Pubdate: Sun, 1 Jun 2008
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: 2008 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Author: Tom Brown


HOW did you become a methadone junkie?

Yes, you. Your methadone habit is costing us all UKP60m in Scotland and
you should be ashamed of yourself. It is every addict's dream to get
someone else to pay for their habit and that is what we have been
doing for the past 20 years. Which makes us something that rhymes with
drugs: mugs. Every time a lost-looking character comes into the
chemist, shuffles past the queue and insists on his or her beaker of
the stuff that looks like Fairy Liquid, we are partners in a social
obscenity As taxpayers, we are footing the bill, and that makes us
complicit in the sleaziness of the drug-dealing business.

The myth that methadone helps reduce the problem is just one symptom
of the ineffective conspiracy of sympathisers who have turned drugs
services into a self-perpetuating industry.

It is part of the policy of tacit acceptance that drugs are here to
stay - and the only hope is not to purge them from our system but
somehow to reduce the UKP2.6bn annual cost of substance abuse in
Scotland in health treatment, social services, policing, prisons and
drug-associated crimes.

And before outraged welfarists mount their white chargers, such views
are non-political and certainly not right-wing, but merely born of
frustration. The ordinary citizen, baffled by the free flow of drugs
into the country and our communities becoming awash with illegal
substances, is entitled to ask what we have gained by paying so much
for so long for such pointlessness. There is bewilderment when drug
families and social workers talk about addicts being "ill"; to those
outside the vicious circle it is not a medical problem, it is a crime
problem. Taking drugs is against the law but while, say, motoring laws
are enforced to the letter, drugs laws are not.

Methadone, a highly addictive and dangerous substance which has caused
the deaths of the children of addicts, is touted as a substitute for
heroin, although many use it as a 'top-up' with street-bought hard
stuff. It most definitely is not a substitute for the one policy that
has not been given a proper chance: hard-line enforcement.

Nor is there much hope that The Road To Recovery national drugs
strategy announced by Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing will be a
substitute for the failures of the past. The focus is supposed to be
on getting clean without methadone, yet there is no hard talk about
the most successful drugs-release programmes which are based on 'cold
turkey' and steering addicts into productive work.

Ewing's platitudinous statement about "too many souls lost on a road
to perdition" is typical of the tosh talked by politicians who do not
know or care how the silent majority feel. If I hear one more TV
interview with an addict complaining they have nothing to fill their
empty days, or a social worker excusing "clients" because of
deprivation and poverty, I will put my foot through the screen.

This is an insult to those who are genuinely ill, not deliberate
abusers (on whom the cost of up to UKP4,000 a year to keep an addict
happy would be better spent), as well as to those who live in real
hardship without dosing themselves with self-pity and heroin.

Given the dearth of rehabilitation centres, there can be no confidence
that the new strategy will phase out addiction, and the easy option of
methadone will remain.

Too many have been hooked on it by prescription, merely replacing one
addiction with another that is Government-approved.

Prevention and total abstinence remain the only effective answers, but
that does not mean wasting more public money.

Every household is to receive an information leaflet so that parents
can warn their children off drugs, but is that not what every parent
should be doing anyway?

The message is simple: if you take drugs, you will either die or ruin
your life and probably spend a large part of it in jail. If parents
are too feckless to spell that out to their children, they are hardly
likely to switch off the telly and discuss a Government leaflet with

The easy availability of drugs within our prison system is a
reflection of the total failure to stem the flood in our wider community.

The Scottish Prisons Service congratulate themselves on making 1,779
drug seizures last year but they should be ashamed it is so low, since
everyone knows that prisons are awash with drugs.

The ingenuity of those sneaking in substances knows no bounds - passed
in kissing and even in babies' nappies.

But it is scarcely credible that there should be a thriving trade and,
worse, that drugs barons are running networks from their cells using
smuggled mobile phones.

If you cannot get a mobile phone undetected through airport checks,
how is it possible in a supposedly secure prison?

If our systems are so lax that you cannot have drug-free prisons, how
can we expect a drug-free society? It is either inefficiency - or
could it possibly be connivance, since the suspicion arises that drugs
keep prisons quiet?

The long-suffering, foot-the-bill ordinary citizen would be right to
conclude that pious pronouncements and the soft touch are useless in
the war on drugs, and it is time for an uncompromising crackdown on
supply, trafficking and personal use. And once the drugs scourge has
been dealt with we can turn our attention to our even more costly
addiction: drink. Or do we just give up on that one too?
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake