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  • Recreational drugs policy
  • 14
    tjagain
    Full Member

    This is intended as a discussion piece.  Loads of folk on here with differing viewpoints and experiences.  Might make a change from politics :-)

    A topic I am interested in partly because I have worked a little in drug and alcohol rehab and also alongside police and in the prison service and partly from my, shall we say “ bohemian past”

    We are seeing a change across the world in relation to drug policies with harm reduction and some for of legalisation spreading. The latest being Germany legalising possession and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis although hilariously its got bogged down in a kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare

    My approach is a harm reduction one. Thats all. No moral judgements. Each drug needs to be looked at differently – they have different effects both on individuals and society.  The criminal justice system is failing to do any good in this world and police know this

    The war on drugs has failed. Its time for a new approach. Evidence based practice

    Cannabis.

    Millions of folk smoke cannabis in the UK regularly. Not just waster kids but professional folk. For many of these folk there is literally no downside. There is a correlation between cannabis use and psychosis however a causal link is very much unproven. There are 3 theories on this. Direct cause, coincidence and trigger in susceptible folk. Personally I believe the 3rd. One aspect of prohibition is that it means any meaningful research is almost impossible.

    Around the world we are seeing a big change in laws around cannabis from Canadas full legal market where products are tested and what is in them is recorded. I do wonder if they have gone too far as you can also buy pure THC and this is also used to adulterate weed to increase its strength. Netherlands has an odd setup in that possession of small amounts is legal but everything else remains illegal – this has put a lot of money into the hands of criminals. There are steps to resolve this but it ain’t there yet.

    Germany and Spain have a setup where you have “cannabis clubs” that you can join and these clubs are allowed to grow so much per member and simple possession is legal.

    So that is 3 different models for decriminalisation of cannabis. There is no great evidence of any increase in psychosis in countries with decriminalisation as far as I am aware.

    There is also good evidence that increased access to cannabis reduces rates of addiction to heroin and consumption of other drugs as if you want to get high its easy to get some cannabis to do so

    Cannabis can be a crutch to get thru “shit life syndrome” but it can also be just a simple relaxation and creativity enhancer for folk. There is nothing more boring that a stoner with nowt else in their lives but they do little harm to society but that is not how most smokers end up.

    Cannabis is not addictive in the meaningful sense of the word but it does change brain chemistry and many folk become life long stoners but this does not effect their ability to hold down professional jobs and be contributing members of society.

    I think the spanish approach is a good one. I have reservations overt the canadian system but could be convinced

    Heroin ( and other opiates)

    Heroin is mainly IMO a crutch for “shit life syndrome” Its takes away the pain of a shit life. In the UK we have methodone substitution for folk wanting to get off heroin. Its more expensive than heroin and is ( many folk believe) more addictive and most importantly it does not work.

    Personally I would decriminalise possession for small amounts and use heroin for maintenance taken under supervision. Large amounts ( 70% in some areas) of crime is done by folk trying to get money for their fix. Take away that need to get money and you reduce crime massively – shoplifting, housebreaking and forced prostitution. The cost to the country would be far less than dealing with the crime. A heroin addict with a good clean supply will be no bother to society.  also it would free up huge amounts of police time.  continue to chase dealers hard

    The Netherlands and Switzerland have this sort of approach and in the netherlands heroin addicition is very much a non issue with the average age of addicts increasing every year and the numbers decreasing – ie few if any new recruits, This sort of approach also kills the illegal market. Why go to a dealer for some impure heroin when you doc will give you the good stuff? In the UK we see increasing numbers of heroin addicts and the average age gets younger. I like the dutch approach

    MDMA / Ecstasy

    A very safe drug with little harm. Taken by many folk no obvious link to any mental health issues bar it seems to help with depression. It also may well have a use in treatment of mental health issues and some work in this area has been done with interesting results. It causes release of serotonin and oxytocin and thus creates really strong bonds between people. Serotonin depletion a day or two after taking it is not nice and its addicive potential is pretty much nil as you build tolerance so fast. You just cannot remain high for long. Direct deaths from it are virtually nil.

