People often ask me this question. The sad fact is that drug use is a part of our society and has been for many years. Some people see nothing wrong in smoking cannabis. Whilst it is true that occasional cannabis use on its own may never cause the user any long term health problems, it is also true that cannabis is a gateway to much harder and more serious drug use.
Earlier in my police career I spent several years working with drug treatment agencies and during that time I was involved with the treatment of a large number heroin addicts and hard drug users. The depravity and ruined lives that I have seen doesn’t bear thinking about. The fact is though, that almost all of those addicts started on cannabis. I have interviewed many drug users about their addiction and the overriding theme was that it started as a bit of a laugh, very few ever expected that smoking a bit of weed would ever lead them to an addiction to hard drugs. It is difficult to underestimate the darkness of heroin addiction.
Most heroin users need to use the drug just to feel normal; to be able to get through the day. The physical and mental traumas users suffer if they can’t get their hit are horrific. This then leads to how they fund their addiction. Many will commit shop thefts, burglaries or even rob people in the street and some sell drugs to others to get the money – all of which risk prison sentences when caught.
I recall an addict once saying to me – “It’s alright for you; you can take a day off every now and then. I have to do this every day. If I can’t get the money I’ll be ill, I have to have the drugs, even on Christmas day.”
Occasionally drug users are able to hold down a job for a while but it is often the case that the cost of the drugs takes over and many end up losing everything; their home, their car and their family. Some people start using cannabis from a very young age, many whilst still at school. I have often had to deal with parents that are distraught because their child is stealing from them to get money to buy drugs.
It’s striking that as many as 84% of Britons don’t believe that the “war on drugs” can ever be won. If that’s the case, you might think, then why is there not more support for policies that reject this failed strategy? The answer is probably that “war” is a misleading metaphor for combating drugs. As cultural critic and former prison doctor Theodore Dalrymple has put it: “Saying the war against drugs is unwinnable is like saying the war against burglary is unwinnable and we should open our doors. Absurd. War is the wrong word.”
There is no doubt that a great deal of crime is linked to drug use, so as police, we make every effort to do something about it. We will target the dealers and users of illegal drugs using whatever tactics are available to us. We also work in conjunction with schools to offer education on the law around the subject. We now have new powers to deal with offences of driving whilst under the influence of drugs.
There are many sources of help for those concerned about drug use; the Frank website is a good place to start www.talktofrank.com, Addaction are also an excellent organisation offering advice and practical help www.addaction.org.uk. I am also happy for anyone to contact me to discuss their concerns.
Sergeant Andrew Street