In an important editorial, the left-leaning UK Independent claims that the key to policy should be harm reduction. It maintains that drug abuse, like alcohol abuse and tobacco use, is primarily medical and health issue related, rather than criminal. It argues that in prisons, poorest housing schemes and leafy suburbs, the war on drugs has long been lost. Citing the Office for National Statistics, it reports 3,744 record deaths from drug abuse last year, the worst figure since 1993 (after acid house raves). The Independent highlights that it is now synthetic opioids that are driving this depressing trend. Fentanyl, an ultra-powerful medical and surgical painkiller, is the latest to turn up on the scene.
I disagree with the thrust of the Independent’s arguments and conclusions, in particular, the inherent left-wing bias. I question whether de-criminalizing drugs abuse will make the problem go away. Why should society adjust moral standards as an excuse for the weak and lazzy?
The facts are increasingly clear but projections for the future will be impacted by policy decisions in two key areas: (1) drug enforcement; (2) drug care programmes.
Drug enforcement activities in many countries have been behind the curve and now need radical strategic review to enhance effectiveness.
But the whole area of drug abuse care programs needs urgent parallel attention. Unless there are effective care programs, an epidemic will soon become a pandemic. As a conservative, I am not comfortable that the state simply picks up the bill and we are to passively assume that those ‘treated’ will become good citizens in the future. Addicts must be held accountable for the social, economical and psychological consequences of their actions. I would like to see national service reintroduced and, for example, if the state pays for rehab, then the patient pays back the state with several years of public service. Proper public healthcare and social safety nets are one thing but the cost of drug abuse care programs should not fall on the state alone.
Let me ask an open question:
Why can’t addicts, as part of their public rehab programme, do labour intensive work which tends to go to immigrants, for example, fruit picking?