Pubdate: Sun, 10 May 1998
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Contact: LETTERS


KEITH HELLAWELL (Hard facts about drugs we ignore at our peril, News
Review, April 26) makes a strong case for treatment and we would fully
endorse this view.

However, there is no standard treatment for drugs that is equivalent to
giving insulin to diabetics. One has only to think of familiar substances
such as nicotine, alcohol and chocolate to know there is no standard
treatment for abstinence. Even with a strong motivation to change, many

With some drugs we are able to prescribe alternatives. Users on maintenance
prescriptions are able to keep good jobs, stable relationships and stop
drug-related crime.

You don't hear people working in the drugs field talking of "hard drugs".
If "hard" means a real risk of serious harm to the user or to others, then
alcohol and tobacco must come into this category with alcohol causing
28,000 deaths a year.

Most of us know at least one person who is addicted to alcohol and several
who are addicted to nicotine.

Education is another difficult concept. Most children and young people know
more about drugs than their parents and teachers. In this context the "just
say no" approach lacks credibility and has been shown to be
counter-productive, especially as young people see the harm done by legal
drugs such as alcohol.

As Hellawell says, not all drugs are killers. In terms of the huge numbers
of substances used, the vast majority give only pleasure. We ignore this
fact at our peril. When a group of young people were told: "The effect of
drugs can last forever" the most common comment was, "If only".

We have heard much talk of thinking the unthinkable and finding the third
way but we haven't seen any evidence of it in the drugs field.

Anne Bell & Brian Palmer, Nurse Specialists, Edith Brown, Social Worker, Dr
Josie Hicks, General Practitioner, Susanne McGowan, Clinical Psychologist,
Dr Lyndsay Rushton, Locum Consultant Psychiatrist, Alistair Sutherland,
Consultant Clinical Psychologist Camberley, Surrey

- ----

ADDICTED: Hellawell's prescription for drug-abuse control was long on
rhetoric and short on ideas.

Why do people commit crimes to feed their habit? Because they are addicted.
Why are they addicted? Because they are genetically programmed to be so.
One in 10 of the population carries the gene but not all 10% will have
narcotics as their drug of choice. Alcohol, food and gambling play their

Go down Hellawell's road and nothing will be achieved but richer drug
barons and more suffering. Imprisonment only reinforces social isolation.
Has anybody the courage to try something different?

- - Kenneth Boyd, Farnham, Surrey

- ---