Pubdate: Thu,  6 Apr 2000
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2000 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Contact:  75 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER, England
Fax: +44-171-837 4530
Author: Hilary Kinnell and Nick Davies


Teenage heroin and crack use are serious matters: equally
worrying is the poor drugs knowledge reported (Heroin:
abusers start at 15, April 5), but this does not justify
alarmist reporting of a very small survey. Between 5% and
20% of 86 respondents in four towns means no more than four
teenagers have reported being offered heroin in each place.
This is hardly news. I'm sure I could find as many within 24
hours, and without any Department of Health funding, in my village.

HIV prevention and drugs workers have known heroin use was widespread
in these places for at least 10 years, but if agencies are not
reaching younger users, it is because they have not had the resources
to expand their services: underfunding of drug treatment and care is a
scan dal the Guardian has recently mentioned. What can be the excuse
for researchers from Manchester University to be unaware of the
publications from Manchester Lifeline? McDermott's Guide to Brown for
Beginners, for example, is just one of numerous drugs leaflets for
young people using their own language. Neither is the present relative
ubiquity of crack, compared with the late 80s, a shocking new
development. Ten years ago crack was rare everywhere except in the
fevered imagination of tabloid journalism.

Hilary Kinnell European Network for HIV Prevention in

The real insight of your report is the breath-taking ignorance in
official circles. Two experts, funded by the Department of Health on
be half of Drug Scope, tell us cities like Hull, Bradford and Bristol
have been "untouched" until recently by heroin. I have just checked
with police who deal with all three cities. The fact is heroin made
its home there years ago, as it did in every other city and in almost
every town. Bradford has a particularly successful heroin trade from
Pakistan. As for Hull and Bristol - tell a social worker or police
officer that they haven't had to deal with the heroin blackmarket for
years. At least you'd get a laugh.

The government's disastrous prohibition policy survives primarily
because the ministers and officials who defend it do not know what
they are talking about.

Nick Davies
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