UK drug use

March 25th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting article in the Guardian:

Some 7,700 UK drug users and 4,000 from the US and Canada took part in the detailed survey, carried out online in November. Respondents were asked a range of questions including what they took, how often, and what the health and legal consequences were. It was conducted by the independent drug use data exchange Global Drug Survey, in association with the Guardian and Mixmag, the clubbing magazine and website.

One of the strongest underlying messages is that this group of drug users report as happy, healthy and educated, and feel at ease with their recreational consumption of a range of illicit substances from cannabis to ecstasy to cocaine. They are not in rehab, prison or in trouble with the law and do not take heroin or crack.

The mean age of UK respondents was 28. Nine out of 10 were white, three-quarters were in work and earning between £10,000 and £40,000. Some 55% were educated to degree level or above.

A key conclusion being:

Dr Adam Winstock, a consultant addictions psychiatrist and director ofGlobal Drug Survey, said: “This is the largest assessment of current drug use ever conducted. What is overwhelmingly tells us is that people are not defined by their drug use, but that the harms that drugs can have are defined by the way people choose to use them.

“The challenge for government and policy makers will be how to regulate and craft a public health response which remains credible and respects individual choice.”

Absolutely. Demonising all drug users as criminals is not good policy.

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33 Responses to “UK drug use”

  1. Viking2 (11,412 comments) says:

    Bring back DON, get rid of KEY.

    Always considered Key a flake.

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  2. Mark (496 comments) says:

    Far better to regulate and tax the use of drugs, rather than criminalising people who use them. This way the state earns tax revenue, closes down a stream of income for gangs, and frees police to actual go after people who commit acts of violence and theft.

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  3. nasska (11,277 comments) says:

    Cue those with a morning glass of gin alongside their toothbrush to lecture us on the perils of the demon cannabis.

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  4. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    What is overwhelmingly tells us is that people are not defined by their drug use, but that the harms that drugs can have are defined by the way people choose to use them.

    And in a strongly social liberal society the decision to incur and/or cause harm is a personal one, while the cost of addressing that harm is borne by everyone. Any liberalisation of drug laws should be accompanied by an personal liability for costs associated with any harm created.

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  5. Graeme Edgeler (3,283 comments) says:

    Some 7,700 UK drug users and 4,000 from the US and Canada took part in the detailed survey, carried out online in November.

    What percentage of drug users have a problem drug use which makes access to the Internet something they can’t afford?

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  6. radvad (754 comments) says:

    “Any liberalisation of drug laws should be accompanied by an personal liability for costs associated with any harm created.”

    The most sensible comment on this issue by far. However why just limit it to drug use? It should apply to any activity that has self or societal harm potential.

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  7. Nostalgia-NZ (5,118 comments) says:

    Cripple the gangs – make drugs legal thereby cutting policing and justice administration costs, use that money in education and addiction treatment programmes. Drug laws endorse crime and gangs, the chest beaters facilitate underworld riches, it’s as archaic as building more prisons to ‘future proof’ expected numbers, its a surrender or retreat into hopelessness. Nzers by their nature are world leaders, but with drugs and alcohol we are timid and follow other failed models.

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  8. Ross12 (1,406 comments) says:

    The other night I saw doco piece on how Portugal has decriminalised all drug use. It has not resulted in any increase in use and thee have a reduction in some forms of crime. But I believe the Dutch are looking reintroducing some regulations for drug use. So looking at Portugal in say 10 years might be interesting.

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  9. Sonny Blount (1,780 comments) says:

    I am pro legalisation but anti drugs.

    A survey of people who perform surgery would find that 90% perform adequately, this does not mean that it is safe for anybody to perform surgery.

    I am not a drug user and therefore was not asked to complete this survey because I avoid drugs due to the harm they cause me. Many of the other people who experience harmful effects from drugs would be much less likely to complete surveys.

