Drink and Drugs News DDN March 2020 | Page 11

COMMENT They said what..? Spotlight on the national media WILL A BORIS JOHNSON government introduce drug consumption rooms? A supervised consumption facility would allow the Tories to be ‘tough on crime’ by pursuing drug dealers, but sympathetic to those in the throes of homelessness and addiction… At a time when the opposition party has lost all but one seat in Scotland, surely the strategy for the Tories must be to capitalise on the low hanging fruit and facilitate the piloting of live-saving safer drug consumption facilities? Ant Lehane, Herald Scotland, 17 February A TRANSATLANTIC SCHISM has opened up over vaping and health. In the US, the war on vaping is being pursued by activists, politicians and scientists who believe that tobacco companies are cynically promoting e-cigarettes as a means to get people addicted to nicotine, which will – sooner or later – lead them to cigarettes. In the UK, anti- smoking campaigners and health experts counter that for many adult smokers, vaping offers the best hope of avoiding a premature death. The two sides periodically break into open hostilities. The claim by PHE that vaping is 95 per cent safer than smoking tobacco, frequently quoted by e-cigarette manufacturers and sellers, has been criticised as misleading by anti-smoking campaigners in the US… Many public health experts in the UK believe they are witnessing an unnecessary tragedy, and that failure to promote the most promising method of helping people quit smoking is endangering the lives of millions. Sarah Boseley, Guardian, 18 February I KNOW THE DAMAGE short-term prison sentences do and I also know how ineffective they are. I’ve met too many people who are serving a life sentence in instalments, their addiction and WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM Surely the strategy for the Tories must be to capitalise on the low hanging fruit and facilitate the piloting of live-saving safer drug consumption facilities? mental health needs untreated, their trauma unaddressed and their housing, social support and employment broken over and over again. Our own addiction to imprisonment as the only response to crime feeds itself, repeatedly setting people up to fail as they return to prison. Karyn McCluskey, Scotsman, 24 February WHEN IT COMES TO DRUGS POLICY, California is the most fascinating large-scale experiment happening anywhere in the world — and it’s well worth studying, given how legalising cannabis might affect tax revenues and the local economy and have unpredictable consequences for public health and the criminal justice system… One report suggests that cannabis sales in California hit almost £3bn in 2019, and that same year around 67,000 jobs in the state were estimated to be supported by the industry. That’s all positive, but tax revenues have disappointed — raising less than a third of the roughly £1bn a year that had been forecasted. The main reason seems to be the extremely high tax rates California levies on legal marijuana — making it far cheaper to buy cannabis from an illegal dealer. Rohan Silva, London Evening Standard, 6 February CHANGING THE RECORD ‘P When we start treating people who use drugs as grown-ups we will start to get somewhere, Adam Winstock told the GPs’ conference olicy has to accept that people are using alcohol and other drugs… most people who use drugs do so moderately.’ Running the Global Drug Survey (GDS) for the past five years had confirmed to Adam Winstock that we need to change our attitude and culture towards drugs. Participants in the GDS will ‘pass the million mark’ this year, ‘the largest drug survey in the world’. ‘Our role is to try and change the conversation,’ he said. ‘If we can encourage people to use less than once a month, rates of dependency are negligible. When you get to weekly use, dependency risk increases.’ So reducing people’s frequency of use was a key outcome. Not only was this sound harm reduction practice, but also ‘people who use safely get most pleasure’. The more problematic areas were beyond GDS’ sphere of influence – social inequality and deprivation. ‘Once you’ve developed dependency you can’t usually get back to safe use,’ said Winstock. ‘Zero tolerance drug policy doesn’t allow us to help.’ The latest drug strategy had continued to underpin failing policy. ‘The slashing of funding is partly responsible for spiralling deaths,’ he said. ‘The drug-related death graphs are unacceptable in a developed country.’ To moderate people’s use you had to tap into things they know, such as cannabis can affect your driving, or make you forget things. ‘We need to treat drug users as grown up,’ he said. Even the language around drug use ‘puts distance between us and them… it dehumanises people’. Furthermore, we should be moving away from what drugs people used to why they used them. British binge drinking had become a ‘normative delusion’, so ‘if we want to encourage moderation, we need to look at motivation,’ he said. These motivations needed to be age relevant – so for example health warnings for older people and embarrassment for younger people, who might readily identify with the ‘risks of alcohol-related social embarrassment (ARSE)’. ‘The current laws don’t work – we need marketing messages that show how positive messages can use positive choices,’ said Winstock. ‘Messages that talk about zero tolerance do not change behaviour.’ MARCH 2020 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • 11