Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘mental health

Has There Ever Been A Worse UK Government Than This?

with 53 comments

I am a member of the Conservative Party – just.  My annual subscription is due and I feel physically sick at the prospect of doing anything that is supportive of the appalling collection of third and fourth rates that presently sit round the cabinet table.

The Conservative Party has Lost Its Way. We Need To Get Back To Being Tories.

We need to re-focus on our fundamental principles: individual liberty, individual responsibility, small government, free markets, evidence-based policy and a benevolent, responsible, one-nation approach.

Let’s face it, we’ve had a privileged toff, little more than a ponce on the nation, who from his position of wealth found it very easy to impose austerity on people with whom he was totally out-of-touch. Throughout his political career he vacillated and dithered on policy because he has no principles except self-advancement.  Now we have some fake Tory, an authoritarian bureaucrat with big government, nanny state instincts, daughter of a high Anglican priest stuck in some 195os delusion of what Britain is today.

Meanwhile, a socialist activist but a man with integrity, courage and vision has stolen our place.  Jeremy Corbyn provides more leadership in the UK than the entire Conservative cabinet put together.  He was magnificent at Glastonbury, seizing the hearts and minds of not just the young but the young at heart – seizing the future!  Where is the Tory alternative? There is great excitement, belief and enthusiasm for Brexit, 17.4 million people voted for it!  Where is the Conservative spokesperson passionately declaiming this?  The party has been hijacked by Remainers, determined to undermine the referendum result, interested only in the ambitions and concerns of the Westminster Elite.

When I try to talk to my MP, Sir Oliver Letwin, formerly number three in Cameron’s cabinet, although I am talking to someone a few months younger than me, I feel I am talking to my father’s generation – and to someone particularly old-fashioned and out-of-touch.  My local Conservative Party branch, charming though many of the members are, is like an episode of Last of the Summer Wine, as disconnected from the rest of the UK as Cameron is from anyone on less than £250k per annum.  At 59, I’m a youngster.

It’s outrageous really that my party has got itself into such a state with years of weak opposition, popular support for non-socialist policies and, until Corbyn, an absence of effective alternative leadership.  It’s nothing less than disastrous and unless we change now we are doomed.  The membership is old and dying.  If we don’t get a grip within five years we will be gone forever.

A Perfect Storm Of Failure, Corruption And Arrogance.

I’ve been fascinated by and active in politics since the late 1970s. Never in my lifetime have I seen such a combination of mistakes and scandalous cock-ups. Brexit has been sabotaged by dithering and delay – and I’m quite ready to believe this is a calculated deceit.  With the BBC, the bankers and the Twitterati renewing Project Fear on a daily basis, is it any wonder that the going is tough?  Cameron resigned because he said we needed a Leave supporter to take charge but instead we have a Remainer, one of the worst performing government ministers ever.  How, after six years of persistent failure at the Home Office, she became PM is beyond belief but even more incredible is that after her terrible election performance she is still in No. 10.  It is ridiculous!

The failures are all too easy to see but let’s list them to be certain that the huge scale of this crisis is understood.

Brexit – Total failure to plan, perhaps deliberately, best illustrated by the absurd spectacle, just last month, of the Home Office commissioning analysis of the economic and social contributions and costs of EU citizens in Britain.  Surely something that should have been done years ago?  Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have both proved themselves to be lacking in courage and leadership skills.  The bumptious fool Dr Liam Fox, who does seem to stick to his principles on Brexit, shames us by his foreign adventures, recently praising the murdering thug President Duterte of the Philippines as having ‘shared values’ with Britain.

NHS – Persistent deceit from ministers, including the utterly in-credible Jeremy Hunt, about how much money in real terms the health service is receiving.  Scandalous failure to keep multiple promises about mental health having parity with physical health.

Democracy – The UK’s system of government is now a joke compared to other modern democracies.  Our electoral system is primitive.  Conservative and Labour parties conspire to keep the system as it is because it keeps them both in power.  It is obvious that we should be moving towards some form of proportional representation, online voting and a radical shake-up of the House of Lords.  MPs also need to be much more accountable.  The terrible murder of Jo Cox has let too many of them off the hook that the expenses scandal put them on.  Recently they have been whining about the abuse they get online. In general they deserve it for the terrible job they are doing. Also, they get protection from the police for such abuse.  The police are useless when it’s a member of the public under attack.  We need a job description for MPs, rights for constituents and a complaints procedure with teeth.

Social policy – I am ashamed at how Conservative ministers in reality are indistinguishable from the populist caricature of the ‘arrogant, uncaring, effing Tories’.  The Grenfell Tower tragedy encapsulates everything that is wrong with the high-handed view that they take of the people who pay their wages.

Justice – After food, shelter and health what is more important than justice?  The destruction of legal aid is one of the most dreadful developments in my lifetime.  All governments delight in making more and more law but what use is it if it cannot be enforced?  There is no justice if it is not available to everyone.  I am delighted at the Supreme Court’s ruling that makes legal aid available once again for employment tribunals  Without it employment law was literally useless and thousands have been deprived of their rights.  And for his disastrous, destructive, incompetent and thoroughly nasty attitude the man who defines injustice in modern Britain is Chris Grayling.  No other minster has more disgraced our party.  He is unfit to be in government and why he remains anywhere near ministerial office is unbelievable.  No one individual better epitomises the nasty, arrogant, incompetent Tory.

