Drug free, not free drugs

10th March 2006 at 00:00
The reports of yet another tragic death of a child from consuming a parent's drugs affects us all because we, as a nation, have failed to find adequate solutions to the ever-growing problems of drug addiction in Scotland.

Such reports bring out of the woodwork yet again Conservatives such as the party's leader Annabel Goldie and Professor Neil McKegany, the so-often quoted drugs expert from Glasgow University.

They bleat out mantras of ban methadone, zero tolerance to drugs and back to family values. They never seem to have the compassion or intelligence to really understand the depths of the drug problems our nation face.

Annabel Goldie clearly has a very short memory because she has forgotten that it was her political party that gave us Scotland Against Drugs (SAD), which has been a complete waste of public and private money. It is only now to be closed down in April.

It was the Conservatives, too, that cut drastically the number of customs officers patrolling our 4,000-mile coastline, opening up an easy route into our island for anyone with half a brain and lots of drugs. Thank you Maggie.

Professor McKegany has cornered the market for just about all the research funds from public and private sources to build his empire of research into drug addiction.

So far he has come up with wonderful reports that tell us that heroin users don't want to be on methadone; they want to be drug-free. As someone who has worked in that field since he was in nappies, I think I and most drugs workers know that already.

Professor McKegany never seems to have noticed, or researched, our biggest drug problems - alcohol or tobacco. These are the biggest killer drugs in use in Scotland. Deaths from tobacco are 13,000 and from alcohol 2,000 (a serious underestimate, in my view). The last count for deaths from illegal drugs use was 356.

So why I wonder is so much government money being directed to his research on illegal drugs when even he should know that most illegal drug deaths are from cocktails of drugs, including tobacco, alcohol, heroin, methadone, cocaine and others.

Fortunately, the Scottish Executive has now had the political courage to close down SAD, and is giving substantial funding to organisations like the Scottish Drugs Forum and community-based drugs action groups who are working hard to support drug users.

I can only live in hope that they will now review how our hard-earned taxes are spent on academic research into the limited field of illegal drugs.

Max Cruickshank Youth work consultant and health issues trainer Iona Ridge Hamilton

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