    Psylocibin and LSD are similar but more potent.  risk of mental health issues higher for sure

    I would go for a legal market in safe forms at low doses

    Cocaine

    Great to take – really damaging to individuals and society. No harm reduction argument for any significant decriminalisation IMO. Cocaine usage is a key part of the city excesses and boom and bust of the 90s. Heavy cocaine users have heart attacks and strokes

    Crack I do not know much about really – could be a harm reduction argument but I have my doubts

    so thats my thoughts on it all and a basis for discussion. I am keen on seeing this stuff from a harm reduction approach and a evidence based approach

    11
    thols2
    Free Member

    The war on drugs has failed.

    Depends which side you were rooting for.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Also I think we need to look at the link between recreational drugs and creativity especially music.  the second summer of love and the rave generation would nev er have happened without MDMA.  Psychedelia and the hippeies without cannabis and LSD ( and Dr Spocks baby book :-)  ) Reggfae is nothing without cannabis.  Many great artists in many fields have been recreational drug users from Aldous Huxley to Van Gogh

    2
    joshvegas
    Free Member

    The only conclusion i come to with the topic is basically “**** me its complicated”

    However, they’re clearly not going away so keeping people safe and the money out of the criminal channels and into something that can do good, either directly or as part of social improvements seems like a no brainer.

    3
    retrorick
    Full Member

    Lots of people taking drugs to emulate their drug taking music heroes would never have happened if it wasn’t for drug taking?

    I enjoy music without the drugs. If the music or painting hadn’t been created because of the lack of drugs I wouldn’t be that bothered.

    That’s why I took up cycling as it is a drug free hobby.

    Now where is my winky eye emoji.

    ;-)

    6
    Cougar
    Full Member

    the rave generation would never have happened without MDMA.

    That’s as good a reason as any to ban it. :-)

    1
    wbo
    Free Member

    I don’t know how you can make such a clear distinction between heroin (almost harmless is how I read the above) and cocaine .  Well, except that cocaine is perceived as for rich people.

    https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/etudes/join/2001/300758/IPOL-LIBE_ET(2001)300758_EN.pdf

    Some reading for you :-)

    2
    nickc
    Full Member

    Orgon is reversing it’s decision to decriminalise hard drugs. It’s an interesting article. On the face of it, I agree that ‘the war on drugs’ from a perspective of a decision to take a moral stance on some drugs and penalise their use has failed. Having said that, nearly every attempt to reclassify them or bring them under an available [but taxed] route has hit some sort of barrier to success. be that increased deaths through overdose, more people taking drugs, or a lack of resourcing properly funded addiction programmes.

    I would go for a legal market in safe forms at low doses

    In California they’ve found that folks aren’t actually keen on spending more money than they’ve been used to on cannabis, although those sources are legal and the quality is apparently very high, and still prefer to buy it  from [strictly speaking] criminal sources. What’s the incentive for buying more expensive lower doses drug than folks can via their normal route?

    1
    creakingdoor
    Free Member

    Portugal seems to have a very forward-thinking policy.

    https://transformdrugs.org/blog/drug-decriminalisation-in-portugal-setting-the-record-straight

    If we stopped criminalising & jailing drug addicts, and offered them treatment instead, our prisons wouldn’t be creaking and we could concentrate on the prisoners who ‘should’ be there. We’d also take the business model away from the illegal drug industry, meaning many dealers would have to find ‘proper’ work, and wouldn’t themselves be clogging up the judicial system.

    Eveything points to the fact that the ‘war’ is lost, and that narcotics supply and use fuels a massive amount of crime in this country. However it will take a courageous politician to take that step.

    3
    nickc
    Full Member

    I like the dutch approach

    Rotterdam is literally awash with drugs and the criminality that comes with it. and the sewage run off from Amsterdam  has the highest traces of drugs in Europe.

    3
    tjagain
    Full Member

    I don’t know how you can make such a clear distinction between heroin (almost harmless is how I read the above) and cocaine . Well, except that cocaine is perceived as for rich people.

