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Revealed: Britain's Drug Habit

Discussion in 'Marijuana News from The USA' started by Superjoint, Apr 23, 2002.

  1. By Ben Summerskill and Kamal Ahmed
    Source: Observer UK

    More than half of Britain's 16- to 24-year-olds have taken illegal drugs, according to one of the most extensive studies undertaken into the growing drug culture. The news comes as the Government prepares a significant relaxation of drugs laws, The Observer can reveal.
    More people now believe tobacco is a 'drug of greater risk' than ecstasy, according to the Observer/ICM poll, which also reveals that more than 5 million people regularly use cannabis, 2.4m ecstasy and 2m amphetamines and cocaine.

    Two in five people between 25 and 34 and more than a third of 35- to 44-year-olds say they have taken unlawful drugs, confirming that drug use is more prevalent than previously believed. The findings, in a poll commissioned as part of a months-long investigation into drug use published today in Drugs Uncovered, a special 64-page magazine free with The Observer, will increase pressure on the Home Office to speed up reform of drugs laws.

    David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is now set to lay fresh legislation before Parliament in June to allow the reclassification of cannabis from Class B to Class C, a move which many see in effect as decriminalisation.

    Government officials said that two of Blunkett's three 'tests' on cannabis had now been met. Firstly, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs reported earlier this year that it supported reclassification of cannabis. Secondly, in Lambeth, London, an experiment by the Metropolitan Police under which users have cannabis seized rather than face arrest has been seen as a success, with wide public support.

    The third test is the long-awaited Home Affairs Select Committee report on drugs which, as The Observer revealed earlier in the year, will also back the move when it is published in mid-May. Sources said Blunkett would then 'lay an order in council', allowing an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

    In another signal that Blunkett is softening his line on drugs, in December GPs will be sent new guidelines on prescribing heroin. Published by the Department of Health under pressure from the Home Office, these will say that doctors should be more willing to prescribe the drug to addicts. The Home Office hopes that up to 1,500 heroin addicts could be helped. At the moment only 300 are prescribed heroin by GPs, a tiny percentage of the 270,000 heroin addicts in the country.

    The Observer poll reveals that 28 per cent of people over 16 - 13 million adults - have taken illegal drugs. Men are twice as likely to have taken drugs as women. Two million people say they took drugs while under 14. Four out of five illegal drug users have taken cannabis, 27 per cent ecstasy, 25 per cent amphetamines and more than one in five LSD and cocaine.

    Roger Howard, chief executive of Drugscope, said: 'We are not surprised. The threat of criminal sanctions is simply not stopping large numbers of young people experimenting with drugs.'

    Police forces already claim to have insufficient resources to monitor use of all drugs. The experiment in Lambeth introduced confiscation, rather than arrest for those found in possession of cannabis. Its pioneer, Commander Brian Paddick, has now been suspended after a former partner claimed he had smoked cannabis in Paddick's home.

    Under the scheme, arrests for dealing in hard drugs have climbed and street robberies have fallen.

    Opponents of existing drugs laws say the illegality of cannabis and ecstasy in particular leads to the 'criminalisation' of otherwise law-abiding young people. Last year Prince Harry admitted taking cannabis while celebrating the end of his GCSEs.

    The Home Affairs Select Committee is expected to recommend this summer that cannabis be decriminalised and ecstasy downgraded to Class B.

    However, even as the Home Secretary wrestles with Britain's drugs crisis, he faces public pressure not to relax the drugs laws. Just 35 per cent of voters say cannabis should be decriminalised; 7 per cent want ecstasy made legal; only 4 per cent think all drugs should be freely available.

    ICM Research polled 1,075 people aged 16-plus in February/March. The results were weighted to reflect the profile of all adults.

    Note: Exclusive poll shows more than half of young flout law.

    Drugs Uncovered: Observer Special: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/drugs/0,11908,686419,00.html

    Source: Observer, The (UK)
    Author: Ben Summerskill and Kamal Ahmed
    Published: Sunday, April 21, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 The Observer
    Contact: letters@observer.co.uk
    Website: http://www.observer.co.uk/

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