Prisons – There is no greater truth than that in a free society we are defined by how we treat those we send to jail.  This is a terrible condemnation of Britain.  Our prison system is a production line for turning petty criminals into alienated, aggressive, violent repeat offenders.  There is no one who deserves the additional punishments we impose on top of deprivation of liberty.  I would make an exception for Chris Grayling who really should be made to experience a taste of his own medicine.  The Netherlands is closing prisons because it doesn’t send enough people to jail.  We should swallow our pride and copy their system exactly.

Technology – As the nation that has led the world in virtually all new technologies, we are now falling a long way behind.  The government has failed miserably to give enough priority to high speed internet.  We will never catch up now and our children and our businesses are forever disadvantaged.  Progress is hampered in development of new energy sources, transport and infrastructure by bureaucracy, endless bickering between special interest groups and weak strategic management.  The EU has magnified all these problems and prevented progress in GM foods and other technologies that are essential to our future.

Transport – With Chris Grayling at the helm and the farce that is HS2, there is no hope for a sensible transport strategy.  I simply don’t buy the argument that a slightly faster journey time between north and south will do anything to create a better future.  Train fares are ludicrously high.  The conditions commuters are expected to travel under are ridiculous.  The Southern Rail scandal is a microcosm of government incompetence and inaction.  It should have been re-nationalised at least a year ago and there should be massive fines and penalties on those responsible for the chaos, including individuals.  I see no conflict with Conservative principles in re-nationalising the whole network.  The mess that has prevailed since privatisation could not be any worse and compare us with railway networks and service on the continent for a true picture of our national shame and decay.

Environment – Technology and transport converge with environmental policy and this is a difficult, challenging area of policy.  What we need is strong leadership – no, not the empty claims of Mrs May but the real leadership of Mrs Thatcher.  Even the despicable Tony Blair showed more leadership than we have had from any current Conservative politician.  We need to take bold decisions and act on them.  Ecology and controlling pollution must be a real priority but we must not be distracted by the greeny loons and their endless prevarication and delays.  I have no objection to fracking as long as it is strictly regulated and in recent visits to Ireland I have seen how forests of wind turbines do not destroy wonderful countryside and can have their own beauty, just as we now revere Victorian aqueducts and civil engineering.  Most of all though we should racing ahead with tidal power.  As an island it has to be our future and its potential is unlimited.

Northern Ireland – I hope one of the by-products of Brexit will be a united Ireland.  There is no longer a real majority of unionists in the six counties and it only ever existed because of immigrants from Scotland.  The UK’s shameful history in Ireland places a heavy obligation on us.  We are one and the same people and the damage inflicted by the English Parliament on our neighbours must be put right.  We are far closer to the Irish than we are to the French, the Dutch or the Belgians.  As independent nations, with Ulster properly restored, we could be closer than ever and if Ireland wishes to remain in the EU, we should respect that.

Drugs Policy – No policy better demonstrates the incompetence, prejudice, cowardice and corruption of government ministers from all parties. Deaths from drug overdose have reached an all time high. There has been an explosion in highly toxic new psychoactive substances and the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 has increased harms, deaths, associated crime and potency, exactly as was predicted, warnings the government chose to ignore.  The government has refused to consider or take any expert advice on introducing legal access to medical cannabis, something that virtually all other modern democracies are moving forward on. Its continuing policy on cannabis defies scientific evidence and real-life experience from places where reform has been implemented.  It also supports the criminal market, encourages street dealing, dangerous hidden cannabis farms and the production of poor quality, low-CBD, so-called ‘skunk’ cannabis.

Defence – A catalogue of cock-ups, dullards in charge and weak, indecisive leadership.  In my view we should cancel the renewal of Trident and  spend more on conventional weapons and defence measures which we may actually have to use.  We should retain some battlefield nuclear weapons but invest more in our soldiers and their technology. We should also look after them far better when they leave the service

Foreign Affairs – The UK is the world superpower in ‘soft power’.  Our culture, language, history give us more influence than any other nation and we should be proud to exercise it. We should have the courage to stand for our principles, independently of the USA and Europe.  The £12 billion we give in international aid is far too much when there is real poverty at home but even if we halved the present budget we would still lead the world.  We are responsible for the injustice perpetrated on the Palestinian people when we facilitated the seizure of their land in the 1940s.  We should be standing up to Israel which has become an out-of-control monster.  We created it and we must take responsibility for bringing it to order and helping it to live alongside its neighbours respectfully.  Its conduct is unacceptable and we should be pursuing war crimes prosecutions against Netanyahu and many of his cronies.

