"Legal highs" banned

November 24, 2016 22:53

So-called legal highs - chemicals designed to reproduce the effects of illegal recreational drugs - have been banned in the United Kingdom following the tragic death of Brighton student Hester Stewart in April 2009. Hester, whose family were formerly members of the Brighton and Hove Orthodox Hebrew Congregation, died aged just 21 after taking a legal high known as GBL which is metabolised in the body into the already-banned drug GHB. GBL and a range of other substances including piperazines and certain anabolic steroids will now be classified as Class C illegal drugs, with possession potentially leading to two years in prison. Dealers could face up to 14 years.

These substances are undoubtedly dangerous, as highlighted by the sad case of Hester. Some experts have warned that they can be even more dangerous than the already-illegal drugs to which they offer an alternative - so we should all be relieved to hear that they're now illegal.

After all, since heroin was made illegal in this country (it was once sold as an entirely legal remedy for coughs, believe it or not), there haven't been absolutely any heroin addicts at all, have there? Large sections of our cities are not blighted by heroin use, are they? Nobody has been mugged by an addict, so desperate for the drug they cannot live without that they're willing to risk a long spell in prison; and no homes have been broken into and ransacked by people quite literally dying for their next fix. There are no needles lying in the grass in the park or in the stairwells of flats. Same with cocaine - the prohibition on owning and selling it has been a hundred per cent successful in stamping out use. Millions of pounds do not have to be spent on detecting illegal imports and treating overdose victims. Cannabis too, and amphetamines, and ecstasy, and LSD.

Probition worked so well in the USA when it was decided to ban alcoholic drinks, too. Drunkeness vanished overnight and Al Capone and other gangsters made fortunes - what a perfect embodiment of the American Dream.

If the Government believe that banning "legal highs" is going to achieve anything then I'd like some of whatever they've been smoking in Parliament. British anti-drugs policy is failing dismally, and toughening up the law isn't going to work no matter how many more powers the police and customs agents are given. The only way to combat and reduce use is strictly controlled sales through authorised outlets, education on the dangers of drug use and a strong support network for those that have problems. Drug use is not going to go away - people have been deliberately ingesting all manner of substances for thousands of years in an attempt to get high and they will continue to do so.

If your child was ill, would you rather they took medicine supplied by your doctor, medicine that had been produced under clinical conditions by a regulated pharmaceutical company; or would you prefer them to take some unknown chemical brewed up in an East European bath tub, mixed with various other unknown chemicals and quite possibly bleach or rat poison, bought from some shady character in the toilets of a club? If they suffered unpleasant side effects from that medicine, would you prefer it if they could see the doctor for advice and, if necessary, go to hospital for further treatment? Or would you prefer them to sit it out, hoping the symptoms will go away, for fear of being arrested and sent to prison?

Such sweeping changes in the law and the research necessary to provide this education would be a lot more expensive than simply saying: "Do not take drugs, otherwise we will punish you," of course. Obviously the Government do not believe Hester's life, even when combined with the lives of all the other people who die after taking little-studied chemicals every year, are worth that much.

November 24, 2016 22:53

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive