individuals’ private lives that really matters.

    Transform’s Blueprint is a courageous attempt to envisage a future “after the war on drugs”. It’s insulting and disingenuous to describe it merely as an act of faith. The fundamental point is that prohibition doesn’t work.

  8. Peter
    A few points, Portugal has emphatically not, legalised drugs. It does have an enforced treatment regime with people being taken to Police Stations before being directed to treatment, something impossible in the UK without the power of arrest and use of the CJ system.

    Secondly prevalence of drug use across the whole population-entire life, has climbed from 7.8 to 12%. Below the age of 34 it is nearly 50% higher. The country has very high IDU related AIDS with a recent increase in that. In 2007 the country had a 45% increase in drug related mortality. That is the highest rate since 2001.

    Now, you raise individual freedom, we often get to that in such debate. Educated legalisers often selectively quote John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty”. I will quote the bit they do quote and the bit they do not:
    “Over himself, and over his own mind and body, the individual is sovereign”.

    This ploy by the legalisers is a gross misrepresentation, as should be immediately obvious to anyone who reads not just this sentence from Mill, but the sentences which precede and follow it; for example:

    “Whenever, in short, there is definite damage, or definite risk of damage, either to an individual or to the public, the case is taken out of the province of Liberty and placed in that of Morality or Law”.
    Plainly Mill envisages some restrictions on absolute liberty in the interests of community. It could be argued that is essential in all civilised society, there IS no absolute liberty. We have laws other than drug laws which restrict individual liberty and even where the harm might ONLY be to the individual. Examples, seat belts, motorcycle helmets.

    In relation to drugs use there are other freedoms at risk, the freedom, the human right maybe, of the unborn to an in- utero life without being affected by drug use and life- long damage. The freedoms of us all to not have to pay for the consequences of drug use, addiction and the economic reliance on the majority that often follows. Non-users have rights too.

    In relation to use of cannabis and enforcement, I suggest you think about the obvious fact that correlation does not equal causation.

    Transform’s Blueprint, courageous or not, is certainly a well worked effort to plead their legalisation cause, but, like Eric’s “Need for a new Drugs Politics”, their case is not made out.

    I like Steve Rolles but he sidesteps the crunch questions. He replaces key words like legalisation with other memes, “regulation & control” is my favourite. Nonsense of course. Cannot be done. Anyone who thought it could should examine trafficking in pharmaceuticals.

    It is like Eric’s plea, essentially shallow, without core justification and demonstration of how society would be better off in terms of TOTAL HARM. It IS an act of faith.

    A simple repetition of the mantra “prohibition does not work” , flies in the face of historical fact and current laws in some countries on alcohol. What is “work” in this context supposed to mean?

    Do most people, grown up people, use the illegal drugs? Plainly no.

    Is consumption of the illegal drugs, in the UK, higher or lower now than it was in the time of patent medecines? Is addiction less?

    Certainly consumption could be lower and has been lower in comparatively recent times. certainly some people will always use drugs. Some people will determinedly avoid complying with many laws. that does not mean we must abandon those laws or even if they are widely ignored that they are bad laws or that we would be better off were they repealed.

    The Reuter paper can be found by Googling “Peter Reuter + TOTAL HARM”.

  9. Peter Reynolds

    I respect your erudite contribution.

    I can only defer to your greater knowldge of the Portugal story than mine but the real issue here is semantics. Legalisation, decriminalisation, your favourite “regulation and control” – what I want is an end to oppression!

    I want to be able to grow a bit of weed and occasionally buy a nice piece of imported hash or other special treat. I don’t want it to be easy to get hold of heroin or cocaine but if someone develops a problem with it I want it to be treated as a health issue and for them to be able to get safe, consistent maintenance doses. If my sons want to go clubbing and take a bit of MDMA, I want them to do so in a safe environment, knowing what’s in the “pill”. I don’t want them to have to resort to esoteric variants of amphetamine lookalikes that are called “legal highs”. I can go into more detail if you like but I hope you get the message. I think that’s called regulation.

    I also want fact and evidence-based policy and information, not propaganda. It infuriates me that the quality of argument advanced against cannabis is every bit as bad as it always has been! They used to say that it makes white women promiscuous with black men. The arguments used nowadays are just as inaccurate, cheap and despicable. Look at what Gordon Brown said about skunk for God’s sake! The man’s not fit to ride a bike let alone be PM.

    I think it’s self-evident that the approach I have outlined would result in
    less harm, fewer harms and a damn sight better society.