Housing – The housing crisis needs a courageous, radical solution, not the pathetic, sticking plaster gimmicks and gestures that is all we have had for 50 years.  Massive investment in social housing would create jobs and boost the economy all round.  We shouldn’t hesitate.  We shouldn’t fear a dramatic fall in house prices caused by massive extra supply. We have to get real and government must stop shirking its responsibility for a strategic role that only it can fill.

Boris is the only one with a brain

I have not yet decided whether I shall renew my membership.  I’m not even sure if there is any future in the UK for me.  Brexit was a great opportunity which has been sabotaged, perhaps fatally.  Britain may well become a tourist destination, fascinating for the way such a small nation led the world for centuries.  We are being led by weak, ineffectual, self-serving, out-of-touch and out-of date politicians.  As the Conservative Party is dying, it is dragging Britain down with it.

Chris Grayling, The Lord Chancellor, Takes Hard Line On Cannabis.

with 3 comments

I understand why the giant intellects of our legal profession resent this man who is the first non-lawyer in 340 years to be appointed to the exalted role of Lord Chancellor.

It would be fair to say that his record as a shadow minister and then Minister of State for Employment is mediocre at best.  He is not a justice minister in the relatively liberal style of Kenneth Clarke.  A ‘hardliner’ they call him.  He channels the ‘something of the night‘ that defined his former colleague Michael, now Lord Howard.  He certainly fits with the idea of the Tories being the ‘nasty party’.

There are few more unsympathetic, merciless and intolerant members of parliament.  It’s not clear what other qualities he has that have earned his high office. No surprise then that his opinion on cannabis should be as bigoted and vacuuous as he demonstrated this week.

Chris Grayling MP

Chris Grayling MP

“I’ve always taken the view that the medical reasons for not going down that road are pretty compelling. I’ve talked to many doctors over the years who have highlighted the links between cannabis use and mental health problems.”

Source: Wales Online

He’s simply repeating the government’s tired and false propaganda.

The links between cannabis use and mental health problems are tenuous to say the least. Despite a massive worldwide increase in cannabis use since the 1960s, rates of psychosis and schizophrenia are declining.

The scare stories and myths promoted by the tabloid press do not stand up to investigation. The facts  of NHS hospital admissions and the National Drug Treatment Monitoring Service (inconveniently for government propagandists and tabloid editors) show that cannabis is a very small contributor to mental health problems, insignificant in public health terms.

The real reason Grayling and his cabinet colleagues want to continue the ban on cannabis is that they fear the consequences of legalisation on the alcohol industry which, as we know, successive governments just roll over for in dutiful compliance.

The ban on cannabis has never had anything to do with health concerns. It’s about vested interests and corrupt and weak politicians. The truth is people like Grayling don’t give a damn about the terrible toll that alcohol takes on our society.  They care not one jot for the liberty of the  individual or the hundreds of thousands who are criminalised fro using cannabis as medicine.

Grayling has never been the sharpest knife in the kitchen cabinet but at least he can be relied on to toe the party line. This is the true worth of most of our cabinet ministers.

Written by Peter Reynolds

November 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Cameron On Cannabis Part 6

with 32 comments

Cameron On Cannabis Part 5 is here.

David Cameron’s mistakes about university places, immigration and cannabis have been on my mind over the Easter holiday.  Given the huge resources he has to ensure that his information is correct, it’s not really acceptable for our prime minister to be so error prone.  If the problem is that his attempts at spin are not working and he’s deliberately telling untruths but being caught out, well perhaps that’s even more worrying.

Whichever may be the case, and I’m ready to give Mr Cameron the benefit of  the doubt about his sincerity, we are entitled to call him to account.  I decided to give him another prod about the errors and mistakes he’s making about cannabis.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I refer to my last letter of 5th April 2011.

The statements you made about cannabis in your Al Jazeera YouTube interview were inaccurate and misleading.  Please will you now correct them?

“Incredibly damaging…very, very toxic…leads to, in many cases, huge mental health problems”

This is simply not true Mr Cameron. Professor Les Iversen, chair of the ACMD, your chief drugs advisor, is on the record, repeatedly, stating that cannabis is very, very low in toxicity and relatively safe.  Furthermore, all the experts agree that the risks to mental health are very, very small, certainly much less than alcohol or tobacco.

On the medicinal use of cannabis you said:

“…the science and medical authorities…are free to make independent determinations about that.”

This is also untrue Mr Cameron.  The Home Office stands obstinately in the way of medicinal use despite overwhelming, peer reviewed scientific evidence.  It denies the relief of a safe and inexpensive medicine to thousands who are trapped in pain, suffering and disability.  This is a cruel policy and a disgraceful shame on our nation.

Please will you now correct these untruths Mr Cameron?  They were your words.  You were not advised by the Home Office.  CLEAR represents the interests of at least six million regular users of cannabis in Britain, thousands of whom use it as medicine.  We are reasonable, responsible, respectable citizens and taxpayers and we are entitled to insist that our prime minister speaks the truth

Recently, you also spoke misleading words about cannabis and mental health on “Jamie’s Dream School” and you said that “…if you legalise drugs you will make them even more prevalent than they are”, yet this too is contradicted by all the evidence in Portugal, Holland and the USA.  Even the No 10 Strategy Unit Drugs Policy Project reported in 2003 that “There is no causal relationship between availability and incidence…problematic drug use is not driven by changes in availability or price.”

This time though you were talking directly to young people, those who your government says it is most important to send the correct message to.  Mr Cameron, the only message that government consistently sends to young people is that it does not tell them the truth about drugs.

Please Mr Cameron, we are entitled to expect that you tell the truth and that you correct errors when they are made.  These statements were not matters of opinion nor of interpretation, They are determined by scientific evidence.  Will you please now correct them?

Yours sincerely,

Peter Reynolds

Cameron On Cannabis Part 5

with 45 comments

You can see the previous instalment here: Cameron On Cannabis Part 4.

I am still waiting for a further reply from Mr Cameron.

In the meantime, the subject of cannabis cropped up again on “Jamie’s Dream School” a Channel 4 programme in which a group of young people are given a second chance at education.  Mr Cameron was challenged by the inspirational, 17 year old Henry Gatehouse, who proposed legalisation and a £1 per gram cannabis tax.

Oh Yes?

Mr Cameron responded:

“We concluded it would be wrong to make cannabis legal for two, I think, quite good reasons.  One is, there is a link between that and mental health issues so it’s not harmless.  And I think the second thing is that if you legalise drugs you will make them even more prevalent than they are.  So I don’t think legalising is a good idea.”

Another inaccurate and misleading statement from Mr Cameron.  This time though I think we should be even more concerned.  Successive governments have stated that their main concern about drugs policy is children and young people and that they must be careful to “send the right messages”.

Nobody's Fool

In fact, the only message that governments have successfully delivered to young people again and again is that they never tell the truth about drugs.  While the Home Office throws millions every year at the Talk To Frank campaign,  the only thing it achieves is for ministers to pat themselves on the back and for the self-serving drug support industry to soak up more public money.  Frank is held in complete contempt by young people.  The misinformation and untruths told about, in particular,  cannabis, ecstasy and mephedrone are a scandal and a grave disservice to young people.

Of course, for children and young people, the use of any psychoactive substance in a still-developing brain has the potential for harm.   Cannabis should only be used by adults.  Cameron is distorting the truth though.  The links between cannabis and mental health are trivial compared to those with alcohol, cigarettes or even energy drinks.  It is dishonest and irresponsible to give such a misleading answer to a young man who has clearly done his research and knows the truth.

Cameron’s second reason though has no basis in fact at all.  All the evidence is that where a system of regulation of drugs is introduced, use goes down.  This is clearly proven in Holland, Portugal and the USA.  Cameron’s assertion is entirely false and, I regret to say, he must know that it is.  In Britain, which now has one of the most repressive drug policies in the world, young people’s consumption of drugs is one of the highest anywhere.

Once again, Cameron reveals the dishonesty at the heart of his government’s drugs policy.  This time though he is misleading and misinforming our young people.  What greater mistake can he make?

Cameron On Cannabis Part 4

with 144 comments

You can see the previous instalment here: Cameron On Cannabis Part 3

I received a further reply from Mr Cameron’s office.

Click To Enlarge

As a reminder, there are four crucial issues involved:

Mr Cameron, Do You Care?

Mr Cameron said that cannabis is:

1.”incredibly damaging”

2. “very, very toxic”

3. “and leads to, in many cases, huge mental health problems”

And then, with regard to medicinal cannabis, he said:

4. “That is a matter for the science and medical authorities to determine and they are free to make independent determinations about that.”

These are all inaccurate and false statements. Mr Cameron should correct them immediately.

So I have written to him again.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Since I wrote to you about your Al Jazeera YouTube interview and your statements about cannabis, the Legalise Cannabis Alliance has changed its name to Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR) and registered as a political party.

We are determined to put cannabis back on the political agenda and to expose the misinformation and propaganda that maintains prohibition.  We are a new, energetic team of professionals. We know the media and we know the science.  We are not going to put up with the irrational and scaremongering attitude to this issue which has persisted for so long.

The statements you made about cannabis in your interview were inaccurate and misleading.  That is incontrovertible fact.  You must correct them. You are the prime minister of our nation and you must speak the truth.

In your reply dated 7th March you said that “…the Home Office is best placed to respond…” but you spoke the words and we have determined by Freedom of Information request (Home Office reference CR17931) that you were not advised by the Home Office on this question.  These were your words and yours alone.  Please Mr Cameron, will you now meet with me so that I can explain to you the scientific facts and the awful injustice, particularly to the sick and unwell, as well as the waste of billions in public money that your government’s policies sustain?

It cannot stand that our prime minister can speak untruths without correcting them.  Please deal with this Mr Cameron. This is not going away.  Cannabis is used by millions of British citizens every day, in many cases for the very effective relief of illness. We are reasonable, responsible, respectable citizens and we demand that you give this issue proper attention!

Please meet me Mr Cameron. Authoritative research proves that a tax and regulate regime for cannabis would produce a net £6 billion per annum benefit for Britain and massively reduce all health and social harms.

