In the UK, alcohol and drugs misuse are common problems. But while both substances are highly addictive, alcohol remains legal whereas most drugs are illegal. Those who are addicted to alcohol will not be criminalised, but unfortunately for those who are found in possession of certain drugs including heroin and cocaine, prosecution is a real possibility. Unless, of course, you live in Durham or Somerset, where police forces are trialling new schemes whereby they refer those found in possession of drugs to education workshops instead of prosecuting them.
Could Decriminalisation of Drugs Become a Reality?
As part of a column for Narcomania, Max Daly travelled to a drugs workshop in Bristol to find out what happens there. He attended a workshop run by drug charity Swanswell and met with two drug workers, Andy and Josh. Andy is a former prison officer, and Josh has a psychology degree.
Before the workshop began, Josh and Andy explained that people using a variety of drugs are referred for education workshops. Substances abused include cocaine, MDMA, cannabis, and speed. Josh said, “This group of people wouldn’t normally come into contact with drug services. It’s a chance for them to understand risks and damage that can be caused by taking drugs and to tell them if they go down a certain path it could be problematic.”
Escaping a Criminal Record
The group who arrived for the workshop included an eighteen-year-old boy and a woman in her fifties, but most of the rest were men in their twenties or thirties. Max noted that while some of the group engaged in football banter, many spent the time before the workshop began staring into space or at their phones. Nevertheless, he said that when he questioned them about the opportunity to avoid a court summons in favour of attending the workshop, most told him that they signed up straight away.
Josh explained to the group that the aim of the workshop was to educate them about the dangers of taking drugs and not to lecture them or talk about why cannabis should be legalised. The ice-breaker is a game where a wheel of drugs is spun and the group talk about the dangers of each drug that the wheel lands on.
During an open discussion about the dangers of drugs and how many are cut with dangerous chemicals, one member of the group spoke of how he had been caught with a bag of what he thought was speed but which was, in fact, an inert powder.
His name is Terry, and he is an ex-army man who stresses that he is actually anti-drugs. He explained that someone in a pub gave him a bag of speed for £20 and told him it would cure a hangover. However, just before he was about to snort the drug, the pub bouncer kicked the toilet door in and called the police.
The workshop moves on to shock tactics, with Andy presenting a slideshow on The Faces of Meth. The photos are before and after images of those who have been ravaged by meth addiction. It shows people with abscesses, colostomy bags and no teeth. The group are told about the consequences of being given a drugs conviction or caution in terms of travel plans or future work. It is explained that they would be unlikely to get a US visa with such a conviction.
Maria, who is the woman in her fifties and who admits that she has been smoking cannabis for thirty years, complained that she would rather pay a fine of £1,000 than be at the workshop. However, Max noted that she changed her mind when she realised she might actually fail the workshop and end up in court, which could mean losing her clinical research job.
Are Drugs Workshops a Good Idea?
There continue to be many people in the UK who believe that drug abuse and addiction should be a health matter rather than a criminal one. Most of those at the workshop would undoubtedly agree. Max speaks to a few people and discovers that most have never been in trouble with the police for drugs before this.
Most of them have jobs and were caught with small amounts of drugs. Nathan and Jim both work at the same restaurant as chefs and were caught with two ecstasy pills each. The eighteen-year-old Jake was caught with cannabis when his friend was heard by a pub doorman saying, “Did you manage to get in with the weed?”
For all the participants, the programme means they can avoid a possible criminal record. Jake said, “I think it’s the best way, to allow someone arrested for a drug offence to have a chance to redeem themselves and not have such an ugly offence on their record.
The Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs Misuse
So many people around the UK are guilty of alcohol and drugs misuse, but many fail to realise the implications of this behaviour. Those who continue to abuse these substances could end up with devastating addictions that might destroy their lives.
Both substances can damage physical and mental health, and because drug abuse is a criminal offence, many of those who abuse drugs will end up with a criminal conviction that could affect them for the rest of their lives.
It is, therefore, important that more education is provided on alcohol and drugs misuse and that those who do go on to develop addictions can access the treatments they need to get better. For more advice on alcohol and drugs misuse, or for information on how to beat an addiction, get in touch with UK Rehab today.
Source: The Drug Users Taking Advantage of the UK’s New Lenient Policing Policies (Vice)