    I think many people are fine taking many different drugs regularly, but those of them that try to advocate the harmlessness of drugs I find to be selfish and blinkered individuals. There are hordes of people who experience very negative and sometimes dangerous consequences of even casual drug use and most people are rather quiet about these effects. Many of them manage to avoid those drugs but there are also far too many that don’t manage to.

    Even mild cannabis paranoia can contribute to teenage suicide and retarded potential. I support legalisation but also the drug avoidance message.

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  10. Will de Cleene (485 comments) says:

    Portugal decrimmed over ten years ago, with better health outcomes all round. They have drug courts there too. Their drug courts don’t operate the same way as the US drug courts, on which the Waitakere trial is being based. Portugal’s drug courts are sensible.

    The visiting US judge who started the US drug courts appeared on NatRad with Kathryn Ryan. When push came to shove, her American morality determined that drug users were either addicts or abusers, not addicts and users. I hope this preachy sentiment doesn’t eventuate in Gerald Waters’ drug courts trial.

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  11. Anthony (794 comments) says:

    It’s not just criminals who are funded by drug sales but terrorists too! The stupid prohibition policy causes massive problems worldwide – why are politicians too stupid to see that?

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  12. Scott Chris (6,058 comments) says:

    What percentage of drug users have a problem drug use which makes access to the Internet something they can’t afford?

    Possibly the same percentage who can’t manage their booze consumption either. The point is, if you can handle it, why should you be denied it?

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  13. Scott Chris (6,058 comments) says:

    why are politicians too stupid to see that?

    Oh they can see it alright, but looming much larger in their field of vision is the Conservative* voting block.

    * from both the left and the right.

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  14. kowtow (8,315 comments) says:

    hahahahahaha

    Really funny how the looney libertarians of kiwiblog are prepared to use an unscientific survey from the fucking Guardian, of all publications, and a clubbing magazine to justify their deep prejudices.

    Dangerous drugs are just that and should remain illegal. For very good reasons.

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  15. backster (2,150 comments) says:

    I wonder if Britany Spears, Paris Hilton,Lindsay Lohan, Michael Jackson, or Whitney Houston took part in the survey. They all thought they were healthy, normal, and holding down good well paid jobs.

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  16. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    @ kowtow

    “Really funny how the looney libertarians of kiwiblog are prepared to use an unscientific survey from the fucking Guardian”.

    My thought too. The number of times DPF and others have criticised self-selecting studies in the past.

    Also, would like to know how many of these respondents have children, and have an inter-generational view of society, and how many of them are just adults that never grew up.

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  17. Other_Andy (2,608 comments) says:

    @kowtow

    Excactly what I thought.
    The Grundian…..seriously?

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  18. Other_Andy (2,608 comments) says:

    Links between illicit drug use and crime

    Australian Institute of Criminology

    There is research both in Australia and internationally which shows that a significant proportion of those apprehended for a range of criminal offences are frequent illicit drug users. However, whether drug use is a causal factor for crime continues to be debated.

    http://www.aic.gov.au/crime_types/drugs_alcohol/illicit_drugs/drugs_and_crime.aspx

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  19. nasska (11,277 comments) says:

    Other_Andy

    Of course there will be links between crime & drug use. Currently the only way for anyone to buy even the occasional innocuous “tinnie” is to associate with hardened criminals. Imagine if those who decry marijuana had to buy their weekly flagon of gin from the Mongrel Mob. Half of you lot would end up in high security jails.

    The last time a recreational drug was prohibited was the USA in the 20’s….it didn’t work as intended then either.

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  20. Leaping Jimmy (16,290 comments) says:

    Don’t underestimate the extent to which our drug policy is determined by the US, especially re: the TPP.

    Just as they attempt to influence our pharmac policy because of their big pharma lobby back home, they have a huge politically-driven agenda in the drug arena. This is not driven by corporates like the pharma policy is, but by guess-who?