    Heroins main adverse effects are from prohibition ( crime, overdosage, impure drugs, sharing needles).  Cocaine is from the actual drug.  ( cardiovascular disease and mental health and aggression particularly mixed with alcohol)

    Look at folk like Will Self or William S. Burroughs both heroin addicts for a long time.  heroins harms are vast to society in terms of crime and wasted lives but adverse effects on a persons health are small IF they have access to a clean supply they can afford

    I would only decriminalise small amount possession of Heroin simply because it does no good to criminalise it.  I have dealt with heroin addicts in the criminal justice system and it does no good at all – just adds to the harm.  All that police effort saved from having to deal with petty crime could in part be used to go after the importers / dealers and also deal with it as a health issue

    I do not see a harm reduction argument for cocaine in the same way.  I also do consider it more harmful to individuals but heroin destroys lives as well  no doubt.  Its just a harm reduction approach can mitigate a lot of these harms

    this is all just a semi informed personal view for discussion but I did not mean to deny the adverse effects of heroin

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Nickc – thats cocaine not heroin.  this is why we need to look at each drug individually.  Its also quite possibley part of the fact profits from Cannabis in the netherlands goes into the black economy

    My sister who is an investigative jpournalist in the netherlands is where I get my info on the dutch heroin issue

    Edit – I see a place for misunderstanding – I like the dutch / swizz approach to heroin addiction ie maintain on heroin taken in a supervised place and treat ass a healthcare issue.  their approach to cannabis has major flaws in my view.  for cannabis I prefer the Spanish solution

    6
    MoreCashThanDash
    Full Member

    The war on drugs has failed, the least worst option is to keep people safe, not just the drugs they take but the resultant crime around it.

    We have (restricted) legal access to nicotine snd alcohol, which also raises taxes which “could” be used to help with rehab and wider issues.

    I’m not seeing a better option really.

    1
    nickc
    Full Member

    but adverse effects on a persons health are small IF they have access to a clean supply they can afford

    How are you going to prevent folks from mixing alcohol (or any other drug) and heroin? While I don’t think you were underplaying the harmful effects and I agree that many of the harms are from it’s legal status, killing yourself with it is startlingly easy.

    3
    Kramer
    Free Member

    Whilst I am broadly sympathetic with your position @tjagain, I’m afraid that

    For many of these folk there is literally no downside.

    to smoking cannabis is categorically untrue. There is a strong correlation between smoking cannabis and lung disease.

    1
    nickc
    Full Member

    where I get my info on the dutch heroin issue

    Yes, you probs have a better informed opinion about that country than I do, but the issue still stands from that article, more illegal drugs go through Rotterdam than anywhere else in Europe and while it’s not heroin, I wouldn’t be totalled convinced that legalising any of these drugs is the simple solution to the harm they do to people.

    6
    funkmasterp
    Full Member

    Psylocibin and LSD are similar but more potent.  risk of mental health issues higher for sure

    I watched a great series on Netflix about the history of hallucinogenic drugs. Lots of research being done on how LSD, Mescaline and others can help with mental health issues. The fact they are illegal makes this work more difficult.

    I still think it is odd how alcohol is fine but all other drugs are bad. I’ve lived with the effects of alcohol and they can be devastating. It is a tricky subject as one persons weekend or evening choice of stress reliever/fun can leave the next with a crippling addiction. No idea what the answer is but leaving it all up to criminals is a really shit one. People are going to take drugs, that needs to be accepted and then a plan formed on how best to take the criminal element out of it.

    6
    joshvegas
    Free Member

    killing yourself with it is startlingly easy.

    You could say the same for alcohol…

    1
    tjagain
    Full Member

    Education and a healthcare approach.

    Its a different drug but look at Leah Betts death.  she wanted to get high but knew little about drugs.  She had an ecstasy pill and some opiates.  as she came up she panicked and remembered something about drinking water ( which is an issue – you can dehydrate) she drank so much water that she got cerebral oedema and died.  If she had not been worried about legal implications she could have got good advice and would have lived.  If cannabis was legal she would probably have had some of that

    ~Edit – this was in answer to Nickc about heroin mixing with other stuff.

    1
    tjagain
    Full Member

    Good point Kramer.  I did forget that and also the risk of getting addicted to tobacco.  Ta.  common sense would say smoking cannabis is a high lung cancer risk

    2
    MoreCashThanDash
    Full Member

    killing yourself with it is startlingly easy.

