LAW AND ORDER
The interview with Neil Woods ( DDN , October , page 8 ) was fascinating . He ’ s clearly had a front-row seat to the worst of the drug dealing world that few people would want , and it ’ s clearly – and unsurprisingly – taken its toll . ‘ When police say these things we get listened to more than most ,’ he says of the debate around legalisation and regulation , and that ’ s as it should be . However , I can ’ t help feeling that his experiences – and the undoubted passion he feels for this agenda – might be blinding him to some facets of the debate . ‘ Consumption is the bogeyman of the prohibitionist ,’ he says . ‘ I don ’ t care if someone wants to take MDMA and dance in a field ’ – well , neither do I . ‘ I don ’ t care if more people start using cannabis ’ – neither do I , with the major caveat of the wellresearched links with serious mental health issues . But the legalisation lobby want everything to be regulated , and I ’ ve still never seen a convincing model of how this could realistically work in practice .
Who would be the producers of regulated heroin and cocaine ? Would there be regulated crack cocaine ? Who would sell it – the government , big pharma ? And how much would it cost ? Too much and it ’ s fuelling acquisitive crime and driving people back to the dealers who are supposed to be cut out by this model . Too little and you ’ re risking a massive increase in use .
But then a massive increase in use is an inevitable outcome of full legalisation , and the legalisers know this – it ’ s just a price they ’ re willing to pay for their utopian dream . They might argue disingenuously that it ’ s not the case , but everyone knows that ’ s what would happen . Look at mephedrone , which had massive levels of use among young people who ’ d never taken drugs before . They could legally buy it online , so they thought it was ok . As soon as it was banned , usage rates fell off a cliff and are now basically limited to the chemsex scene and a few clubbers . I ’ m fully in favour of decriminalisation , and I ’ m willing to be convinced by the full legalisation argument . It just hasn ’ t happened yet . Peter Walsh , by email
As an ex-probation officer I wasn ’ t surprised to find that the report by HM Inspectorate of Probation and CQC concluded that people with drug issues were not getting the support they needed from the probation services ( DDN , September , page 4 ). Apart from in a very few cases , this isn ’ t down to probation officers not wanting to help – it ’ s just that they ’ re stretched so thin that they ’ re not really able to .
Newly qualified officers are supposed to start off by being given a manageable caseload of fairly low maintenance clients . I was handling more than double the recommended amount within a matter weeks – including having to step in on one case so high profile that it was actually lead story on the national news . ‘ In at the deep end ’ is one thing , but I ’ m not sure how having someone completely inexperienced handle these cases was helping anybody , least of all the client . The reason , of course , is that my more experienced colleagues were handling twice as many cases again , most of them complex and challenging in some way .
The work could be genuinely fulfilling on those occasions when I felt I was actually able to achieve something , but everyone I worked with was completely run ragged . According to another recent inspectorate report , ‘ Probation practitioners told us that high workloads were exacting a high personal toll upon them in the form of stress , sleeplessness , and fear of making serious mistakes through overwork ’. It was the same in my day , and I image if anything it ’ s probably got exponentially worse .
In the end I lasted less than a decade , before burnout – and the need to save my marriage – prompted a career change . If the authorities genuinely want a probation service that serves the needs of people with a drugs problem – and everyone else – then the solution is fairly simple . Fund it properly . Name and address supplied
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/ ddnmagazine @ ddnmagazine www . drinkanddrugsnews . com
I AM A ...
Jay Shifman is on the policy team of Choose Your Struggle in South Carolina
My job is in advocacy but as part of it I ’ m a speaker , coach and podcast host as well as an advocate . I founded Choose Your Struggle with the aim of helping to end stigma and promote honest and fact-based education on mental health , substance misuse and recovery , and drug use and policy .
I ’ ve been working from home since before COVID . I spend a lot of my time working on the podcast , conducting virtual coaching sessions , doing interviews on issues relating to mental health , substance misuse , recovery and drug use , and writing for a few publications .
rewarding aspect of my job is having an impact . When I hear from people that they connected with my work in a meaningful way , it makes it all worth it .
‘ You better love this stuff because none of us is getting rich off it .’
If I could change anything , I would like to see more people willing to say the things that need to be said to people with power – things like ‘ you ’ re wrong ’ or ‘ that ’ s flat-out false ’ or ‘ you ’ re lying ’. Politics is killing people .
If anyone asked me about starting a similar career , I would have to say : ‘ You better love this stuff because none of us is getting rich off it . But we love it .’
OUR ‘ I AM A …’ CAREERS SERIES aims to share knowledge and experience of different careers in the sector . You can take part through the ‘ get in touch ’ button on our website : www . drinkanddrugsnews . com / i-am-a /
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