    You are not happy with the claim that “prohibition does not work”. OK, how about “prohibition makes things worse”?
    Yet despite the evident depth of your knowledge, I detect a passion against

    Prohibition makes the problem worse.

  10. Peter Reynolds

    Sorry. Bad editing above.

  11. Franklin Percival

    Nice to see you blogging again, Eric, and cogently as always. Do you still lurk at Wired-In?

    In UK we have 5 Schedules of Controlled Drugs. Did everybody read that correctly? Just for in case of not, the Legislation refers to “Controlled Drugs”, a concept that would be laughable were it not so tragic. If drugs are to be controlled, it follows that their supply must be controlled. Is this best done by leaving it to the open market? The open market is what has given us a Net Present Value obligation of £65bn. in exchange for assets currently valued at £11bn. in terms of the NHS alone. It is defended in terms of the fact that cleaning is included!

    David Raynes rattles on about legalisation, a concept which nobody else had raised in the thread, so I say to him, as I would say to any examinee, read the paper carefully – you won’t get many marks for answering a question that is not asked. Nobody else had mentioned decriminalisation, either, but if he is happy to put up straw men, who am I to deny him this innocent pleasure?

    I do not know of Raynes’s qualification to be interested in the matter of addiction, but the way in which he invites Carlin to put his arguments plainly suggests that he has not the first clue as to what he is talking about. Carlin was neither the first, nor the last of the ‘ACMD 5-8 (or whatever the current cumulative total now is)’ to find his position untenable because of his insistence on reliance upon <b<evidence rather than the latest ‘Daily Mail’ editorial, or ‘popular opinion’.

    Just did a search for Raynes D., however and it seems to me that if he is the retired/semi-retired from public service, self-employed security consultant, he could perform one last great public service to us all by restricting his foolishness to dribbling in his own arm-chair.

    That said, we are still left with ‘The War On Drugs’, which surely pays a lot of mortgages, but is about as winnable as the US incursion into Vietnam, the ‘Coalition of The Willing’ Invasion of Iraq, or the ultimate idiocy of NATO operations in Afghanistan (don’t this guys ever read history?).

    I would rather that we followed Transform’s Blueprint, instead of carrying on as we are now. We could pay the Afghani growers a decent ‘farm gate’ price for their produce, rather than having to give lives and treasure to fight the people who currently control the business, who themselves take the crop and convert it into arms with which to fight us. How terribly ‘Eighties’ – I’m thinking Orwell here of course, not ‘flares’.

    Oh, almost forgot,, fancy a holiday in Guadalajera, anyone?

    • Peter Reynolds

      David Raynes is ex-UK Customs (Ohhh no! Quick swallow it now!) and a member of the International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy. He’s all over the web arguing aganist any relaxation of drug laws.

  12. Thanks Franklin for having read my blog and properly considered its content. As I think I and others have argued consistently, we won’t all agree but we need to redefine how we see the ‘drug problem’ and how policy can contribute to reducing harms. All options need to be considered. I’d also refer you and others to Mark Easton’s new blog which provides a considered, balanced and accurate overview of the history of UK drug control –

    And yes thanks, I am still connected with Wired In which I think is often quite inspirational and important.

  13. Ah Franklin, the old personal attack, last refuge so often, of the scoundrel?
    Well dribbling or not, I can see where “legalisation” came from in this thread. Eric praised Sir Ian who in turn had praised the Rolles article in the BMJ, Eric also praised “Blueprint” which is ALL ABOUT legalisation, indeed legalisation and normalisation of the illegal drugs is Transform’s raison d’etre.

    I criticise Eric and Sir Ian for being less than clear in what they argue for. Eric I criticise more, because unlike Sir Ian he is steeped in drugs matters. If Eric cannot quite bring himself to spell out exactly what he believes, what chance do we have of “sensible debate”.

    I respect Steve Rolles, Danny and “user-advocates” because at least they state their position clearly.

    I accuse Eric of fence sitting, I do not think that helps the debate, it certainly does not help politicians who have to dip in and out of this policy area.

    It is quite interesting in human behaviour terms , that Eric, having posted his view of the world (presumably expecting to get comment), is not prepared to expand or defend his beliefs or even to say what they actually are. Since he knows so much about the arguments, that is excercising some power (publishing something) without taking responsibility.

    • Peter Reynolds

      Well I agree that I’m sorry Eric hasn’t commented on the discussion you and I have been having.