    Can you guess? Who gets huge amounts of money from the drug trade? How come the Taliban had eliminated the entire Afghan poppy crop and then after the US had been there a year or two it was right back to where it was and now its been peaking at record levels while the politicians and military pretend to do something about it. How come with all the resources they have at their disposal somehow the drug gangs are so fiendishly clever they manage to constantly flood the US and Europe with drugs?

    What is more believable: that the war on drugs can’t be won because the borders are too large and too porous. Or that the vested interests who make trillions which is put into all sorts of black budget programs are stopping it from being effective. Remember, drugs is third largest global market, after oil and armaments.

    Naturally to believe the latter you’d have to have a much wider understanding than simply watching a few movies like Air America, wouldn’t you. Shame how so many people are so naive they’d prefer to focus on the former rather than open their eyes to the obvious fallacy that it represents since the information pointing to the latter is freely available, if you care to look.

    nasska one of the worst aspects of life in the US is most prisoners in the US are drug users – inside for possession. In federal prisons, with rapists and murderers. How’s that for “justice?”

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  21. nasska (11,277 comments) says:

    LJ

    I have long despaired of getting people to understand the justification for the USA “war on drugs”. There never was a need for a three figure IQ to see that it couldn’t work. It’s a matter of supply & demand & even if by some chance the armies of the state enforcement offices managed to squeeze supply it will merely raise the street price.

    The real reason for the initiative was singular & sinister….control over citizens. Incarceration, snooping at all levels & suspension of nearly all citizens’ rights in the name of the “cause” has only benefited one tiny subsection of the populace.

    Strange we never see or hear from them.

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  22. Other_Andy (2,608 comments) says:

    @nasska

    Granted.
    But.
    I’ll bet you also find a strong link between crime & legal drug (alcohol) use.

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  23. Pharmachick (235 comments) says:

    Like others, I think this survey is a tad suspect – although reaching a large number of participants, the inclusion criteria look designed ot skew the result.

    OTOH, I think if we look to the Portugal experience we will see that legalisation is not the bogey man. What many commenters here may not have heard is that at the same time as Portugal legalised all drugs, they also enacted changes to the health laws to see drug abuse as a medical condition and to expand addiction services.

    Drugs are an emotive issue, especially in these times where the “stigma” of knowing an addict has faded and we are able to talk more openly as a society about the havoc that drug abuse wreaks on families and societies. However not all users are addicts and not all users are abusers.

    FWIW I used to be in favour of decriminalisation, but ont he balance as I have become older (and understand economics better) I’m now in favour of legalisation.

    Side note: I’m *really* sorry everyone, I used to have a great [medico-legal] article on what the europeans call the “Portugal Experience” and I was going to stick it on our FTP server for you all to read, but I spent the last 10 minutes searching for it and it is either lost for good (old hard drive) or on my external drive at work (where I am not).

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  24. Scott Chris (6,058 comments) says:

    I wonder if Britany Spears, Paris Hilton,Lindsay Lohan, Michael Jackson, or Whitney Houston took part in the survey. They all thought they were healthy, normal, and holding down good well paid jobs.

    ~Well gee, the war on drugs sure stopped them didn’t it.~

    No one is saying drug abuse is a good thing. What legalisation advocates are saying is that prohibition makes no difference to consumption, but it makes a huge difference to the crime rate and gang revenue. Prohibition doesn’t lessen harm, it augments harm.

    Also, would like to know how many of these respondents have children

    If your rebellious teenage children want to experiment with drugs and alcohol, then ultimately there is nothing you can do about it other than having an open relationship and making sure that they are loved, supported and well informed.

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  25. Pharmachick (235 comments) says:

    Scott Chris +1

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  26. Viking2 (11,412 comments) says:

    +2

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  27. Dazzaman (1,138 comments) says:

    Legalising drugs won’t make a blind bit of difference to anything. Aside from urban liberals getting their kick without jeopardising their jobs, gangs will still control the black market and eventually control much of the legal market. That’s the beauty of the current drug laws. They keep abhorrent, damaging behaviour in the sewers where they belong.

