Letter: Not every user is an addict, nor every addict a thief

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The Independent Online
Sir: I have read with great interest your special report on the drug explosion, and can confirm much of what you say. The figure of 25,000 registered addicts is only the tip of the iceberg. Those not registed, or taking non-notifiable drugs, could bring the numbers of drug misusers to more than 150,000.

A survey of the 150 long-term addicts in our private clinic in Docklands shows that about 100 had been spending pounds 700 a week on illicit 'street' drugs: pounds 36,400 a year against the pounds 29,000 you cite. Our survey also showed each of these people had previously been imprisoned for an average of four years (at a cost of pounds 24,000 for each year of imprisonment). Since coming to us, almost all had kept out of trouble, cutting the cost of drug-related crime by more than pounds 3m a year.

Our patients come to us broken in spirit and health. The hardline 'treatment' of locking them up has done nothing to cure them. They have received no realistic help from the Government's drug dependency units or detox centres. Along with medical care, their need is for a long-term maintenance programme to enable them to break free from the treadmill of crime and prostitution. This gives them a chance to achieve a degree of stability and return to family relationships and work.

Current drug policy bears little relationship to the real world. It just does not seem to be understood that those whose addiction is so deeply entrenched can only be given a new start by adequate and realistic prescriptions.

I am, Sir, yours,

ADRIAN GARFOOT

Director

Fairways Clinic

London, E14

2 March

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