    This will sound harsh, especially as drugs can affect the most vulnerable in society, but there’s all sorts of other ways people kill themselves due to slight misjudgement.

    All “we” can do is offer advice and support, but if people misjudge drugs and alcohol, or speed in a car, or how high they can jump into a lake, there’s a limit to how much they can be protected.

    3
    greyspoke
    Free Member

    An added issue is the “devil you know” argument.  Despite all the terrible effects of alcohol, society understands it.  That is not the case for all drugs.  So any harm based logic needs to factor in the ability of society to cope with a drug and the people who take it (and may have overdone it).

    With this in mind I would say there is merit in legalising/decriminalising a reduced menu of drugs, with good public information about them and quality standards.

    I don’t have enough personal experience to offer an opinion as to what should  be on the menu, though I was quite taken with the ketamine I had in hospital once.  Fentanyl on the other hand, that was rubbish.  Effective painkiller mind.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    I had fentanyl and midazolam as sedation once in hospital.  They insisted I had someone to take me home but I felt fine – infact I felt GOOD!  In hindsight my judgement was severely clouded and it took hours to walk home.  If I had been on my own gawd knows where i would have ended up!

    3
    dazh
    Full Member

    Christ that’s a lot to read. :-)

    My position on this is quite simple, legalise the lot but do it slowly and only after huge amounts of public education and additional therapeutic and medical support for people who fall victim to addiction or misuse. Any method of decriminalisation or regulation that leaves the supply in the hands of criminals or provides an opportunity for a black market doesn’t solve the problem. Some drugs like MDMA, Psylocibyn, Cannabis (non-skunk versions) could be legalised tomorrow as they’re pretty harmless and already in wide circulation and used by a significant portion of the population. Other stuff like cocaine, heroin, LSD, Ketamin etc needs lots of eduction and destigmatisation to alert people to the dangers of misuse.

    The main change that needs to happen though is that grown adults (I’m not advocating for under-18s to have access obvs) should be trusted to make decisions about what they consume and then take responsibility for any problems resulting from it, just like in most other areas of life. The state and the law has no business telling people what they can and can’t do to enjoy themselves as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Dazh – I decided not to include Ketamine, benzodiazipines, amphetamines etc – just imagine how long it would have been then :-)

    Nickc – just to be clear I am not advocating a legal heroin market.  I am advocating no criminal penalties for simple possession and evidence based treatment / maintenance along with hard enforcement of dealing and importing

    cocaine i am advocating leaving completely illegal.

    Cannabis and MDMA I am advocating some for of controlled legal market

    3
    dyna-ti
    Full Member

    Cannabis can be a crutch to get thru “shit life syndrome”

    The fabulous furry freak brothers – “Dope will get you through times of no money, better than money will get you through times of no dope”

    2
    mrbadger
    Free Member

    Cocaine is from the actual drug.  ( cardiovascular disease and mental health and aggression particularly mixed with alcohol)

    Hmm. Whilst not disputing it’s an awful drug, I think we need some balance here when comparing to heroin. Cocaine’s acute affects can kill you no doubt, but then so can heroin. Usually the cause of both is overdose. Nearly everyone I know has taken coke at some point, and none have died from a few lines down the pub.

    Longer term, both cause mental health issues, heroin is also well known for this. As for cardiovascular disease, yes some evidence points towards this but it’s probably no worse for you than alcohol and cigarettes. That’s coming from a cardiologist btw

    I have a personal interest in this, being as I am an ex coke addict. And after a good few years of continual heavy abuse, anecdotally, my cardiovascular system is apparently in no worse shape than anyone else my age, especially given I smoked for 25 years.

    With regards to my own experience of how it affected my mental health. One of the reasons I got addicted in first place was because of my mental health issues so i had a low starting point. That said however I certainly feel the longer term impact of coke has had a further detriment

    1
    nickc
    Full Member

    You could say the same for alcohol…

    Oh undoubtedly. I’m not suggesting that alcohol is somehow less bad, or that heroin isn’t. The reality is that you can kill yourself with both of these things, but one of them takes just a teeny mistake with even just your first go at it, and it’s goodnight forever. That’s much harder to do (but not impossible, agreed) with booze. Many drug addicts and users these days are mixing their drugs (other illegal drugs or booze) and its wildly dangerous behaviour.

    jeffl
    Full Member

    My thinking is that if alcohol was discovered tomorrow it would be illegal to consume. I like alcohol.

