Letter: Accurate picture of drug culture

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The Independent Online
Sir: The criticisms of Nigel Rickard and Paul Skeet (Letters, 30 September) of Michael Prestage's article on 'magic mushrooms' (26 September) are misplaced. Both are obviously aware of the widespread use of drugs for recreational purposes, but appear to believe that by ignoring the issue, it will go away.

I believe that their criticisms are misplaced for two reasons:

First, there is no evidence to suggest that the publication of accurate information about drugs ever encouraged anybody to use them who would not otherwise have done so. In my experience, the converse is true - far too many young people begin using drugs lacking any accurate information about the effects of the substances that they use, the primary source of this information being their peers.

Second, the last 20 years or so have seen an enormous increase in the recreational use of a wide range of non-traditional intoxicants, from cannabis to khat. The extent to which this is now an accepted part of our culture, albeit one that we rarely acknowledge openly, should be evident to any regular reader of William Donaldson and William Leith, both of whom have written columns in the Independent discussing their own illegal drug use.

If British society is to tackle this change in our cultural mores in such a way as to minimise the various harm that might be a consequence of such a shift, it is important that the media provide us with an accurate picture of what is going on, and Mr Prestage's article managed to achieve this

objective.

The dominance of policy-orientated research at the expense of qualitative research into this area has led to a situation where many of those charged with the responsibility of tackling the problem of drug use often have little or no insight into the lives of those involved in the drug culture. Journalism remains one of the few avenues left open for the collation and dissemination of such information and since its launch, the Independent's coverage of drugs has been notable for its accurate and unbiased coverage of the issues. Keep up the good work.

Yours faithfully,

PETER McDERMOTT

Editor

The International Journal

on Drug Policy

Liverpool

30 September

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