Most importantly though, please correct the inaccurate and misleading statements you made on YouTube.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Reynolds

Many thanks to my commenter, Bob the Wisemaster, who made the FOI request. The full response from the Home Office, disavowing any knowledge of Mr Cameron’s words can be seen here.

What next? More letters to Mr Cameron please. Write to him again. Tell him that he must correct his inaccurate statements. Keep up the pressure!

Mr Cameron, It’s You Who Needs Education About Cannabis!

with 56 comments

See the interview here.  The relevant part starts at 10:45.

Al Jazeera: This was incidentally, the second most popular question because viewers would submit questions and then members of the public would vote.

Why is marijuana illegal when alcohol and tobacco are more addictive and dangerous to our health, but we manage to control them?  Wouldn’t education about drugs from a younger age be better?

Cameron: Well there’s one bit of that question I agree with which I think education about drugs is vital and we should make sure that education programmes are there in our schools and we should make sure that they work. But I don’t really accept the rest of the question. I think if you actually look at the sort of marijuana that is on sale today, it is actually incredibly damaging, very, very toxic and leads to, in many cases, huge mental health problems.  But I think the more fundamental reason for not making these drugs legal is that to make them legal would make them even more prevalent and would increase use levels even more than they are now. So I don’t think it is the right answer.  I think a combination of education, also treatment programmes for drug addicts, I think those are the two most important planks of a proper anti-drug policy.

Al Jazeera: What about the argument that it could be used as medicinal properties?  That was another question we actually had, a person saying it’s got proven medicinal properties.  If used properly and regulated properly it could actually be quite helpful.

Cameron: That is a matter for the science and medical authorities to determine and they are free to make independent determinations about that.  But the question here about whether illegal drugs should be made legal, my answer is no.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I am writing about your answer to the question about marijuana during the recent Al Jazeera World View YouTube interview.

I am the recently elected leader of the LCA.  I represent the interests of at least two million regular users of cannabis and perhaps as many as 10 million occasional users in Britain.  This is a huge proportion of the population and on their behalf I am requesting a meeting with you.

We were dismayed, shocked even, at your answer to the question.  With respect, clearly it is you who are in great need of education about cannabis. The information you gave was inaccurate and false.  While we must all respect different opinions, your answer was factually wrong and you must correct it.

Cannabis is not “incredibly damaging”, nor “very, very toxic”. It is a myth that there is anything significantly different about the cannabis on sale today and the idea that it causes “in many cases, huge mental health problems” has been comprehensively disproved many times over by scientists all over the world.

I can provide you with scientific information which proves that these ideas are false.  Recently we have been pursuing various newspapers through the Press Complaints Commission for publishing the same inaccuracies. I am seriously alarmed when I see the prime minster of my country distributing such untruths.

Two key facts:

The Therapeutic Ratio of cannabis (ED50:LD50) is 1:40000  (Alcohol = 1:10, Paracetamol = 1:30). Even potatoes are more toxic than cannabis.

Professor Glyn Lewis of the University of Bristol reviewed all published research on cannabis and psychosis in 2009 and concluded that 96% of people have no risk whatsoever and in the remaining 4% the risk is “statistically tiny”.

Your suggestion that legalising drugs increases use is also not supported by the evidence.  In both Holland and Portugal where cannabis use is not prosecuted, consumption is much lower than in Britain.

Finally, on medicinal use it is simply not true that the scientific and medical authorities are free to make independent determinations.  The Home Office stamps on any medicinal cannabis use even when prescribed by a doctor.  People from other European countries can bring medicinal cannabis to Britain and use it legally under the Schengen agreement but you can’t if you’re British.  Here, sick and disabled people are being prosecuted every day for use of a medicine which is scientifically and medically proven. Surely you cannot be unaware of this?  It is a cruel and evil policy which shames our nation.

So please, Mr Cameron, will you meet with me in order that I may show you the evidence and the facts about cannabis?   Remember, this was the second most popular question you were asked on Friday and I represent the interests of millions of British citizens.  Please make time for me in your diary.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

 

Peter Reynolds

Home Office Drugs Strategy Consultation – My Response

with 14 comments

The Home Office has called for responses to its Drugs Strategy Consultation document.  See here on the Home Office website.

It is almost universally accepted that “consultation” is a euphemism for “your opinion will be ignored but we want it to look like we listened to you”.  This is a classic example of that sort of thinking.  Judge for yourself  by reading the introduction.  It is clear that ministers and civil servants have already made their mind up on many issues just by the way that the questions are phrased.

Nevertheless, this is what passes for democracy in Britain and it is vital that as many people as possible respond.  You can do so by post, email or online form. It is all set out on the website.  I offer my response here as raw material.  Please feel free to copy and use all or part of it as you wish.  Just make sure that you do make a submission.

I have answered all the questions where I feel I have something useful to say.  It dosn’t matter if you only answer one or two.  Please don’t let the Home Office get away with a whitewash.  With sufficient responses and future Feedom Of Information requests we will be able to advance the cause of rational and progressive drugs policy.