    Never been into the drug taking scene myself but in theory I agree that MDMA, weed could be legalised tomorrow.

    Other drugs should be legalised after research into side effects etc and made available at a reasonable price, so that the criminality around drugs goes away. Although if we’re using the typical example of a smackhead stealing your £4,000 bike and selling it for £20 to get their next fix, if you legalised heroine, you’d have to make it free, like methadone, to certain people. That then opens up a can of worms over who can get the drugs for free.

    You can be sure as hell, that if a pub opened round the corner giving out free booze I’d be there. For me personally free heroine doesn’t appeal, but I’m sure to some it will.

    1
    dyna-ti
    Full Member

    but one of them takes just a teeny mistake with even just your first go at it, and it’s goodnight forever.

    Not sure I follow you here. Please explain.

    Do you mean you accidentally swallow the widget out your can of guinness ?

    1
    nickc
    Full Member

    Cannabis and MDMA I am advocating some for of controlled legal market

    Two things I can see would be the first hurdles; 1. The illegal market will react to the competition, 2. What’s the individual users incentive for spending [probably] more money on less good (see point one) drugs?

    tjagain
    Full Member

    and none have died from a few lines down the pub.

    One of my friends did.  Major heart attack.  2 have had strokes.  all did have unhealthy lifestyles but the cocaine useage led to these events no doubt at all in my mind.    Anecdote of course and possibly colours my view

    Opiates are used a lot in medicine simply because apart from the risk of addiction they are pretty safe and Heroin / morphine has IME less side effects than synthetic opioids.  Nothing is totally safe of course but again IMO most of heroins harms are from prohibition not the actual drug.

    6
    woody2000
    Full Member

    My recreational drug policy is “yes please”.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Two things I can see would be the first hurdles; 1. The illegal market will react to the competition, 2. What’s the individual users incentive for spending [probably] more money on less good (see point one) drugs?

    The illegal market will tend to die away if the legal market is good. Its actually better drugs with reasonable prices in legal markets if they are organised well.  Colorado IIRC had issue with the legal stuff being rubbish due to the way it was set up  but Canadas legal stuff is really good and not expensive and yo get informed choice – you can get high THC low CBD or the other way round, you can get organic weed, .  Its early days yet in many of these countries.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    if you legalised heroine, you’d have to make it free, like methadone, to certain people. That then opens up a can of worms over who can get the drugs for free.

    I am not advocating a legal market in heroin.  I am arguing for no criminal sanction for simple possession and instead of using methodone maintenance use heroin

    nickc
    Full Member

    I am advocating no criminal penalties for simple possession and evidence based treatment / maintenance along with hard enforcement of dealing and importing

    I think that’s where I am as well. but I’ve seen the harm that the legal drugs we have now do, as have you, and those folk come through my surgery everyday, is adding to that pile of unhappiness the right thing to do? I think you’re right that morally the war on drugs has been a massive waste of time energy and recourses, but knowing that some folks will be harmed, and will get addicted; is it moral to let that happen?

    nickc
    Full Member

    The illegal market will tend to die away if the legal market is good.

    I think that’s hopeless naïve.

    2
    tjagain
    Full Member

    Good question – the answer I have is by doing this you free up police time and you make it easier for folk to access services.  treat it as a healthcare issue not criminal.  My judgement is that overall harm would be reduced particularly with regard to heroin as the dutch / swizz approach of making heroin addiction bureaucratic and dull works in reducing the number of addicts ( I have no recent knowledge of the Swizz BTW)_

    Again that quote is for heroin and heroin only

    1
    tillydog
    Free Member

    Legalise everything and arrange supply on the same basis as alcohol and tobacco. Even in the mid 2000’s the tax income from tobacco products exceeded the cost of treating tobacco related illnesses.

    Get rid of the black market and its associated criminality.

    The model of the drug distribution business requires the recruitment of new ‘customers’ and the creation of addicts.

    3
    pictonroad
    Full Member

    I wouldn’t do them in the order you’ve suggested, the weekend would be all over the place.

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