      I’m rather pleased with the position that I’ve worked out as a result. It seems to sum up it up for me:

      First we want an end to oppression. Then we want fact and evidence-based policy, information and regulation.

  14. Franklin Percival

    Raynes, do just get over yourself. If you want to play with the grown-ups, develop a talent for intellectual rigour.

  15. Peter Reynolds


    You started this topic. I’m in some sympathy with DR on this, we need you to step in and moderate this as soon as you are available.

    I’m reminded of a couple of friends bickering and getting slightly tetchy with each other while they wait for their “Man” to arrive.

    So where is this going? (says the ex-coke head trying to get the professionals into gear!)

  16. It would be really good if people could explain to me what exactly they can’t understand. All my friends get it. The only people who don’t are these mad people on the edge. Ignore me if you don’t agree. I have tried my hardest to make my position clear (that includes the things I am not sure about, I wish I had a God to make me more certain.) We only engage in a dialogue if it exists; if people are not interested in your opinion, don’t waste your breath. David – don’t try to dignify arrogance, small-minded prejudice and stupidity. I was criticised for not being clear enough. Is that clear?

  17. Peter Reynolds

    It just “cracks” me up the way you professionals abuse each other!

    Eric, I’ll come back to you in a couple of days. This thread is dead from a lack of goodwill and respect.

  18. Peter – and others – I am not a “professional”, I have experience in managing drugs treatment and education/prevention services. We need to re-frame our discussion and open it out.

    • Peter Reynolds

      Eric! For God’s sake, of course you’re a professional! You were on the ACMD.

      What do you mean “We need to re-frame our discussion and open it out.”?

  19. Franklin Percival

    Is Reynolds the moderator of this site, or is he over-reaching himself? I only ask. So far as I am aware, this thread is still open, but I’ll have to see whether this post is accepted before a declaratoryopinion can be offered in confidence

    I demolished Raynes for his lack of adherence to the argument that Carlin first proposed, and was also studiedly and intentionally offensive.

    If he wants to play with the big boys I suggest he lurks at Pharyngula for a while to see just how unpleasant rational people can be to trolls such as he who think that they can hijack a thread by shouting loudly with no evidence, a heap of reliance on past achievements, and membership of strangely titled organisations of which I have never heard.

    Surely Raynes and Reynolds can indulge their passion for mutual masturbation in some less public space, and leave those of us who wish to discover a better way forward some space in which so to do.

    Yours as a spastic 60 year old.


  20. Franklin Percival

    <blockquote cite="Peter Reynolds | August 20, 2010 at 13:13 | Reply
    Eric! For God’s sake, of course you’re a professional! You were on the ACMD.
    What do you mean “We need to re-frame our discussion and open it out.”?"

    A word to the wise, dear boy, I would suggest you desist from advancing god's sake to back up your assertions that do seem to be lacking in any evidential basis; there being no evidence for this 'god' thing of which you speak.

    As to Carlin being a professional, may I point out that 'a professional' is generally taken to refer somebody who is paid for their expertise (look in most English Dictionaries). Members of the ACMD are not paid, so your citing of his past membership of same looks like yet another case of inoropedalogy.

    You and your chum Raynes are beginning to try my patience with your evident lack of analytical thought process.

  21. Peter Reynolds

    Frankie boy, you keep your nose out of my religious beliefs or you might find some strange alkaloid substance shooting up it which might make you even angrier!

    Of course your strict interpretation of the word professional is correct. Since Prof. Nutt’s sacking I’ve also been aware that the government doesn’t pay the members of the ACMD. Wikipedia (if it isn’t beneath you) suggests that professional is also used to mean “Expert and specialized knowledge in field…highly educated…a professional owes a higher duty to a client, often a privilege of confidentiality, as well as a duty not to abandon the client just because he or she may not be able to pay or remunerate the professional”. That is the sense in which I meant it – as you well know.

    Mr Google looked in not just most but every online English dictionary and couldn’t find “inoropedalogy” – but I know what it means! It means you’re a smartarse who’s overlooking the fact that language is for communication, not for mystification or self-aggrandisement. Or perhaps you just misspelled it?

    My chum Raynes? We’d make very strange bedfellows, him being a Customs man and me being a passionate advocate of the beneficial effects of cannabis (God’s herb to us believers). Having said that I would probably greatly enjoy a long chat with him as I would with you if you weren’t so goddamn pompous!