Question A1: Are there other key aspects of reducing drug use that you feel should be addressed?

* Yes

Please outline any suggestions below

The entire basis of this question is flawed. Prohibition of drug use is a failed strategy as now acknowledged by experts and leaders all over the world. So much of the subject is mired in semantics and prejudice rather than being addressed in a logical and responsible manner with fact and evidence-based policies.

Drug use can never be eliminated.  In fact, use of alcohol and tobacco, two of the most dangerous drugs, is legally promoted.  Drug misuse is, by definition, to be deplored but unless there is an acceptance of responsible drug use, then corresponding guidance or regulation to prevent misuse cannot work.

The key question, as established by parliament with the Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971 (MODA), is to how to reduce the harms of drug use.  This is the basis of the Act and of the drug classification system which is supposd to indicate the relative harms of drugs based on the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse Of Drugs (ACMD).

Regrettably the classification system is now entirely discredited for two principle reasons:

1. Failure to include the two most widely used drugs, alcohol and tobacco

2. Failure to classify drugs on a scientific basis, instead allowing political considerations and opinion to intrude where only facts and evidence should apply

The result is that government messages on drugs are widely regarded as incredible and as propaganda rather than good sense.  Young people in particular see the evidence of their  own eyes and experience as more useful and credible than government messages, especially in the case of drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy where their relative harmlessness is self-evident.  Government campaigns such as Frank are widely ridiculed and both counterproductive and a complete waste of money.

Question A2: Which areas would you like to see prioritised?

Please select as many as apply

* Greater ambition for individual recovery whilst ensuring the crime reduction impact of treatment.
* Actions to tackle drugs should be part of building the “Big Society”.
* A more holistic approach, with drugs issues being assessed and tackled alongside other issues such as alcohol abuse, child protection, mental health, employment and housing.
* Budgets and responsibility devolved wherever possible, with commissioning of services at a local level.
* Budgets and funding streams simplified and outcome based.
* The financial costs of drug misuse reduced.
* None of them.

This is an astonishingly meaningless question, a little like asking “do you approve of motherhood and apple pie?”

It would be foolish to disagree with any of these ideas.

The main area I would like to see prioritised is that drugs strategy, policy, information and education should be fact and evidence based.  The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have both criticised government for failing to implement an evidence-based drugs policy and instead giving more weight to opinion.  This is a dreadful indictment of how successive governments have, in fact, contributed to and increased drug harms.  It is now a well established and proven truism that drug laws cause more harm than drugs themselves.

I would propose a five point drugs strategy aimed at reducing harms as follows:

1. An end to oppression of drug users (at least six million citizens)
2. Removal from the criminal law of any offence for possession and/or social supply
3. Fact and evidence-based policy, information and regulation
4. Re-direction of law enforcement resources against real criminals
5. Treat problematic drug use as a health issue

I would also propose that the overwhelming response on drug laws to the Your Freedom website should be included in this consultation. Top priority should be given to the massive outcry from the public for the removal of drugs from the criminal law and the more rational, fact and evidence-based regulation.

The question of cannabis needs urgent attention.  All experts agree that the harms from its illegality are greater than from the drug itself. According to Home Office figures, there are six million regular users in the UK. Recent research shows that more than 70% of the public want to see some form of legalisation.  The laws against cannabis no longer have public support, particularly in the case of medicinal use, yet the cost of unsuccessfully attempting to enforce them amounts to many billions in wasted public expenditure.  This is a national scandal of monstrous proportions which must be ended.

Question A3: What do you think has worked well in previous approaches to tackling drug misuse?

There is almost nothing that the government has done that has worked well in tackling drug misuse.  On the contrary, almost all government policy has increased the harms caused.

There have been some pilot projects in providing clean, safe environments where opiate addicts have access to a regulated supply and clean needles that have reduced harms.

Question A4: What do you think has NOT worked so well in previous approaches to tackling drug misuse?

Government drugs policy has been a disaster in almost every way, consuming more and more resources to less and less good effect.  It has been almost entirely counterproductive and has led to complete distrust of government information, alienation of users from society in general  and brought the law into disrepute.

Prohibition has not worked.

Misinformation and propaganda that distributes lies and untruths about the relative harms of drugs has not worked.  In fact, it has led to more harms and more deaths.

Criminalising huge numbers of citizens has not worked and has created disaffection and seriously damaged democracy.

Question B1: What are the most effective ways of preventing drug or alcohol misuse?

The only effective way of preventing drug or alcohol misuse is education.  This should be accompanied by a system of regulation and controls which is fact and evidence based and has widespread public support.

Question B2: Who (which agencies, organisations and individuals) are best able to prevent drug or alcohol misuse?

The government is entirely discredited when it comes to offering any sort of advice on these subjects because it has a long history of mistakes, misinformation and propaganda.  Everyone knows that you can’t trust what the government says about such matters because it almost always places political expediency above the truth.

Schools, teachers, ex-addicts and parents are best able to prevent drug and alcohol misuse.  They need fact and evidence-based support and information.  The last thing they need is government direction or interference as this is widely seen as unbelieveable and incredible.

