Letter: 'War on drugs' is not working

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The Independent Online
Sir: As you correctly pointed out in your leading article ('Gun law in the ghettos', 7 January), causes of the violence and despair in our inner cities are easier to find than solutions. The path to one solution lies in a more rational and creative approach to the problem of illegal drugs.

People with few choices or opportunities are particularly amenable to the use and abuse of drugs which, albeit fleetingly, bring some pleasure or relief to their existence.

Because they have no money, they must resort to theft, prostitution, or selling on some of their drugs in an even more dangerously adulterated state than when they bought them.

For more organised drug merchants, the vast profit drives the ruthlessness with which they are prepared to deal with competitors or recalcitrant clients, and their resilience in responding to the forces of law.

The 'war on drugs' is simply not working. It is enormously expensive, far too many resources are focused upon cannabis, and many of the problems I see each day in our Drug Dependency Unit are created as much by the policy as by the drugs themselves. You can buy heroin, amphetamine and crack cocaine with ease on the streets of every city in the land.

The law on drugs must be changed with a view to undercutting the monstrous profits currently available to criminals but, more important even than this, we must find the resources to allow deprived people more opportunities and choices so that an enslaving and self-destructive drug habit has no appeal. Instead of raging against drugs, we should be raging against the social conditions that give them much of their destructive power.

Yours faithfully,

PHILIP ROBSON

Consultant Psychiatrist

Department of Addictive

Behaviour

Littlemore Hospital

Oxford

8 January

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