    All I can find out about you is that you do comment a lot on drugs issues and you describe yourself as a “carer”. I’d like to know more about what qualifies your opinions and assertions.

    You can find out all about me here:

    You’re not that chap who ran off to Hollywood are you?

  22. Franklin Percival

    Dear Eric,

    I entirely agree with you as you have stated on previous threads here and in other media that we should only use evidence to guide us, and agree also with Gilmore, when he suggests that there is argument for looking again.

    How are we to achieve this, though?

    I had cause to ring Services a time or two yesterday and from what they said to me they remain around here wedded simply to ‘treatment’ and the ‘behavioural’ model of addiction, but appear to lack any concept of the ‘medical’ model, preparedness to consider concurrent psyco-social interventions, or after-care, never mind Recovery

    I believe that occasionally you have become frustrated, if not infuriated, by people who would sooner shoot the messenger rather than listen to the message.

    It is not even as if the same rules were applied across a county, never mind the country or UK as a whole. Waiting times for MMT, for example, can vary from 3 weeks in parts of Wales to 18 weeks in parts of Scotland. With a nod to Harold Wilson, I can only say that 18 weeks is a very long time in drug dependency.

    In certain areas peer groups seem to be helping many people, and this is possibly an area for research.

    That said, though, you can do all the well planned and implemented research you like, but if those with power are not prepared to follow the course(s) suggested by such research, we are not going to get very far.

    Other than writing to local politicians be they Councillors or MPs, attending surgeries, and continuing to support our friends who suffer with addiction, and generally trying to carry the message of recovery to society as a whole, I cannot see what else the individual is to do at the moment.

    Should the present Government, however, be as hell-bent as it advertises on making GPs the new Commissioners, which I believe to be a very bad idea, it would be a wonderful opportunity not only to make them more financially efficient, but also to make them responsible for the whole of a patient’s health including dentistry and addiction, with the clear understanding that the buck stops with them. Let us be honest and accept that a few GPs can’t tell a cancer from a common cold, and a lamentable minority still see a straight chain of causation running from ‘life-style choices’ (you smoke, you drink, your’e overweight, you’ve got a habit) to any illness, without considering genetic, environmental or developmental primarycauses lurking upstream. The GPs Trades Union won them their present entirely beneficial contract which means that you are more likely than before to be pinned with 10*Recommended D0se of morphine by a jet-lagged doctor from somewhere else in Europe. If they want to keep their money, they can work for it.

    Do you have any other suggestions, please?

  23. Peter
    “Prohibition makes things worse” eh?

    I agree that making some drugs illegal to supply for human “recreational” use has some consequences which are not all positive, some I agree are very negative indeed.

    I tend not to use the word “prohibition” because of course that is a planted meme to make false comparisons with alcohol prohibition in some states especially in the US. The implication being quite often, that all possible “recreational substances” are of equal validity.

    “Prohibition makes things ” worse? Worse than what? On what evidence base?

    You are essentially making the user-advocate plea, fair enough, but you need to consider the evidence of the tobacco & alcohol model as variously applied. Yes I agree, let us focus absolutely on evidence. The worldwide evidence especially in relation to alcohol is that where it is covered by legal or social taboo, the personal & social harm from it is much reduced. That is the EVIDENCE. Look at alcoholism in (say) Morocco (where it is produced & sold, but only to a minority, or Pakistan (where it is hardly sold at all). I have spent time in both places.

    “Prohibition makes things worse”, does it?

    Can you envisage a sitaution where all the illegal drugs were legalised and normalised on the Transform model? Can you envisage the obvious rise in consumption, the personal harm, the addiction, the loss of productive capacity, the ultimate reliance of addicts on an overburdened State, where non -users and non addicts subsidise users and the addicted. Have you thought about in uetro harm, about familes living with addiction (as they do now with alcohol). I keep saying non users have rights too. we have started to establish those in relation to tobacco.

    Prohibtion makes things worse? Worse than what? Define your terms.

    As for Eric, it seems my challenge to him to come clean about what he believes, fell on stony ground.

    He has ducked away from being thought a “professional”, seemingly because he might have to be accountable for having a solid opinion. He make remarks about “mad people on the edge”. Ah well, if that makes him happy.

    Well Eric like it or not you and I have both been at the centre of drugs policy for a very long time, professionally and privately. If the debate needs “opening out”, I say, get on with it. I think my original criticism stands and that you have only reinforced your original weakness.

    I am miles away from agreeing with Peter on everything but at least he engages. I take some small comfort that he sees my point even if you (deliberately I say), fail to see mine.