Question B3: Which groups (in terms of age, location or vulnerability) should prevention programmes particularly focus on?

There should be no such thing as a “prevention programme”.  The most vulnerable group is clearly young people.  Tell them not to do something and you immediately increase its appeal.  This question demonstrates how utterly out of touch, insensitive and hamstrung is current Home Office thinking.

Education programmes should focus particularly on young people.

Question B4: Which drugs (including alcohol) should prevention programmes focus on?

* Those that cause the most harm
* Those that are most widely used
* All drugs

Please explain your view below

There should be no such thing as a “prevention programme”.  Education programmes should cover all drugs but focus on those that cause most harm.

Question B5: How can parents best be supported to prevent young people from misusing drugs or alcohol?

The best way of supporting parents is by creating an environment in which drugs policy is accepted as being rational, sensible and based on facts and evidence rather than propaganda.  It is vital that fact and evidence-based information is widely available.

Question B6: How can communities play a more effective role in preventing drug or alcohol misuse?

Communities will naturally come together to prevent drug misuse if we create an environment in which drugs policy is accepted as being rational, sensible and based on facts and evidence rather than propaganda.  At present, drug laws and policies create an “us and them” culture where injustice and hypocrisy brings the law into disrepute and alienates people who do not comply.

Question B7: Are there any particular examples of prevention activity that you would like to see used more widely?

There is nothing being done in terms of”prevention activity” that should be continued.  Education, based on fact and evidence-based information is the key.

Question B8: What barriers are there to improving drug and alcohol prevention?

The biggest barrier to improving prevention of drug misuse is government policy which is widely understood not to be based on facts and evidence but on political expediency and propaganda.  The lack of fact and evidence-based information and education is also a major barrier.

Question C1: When does drug use become problematic?

Drug use becomes problematic when it interferes with people conducting their everyday lives and reaching their full potential or the ability of others to do the same.

Question C2: Do you think the Criminal Justice System should do anything differently when dealing with drug-misusing offenders

The Criminal Justice System should not be involved in dealing with drug misuse at all.  This should be a matter for healthcare. Drug misuse in itself should not be a criminal offence.

Where offences are committed while under the influence of drugs, or in order to feed a drug addiction, providing appropriate healthcare has been offered, then drug use should not be a mitigating factor. In such instances, the offender should always be referred for healthcare alongside any sentence.

Question C3: Do you have a view on what factors the Government should take into consideration when deciding to invoke a temporary ban on a new substance?

* Yes

Please explain your views below

The most important factors would be those of scientific fact and evidence to be determined by a strengthened, properly funded and independent Advisory Council On the Misuse Of Drugs or equivalent.

It is most important to consider the “glamourising effect” of banning a substance.

I congratulate the Home Office on its statement that  “Possession of a temporarily banned substance for personal use would not be a criminal offence to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of young people”.  This demonstrates a new depth of thinking and intelligence that is very encouraging.

Question C4: What forms of community based accommodation do you think should be considered to rehabilitate drug offenders?

Drug use should not be an offence in itself.  Clearly as part of healthcare, community-based accommodation should be available for those suffering from problematic drug use.

Question C5: Where do you think we most need to target enforcement efforts to reduce the supply of drugs?

Enforcement efforts to reduce the supply of drugs are futile unless a legitimate, regulated source of supply is available.

Once a regulated source of supply is available, illicit sources will become less of a problem.  Enforcement efforts could then be targeted in a similar way to current policies against illicit supply of alcohol, tobacco and prescription only medicines.

Question C6: What else do you think we can do to keep one step ahead of the changing drugs markets?

The most important thing do do is to end the failed and demonstrably ludicrous policy of prohibition.  The solution is a system of fact and evidence-based regulation including a a strengthened, properly funded and independent Advisory Council On the Misuse Of Drugs or equivalent.

Question C7: Which partners – in the public, voluntary and community sectors – would you like to see work together to reduce drug related reoffending in your local area?

What does “drug related reoffending” mean?

Drug use in itself should not be an offence.

Offences related to drugs should be dealt with by healthcare intervention as well as the criminal justice system.  If appropriate healthcare has been offered then drugs should not be a mitigating factor in sentencing.

Question C8: What results should be paid for or funded?

No comment

Question C9: What measures do you think should be taken to reduce drug supply in prison?

Those prisoners with a drug addiction should have access to healthcare and regulated supply just as any other citizen.   Just as in society in general a regulated supply would greatly reduce if not eliminate the problem of illicit supply.

Recreational use of drugs in prison should be strictly controlled.  Tobacco is presently allowed but not alcohol.

As an observation, it is tragic to note how existing policies have promoted the use of heroin in prison.  Under the drug testing regimes, cannabis can be detected in urine for up to 28 days and so its use has been largely eliminated.  However, heroin flushes through the system in less than 48 hours so its use has increased.  This is a vivid demonstration of the idiocy of present policies which have led to replacement of a relatively harmless substance with one that has potential to cause great harm.

Question C10 (if applicable): What impact would the measures suggested have on:

* a) offenders?
* b) your local community?