    It boils down to this, where do you want the stake as far as illicit drug use is concerned? For mine, kept in the back alleys, tinnie houses and gang pads. Not in the high street with vending machines. Only junkies & urban liberals would think liberalising “recreational” drugs would be a step forward…..go space cadet out in the fringes of society if you want to keep having your hit.

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  28. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Quite right Dazzaman – the only addiction available from vending machines should be gambling, eh?

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  29. Pharmachick (235 comments) says:

    Oh FFS Dazzaman,

    you want drug use “kept in the back alleys, tinnie houses and gang pads.”

    What about the front offices of law firms, real estate houses and clothing retailers? Because it’s going on there too mate.

    And do you (honestly, I’m truly asking your opinion) believe that the average Glassons shop assistant or KPMG accountant (these are random examples and not intended in any way to reflect upon or implicate these companies) should be locked up for the equivalent of a weekend on the booze?

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  30. eszett (2,401 comments) says:

    Legalising drugs won’t make a blind bit of difference to anything.

    If that were true, they why not just do it?

    Scott Chris says it pretty well, the only differentiation I’d make is between drug use and drug abuse

    I am always greatly amused by the hypocrisy of the self-rightous right who proclaim personal responsibility as the holy grail and any state intervention is a act of Satan himself, but when it comes to drugs they are all up in arms about the evils of drug use, while sipping on their glasses of red wine and whiskey.

    On the other hand, the lefties always want full liberalisation but are quite happy to have the state intervene when it comes to alcohol and tobacco

    As usual, the answer is somewhere inbetween and there needs to be a balance of both.

    The war on drugs was about as useful as the prohibition was.

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  31. Will de Cleene (485 comments) says:

    Other_Andy, the Law Commission’s Discussion Document on Regulating Drugs had this to say on Cannabis and Crime (I left the footnote numbers in to show evidence-based, not faith-based, research):

    2.37 It is clear from research conducted in New Zealand and overseas that many of those who engage in crime use cannabis, some on a reasonably regular basis. The 2006 New Zealand Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring programme
    (NZ-ADAM),82 which measures drug and alcohol use amongst those apprehended by police, found that cannabis was the most commonly used illicit drug amongst programme participants.

    However, there is little support here or elsewhere for the view that cannabis 2.38 intoxication itself causes users to commit crime.83 It is more likely that the same factors predispose people to commit crime and to use cannabis.84 In New Zealand, NZ-ADAM findings were that only a small proportion of participants who had been using cannabis at the time of their arrest believed that their drug use had contributed to “some” or “all” of the activities which led to that arrest.85 NZ-ADAM findings also support international research which suggests that cannabis generally inhibits aggression and violence in users.86

    Lower levels of dependence, a milder withdrawal effect compared to other illicit 2.39 drugs,87 and the easier availability and lower cost of cannabis88 when compared to other illicit drugs suggests that there should also be much less pressure on cannabis users to commit crime to finance their cannabis habit. In addition, cannabis, more than any other illicit drug, appears to be acquired within social networks rather than through private purchases.89 A United Kingdom report concluded that cannabis use did not appear to be a substantial cause of acquisitive crime.90 However, studies in Australia and the United States have found a possible link between cannabis use and acquisitive property crime amongst young offenders.91 Therefore, overseas research suggests that while adult cannabis users may generally not commit crime to fund their cannabis use, younger cannabis users may do so.

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  32. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    “An interesting article in the Guardian”

    At which point I stopped reading. Anyone who believes anything published by this Marxist rag is a fool. Surely the Guardian’s blatantly dishonest reporting on the Tolouse shootings should be enough to convince anyone who is not a brainless liberal not to read this tripe.

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  33. The Tomahawk Kid (2 comments) says:

    @radvad

    Make that 2 of the most sensible comments left on this issue!

    “Any liberalisation of drug laws should be accompanied by an personal liability for costs associated with any harm created.”

    The most sensible comment on this issue by far. However why just limit it to drug use? It should apply to any activity that has self or societal harm potential.

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