    As for “opening out the debate”. One is tempted to ask what were you doing on the ACMD, where have you been for the last 15 years? Transform was founded (I think) in 1996 and there were legalisation/liberalisation and treatment arguments way before that.

    Some of the arguments about opening the debate are just special pleading by those who are not getting their own way, you will never get your own way if you cannot articulate what it is. If your way is differrent substantially to mine, you will need to engage, thinking me mad or not, otherwise anything you have to say is worthless. You might be surprised where we agree if you did engage.

    • Peter Reynolds

      David, apart from where you’re wrong I agree completely!

      I’ll respond more fully later

      Seriously Eric, where are you?

      I think Frankie’s gone to Hollywood permanently

  24. I agree Gilmore’s initial comment was not very clear in that he supported Nick Green’s call to look at Portugese style decrim of personal use, but also cited my BMJ piece which considered decrim but also summariesd the models of legal regulation detailed in Transform’s Blueprint.

    I think, however, he was much more clear in the following days when he spoke and wrote at length – but I agree he does rather confuse decriminalisation (of use) and legalisation/regulation (of production and supply), unfortunately he did not want a briefing from Transform before we press released – this might have helped clarify some things.

    But its not *that* confusing: he has clearly said he supports Greens call for decrim to be looked at, that similarly he thinks drug markets should be regulated refering to my BMJ piece. he is specifically he is interested in heroin prescribing models (the supervised use models David – not the Uk model of the 60s) . Those arent inconsistent positions – I agree with all three. Two of the models already exist (decrim and heroin prescribing)- and decrim would porbably be a precondition for any kind of extended non-medical regulated production and supply controls.

    Talking about regulation and control is not some ingenious meme David – Blueprint, that you claim to have read, details all the different aspexcts of drug production and supply that could be regulated (products, vendors, outlets, availability, use etc) – then makes very specific suggestions for different drugs. This is specifically contrasted with the (still growing after 50 years) illicit trade under which none of the above can be controlled – and indeed pressures will tend towards the encouraging use of the most dangerous, potent drugs, risky beaviours in unsafe environments.

    Such reforms are nothing to do with ‘normalisation’. Arguablyn that has happened under prohibition. Effective regulation, controls on marketing, and public education can, as tobacco policy of the last few years demonstrates, denormalise – without recourse to punitive responses to users, or absolutist prohibitions on supply.

    Blueprint does not claim to have everything right or to be a silver bullet solution – its the basis for a debate. If we are going to look at alternatives we need to know what they are especially as many opponents – yourself included, often set up straw man positions about what we were advocating (all drugs being freely available to everyone etc) .

    I await a coherent written critique from you David. Its not appeared yet in any blog comments ive read.

    Neither is saying that the current system is failed and that these options need to be looked at ‘fence sitting’. Acknowledging the current system is failed and calling for a debate on alternatives (which can, by all means, include ramping up enforcement/punitive responses) is a perfectly rational and consistent position. It seems this is what Eric has done.

  25. Peter Reynolds

    I fear our debate pales into insignificance.

    See here for the truth about the Home Office’s Drug Strategy consultation.

  26. Thanks Steve and others for your thoughtful comments. Just to observe that from my perspective one of the huge strengths of the Blueprint report, which I read some time ago so I apologise if I get something wrong, was its acknowledgement of its limitations. It put out a proposal for discussion and argument. And Steve and I had extensive, interesting email discussions some months ago in particular about my views about its shortcomings about prevention and young people.

    I deeply regret the unpleasantness that has surfaced in these comments and in my own reaction to feeling attacked. It would be great to know what public policy on drugs should look like exactly but I don’t know exactly what it should be. What I do know is that we’ve got to a point where we need to bring all the evidence and opinion together and where if people genuinely care they need to shift out of their comfort zones.

  27. Franklin Percival

    Hi Eric.

    Seems to me that we are getting back to the purpose of the thread as I saw it initially. How can we influence policy, however?

  28. Peter Reynolds

    Eric, Franklin, David, Steve,

    What is you reaction to the Home Office’s Drug Strategy consultation?

  29. Pingback: Seven experts in the Drugs field who the Government should listen to « StaceInspire's Blog

  30. We will be repsonding to the consultation document next week on the blog – needless to say I have serious concerns about the consutaltion process and the policy content and way in which the questions are framed.

  31. Pingback: Seven experts in the Drugs field who the Government should listen to |

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