No comment

Question D1: Thinking about the current treatment system, what works well and should be retained?

No comment

Question D2: Thinking about the current treatment system, what is in need of improvement and how might it need to change to promote recovery?

I have no specific expertise in this area but I understand that treatment for problematic cocaine use is extremely limited and in desperate need of investment.  While not physically addictive, cocaine and particularly crack cocaine is overwhelmingly compulsive and can lead to violent behaviour.  Comparatively, treatment for opiate addicton is well established and understood.  More resources need to be put into developing treatments for problematic cocaine use.

Question D3: Are there situations in which drug and alcohol services might be more usefully brought together or are there situations where it is more useful for them to be operated separately?

Services need to be client-centered. Lumping together alcohol, opiate and cocaine services for the convenience of the providers is counterproductive. Someone who drinks too much wine in the evening at home may be deterred from attending a centre where opiate addicts are injecting. Similarly, a high-earning cocaine user may not want to associate with street drinkers.

Question D4: Should there be a greater focus on treating people who use substances other than heroin or crack cocaine, such as powder cocaine and so called legal highs?

* Yes
* No

Please explain your response below

The only rational response to any problematic drug use is to treat it as a health issue, therefore treatment should be available for all substances.  The question betrays a worrying naivety as cocaine use can be problematic as powder, crack or both.  “Legal highs” is a completely meaningless term which may range from something as harmful as heroin to something as benign as cannabis.

Question D5: Should treating addiction to legal substances, such as prescribed and over-the-counter medicines, be a higher priority?

* Yes
* No
* Don’t know

Please explain your response below

No.  The drugs strategy should be about minimising harms not making some moral judgment on people based on one point of view.  This is a dreadful suggestion.

Question D6: What role should the Public Health Service have in preventing people using drugs in the first place and how can this link in to other preventative work?

Fact and evidence-based information and education.

Question D7: We want to ensure that we continue to build the skills of the drug treatment and rehabilitation sector to ensure that they are able to meet the needs of those seeking treatment. What more can we do to support this?

Stop wasting money on futile attempts at enforcement of out of date, counterproductive laws. Prohibition is an entirely failed policy and, according to Baroness Meacher in the House Of Lords on 15th June 2010 is costing Britain £19 billion per annum.

Problematic drug use should be dealt with as a health problem.  With billions saved from wasted law enforcement costs and additional tax revenue from a regulated supply system, there will be a bonanza of funds available for drug treatment and rehabilitation services.

Question D8: Treatment is only one aspect contributing to abstinence and recovery. What actions can be taken to better link treatment services in to wider support such as housing, employment and supporting offenders?

Stop criminalising drug users, imprisoning them and treating them as offenders.  They are not.  They are people who choose to use a drug that has arbitrarily been deemed illegal usually for unscientific reasons.

Question D9: How do you believe that commissioners should be held to account for ensuring that outcomes of community-based treatments, for the promotion of reintegration and recovery, as well as reduced health harms, are delivered?

No comment.

Question E1: What interventions can be provided to better support the recovery and reintegration of drug and alcohol dependent offenders returning to communities from prison?

No comment.

Question E2: What interventions could be provided to address any issues commonly facing people dependent on drugs or alcohol in relation to housing?

No comment.

Question E3: How might drug, alcohol and mental health services be more effective in working together to meet the needs of drug or alcohol dependent service users with mental health conditions?

No comment.

Question E4: Do appropriate opportunities exist for the acquisition of skills and training for this group?

No comment

Question E5 Should we be making more of the potential to use the benefit system to offer claimants a choice between:

a) some form of financial benefit sanction, if they do not take action to address their drug or alcohol dependency; or

b) additional support to take such steps, by tailoring the requirements placed upon them as a condition of benefit receipt to assist their recovery (for example temporarily removing the need to seek employment whilst undergoing treatment).

There needs to be a combination of carrot and stick adjusted to individual requirements based on healthcare needs.  Those with problematic drug use must not be allowed to fall outside society as that leads to even greater harms.  This is why it is crucial that drug use be removed from the criminal law.

Question E6: What if anything could Jobcentre Plus do differently in engaging with this client group to better support recovery?

No comment

Question E7: In your experience, what interventions are most effective in helping this group find employment?

No comment.

Question E8: What particular barriers do this group face when working or looking for employment, and what could be done to address these?

No comment.

Question E9: Based on your experience, how effective are whole family interventions as a way of tackling the harms of substance misuse?

No comment

Question E10: Is enough done to harness the recovery capital of families, partners and friends of people addicted to drugs or alcohol?

Probably not. Once prohibition is ended, with billions saved from wasted law enforcement costs and additional tax revenue from a regulated supply system, there will be a bonanza of funds available for drug treatment and rehabilitation services.

Question E11: Do drug and alcohol services adequately take into account the needs of those clients who have children?

No comment

Question E12: What problems do agencies working with drug or alcohol dependent parents face in trying to protect their children from harm, and what might be done to address any such issues?

No comment

Gender: Male
Age: 45-54
Region: South West
Occupation: Writer