Flip Side: Drugs

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Victor Petrov questions the validity of anti-drug attitudes

Rcreational drugs legalised? A novel concept for Britain, where magic mushrooms were banned in 2005 and cannabis is still hovering about in Category B of our beloved Drug Law. Yet this idea been floated by none other than North Wales Police chief constable Richard Brunstrom who stated that he will be campaigning for drugs such as heroin to be legalised. So if the forces of law and order themselves are beginning to change their views, is there something more to be said for legalising all drugs?

Hard drugs, by some categorisations, include alcohol and tobacco. So yes, put the absinthe down and stub out the cigarette, because you’re all shuddering junkies to me. These beloved substances are physically addictive and much more likely to lead to severe health problems and ultimately death. Just compare the 8386 fatalities from alcohol related disease in 2005 in the UK alone to the lack of a single one directly traceable to LSD – in the whole world! However, cultural norms attach a stigma to certain drugs, while others become an accepted part of our social interactions.

The Netherlands, that bastion of liberal drug culture, has recently announced that it will ban all magic mushroom sales on its territories. But Dutch teenagers running amok in Amsterdam are not the cause of this; it is tourists who, taking advantage of the local drug laws, do not know how to handle the drugs they take. Here we see uneducated, rampant foreigners failing where the tolerant, relaxed locals succeed: in dealing with drugs. The Dutch are not biologically immune to chemical alterations – they have learned to deal with it through years of experience. Impurities in cocaine and ecstasy could be seeded out through government guidelines. Demonstrably, toleration of substances and regulation of a legalised drugs industry will stop deaths and accidents. Whether we like it or not, even if drugs remain illegal, they will still be around. Drugs, in the right circumstances, can be fun (after all, half the world’s rock stars can’t be wrong). Drugs should be a question of public health, rather than a criminal issue. Puff and blow those critics away!


Raf Nicholson warns against the dangers of experimental drug use

I know it’s not the fashionable side of the argument, and its proponents often sound like teachers. Drugs are dangerous, drugs do you nothing but harm, drugs are evil, malicious substances, responsible for all the ills in modern society. But outside of school, where everything you are told is gospel truth, that’s no longer the message. Now, everyone’s telling you a spliff every now and again can’t do you any more damage than that pint in your hand or that cigarette. But I’ve been there. I know what it feels like, and I know why I turned it down.

Cannabis isn’t just a plant – there are medical consequences to its use. Regular smoking can lead to lung cancer, especially as spliffs are often mixed with tobacco. According to a recent study, the vast majority of medical experts in the UK are convinced that cannabis increases susceptibility to mental illness. It is proven, too, that regular use can make you fatigued and unmotivated – do you really need that during an essay crisis?

And even if some people want cannabis legalised, the fact is it’s still illegal. Well, we all know the police never bother about cannabis offences, don’t we? Actually, plenty of people I know have spent the night in a cell as a result of cannabis use. Neither are you safe as a non-user, if you host parties where people are smoking joints in your room in college. Plenty of people get threatened with prosecution for that, too,

Why risk it? In my own experience, either you get a kick out of cannabis that leads to regular use and psychological dependence which increases each time you smoke it, or nothing happens. If the latter, then what’s the point? And I’ve seen what the result can be in the case of the former. I saw what was happening to my friends who were doing weed regularly, and realised there was nothing I could do. I saw them losing respect for all drug laws, just because they’d broken one. Cannabis became magic mushrooms – bad "trips" and terrifying stories of hallucinations. "Shrooms" became cocaine, and ecstasy – class A substances, highly addictive, resulting in massive cravings. It’s sad, but I don’t feel like I know some of those people any more. Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry? There are real risks associated with cannabis. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

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