Letters: Drug addiction

Grim reality of drug addiction
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The Independent Online

Jan Huntingdon (letter, 4 August) displays an astonishing ignorance of the nature of drug addiction and the financial position of most of those addicted.

Even a quite moderate heroin addiction is likely to cost the user about £40-£60 per day. Most of the addicts I have come into contact with in the course of my work are unemployed. They receive benefits of about £65 per week so to ask them to put aside money for rehab is plainly unrealistic. In the main, petty, and sometimes not so petty, crime finances the addiction and the costs of food and other essentials. Heroin is essential to an addict; that is what an addiction is.

Nor is it a simple question of "just saying no" as your correspondent seems to imply. Addicts often come from a background of poor parenting. I knew one addict whose task it was, as a 14-year-old, to go out to buy his mother's heroin, or to accompany her on outings to steal radios from cars to buy drugs. If you add poor educational achievement and rock-bottom self esteem, you have an addict in the making.

Wagging a disapproving finger at the problem will not make it go away.

William Roberts


In answer to Jan Huntingdon – yes, our hard-earned taxes should be used to pay for drug rehabilitation. This would reduce the incidence of petty crime; reduce the cost of maintaining an overflowing prison service – rehab being cheaper; make better use of our hard-pressed police forces; reduce the amount of misery in our urban estates, our country towns, and our rural villages.

Famous rock and sports stars may be able to afford the £3,000 or more to access rehab facilities - and maybe they should pay for them. Your average street user is more concerned about where his or her next fix is coming from; and possibly where their head is going to lie this evening. As for finding £3,000...

Dave Wheeler

Redbrook, Monmouth

It might benefit your correspondent to consider that addiction is actually one of the "mental-health problems" that she sees as so deserving of support.

But if her sympathy cannot be roused by addicts' often devastating stories, she might also like to reconsider her myopic view that their rehabilitation benefits only them, rather than their more "innocent" families, friends, and ultimately, government. A properly rehabilitated drug addict will save her precious tax money by supporting families who would otherwise be on benefits, keeping children who would otherwise be in care, and getting jobs which contribute to society.

Cecily Long

Kingston upon Thames,


The truth about chicken nuggets

A friend of mine was volunteering as a classroom assistant in a primary school when she pointed out to the children that the chickens they were caring for were where their chicken nuggets came from. She was very shocked when she was taken aside by the teacher and told that she was not permitted to tell the children such facts, because it might upset them.

But isn't that "education"? Just like showing them how tomatoes are grown or the ingredients in a cake?

MacDonald's and KFC have obviously infiltrated our schools, although the amount of actual "chicken" in a nugget is debatable, so perhaps it was an inaccurate observation in the first place. Thank goodness she didn't tell them how these poor chickens are reared in order to provide the children with their morsel of chicken in the first place.

Yet the truth would go a long way towards a change in the abusive way we produce our food, with no regard for either the health and well-being of the animals we farm or the quality of the food we feed our children.

H J Burton

Brinsley, Nottinghamshire

Has Afghanistan been forgotten?

With the recent hacking scandal, a right-wing fanatic's killing spree in Norway and the problem of debt in both the United States and Europe, we're all pretty much ignoring Afghanistan.

At a time when we're starting to hand over control of national security to the Afghans themselves, shouldn't it be a cause for concern that there has been an upsurge in high-profile attacks against our Afghan allies by the Taliban?

The assassination of powerful and influential figures such as Ahmad Wali Karzai, the President's own half-brother; General Mohammed Daud Daud, a man who has long been a stalwart and effective enemy of the Taliban, and the mayor of Kandahar must surely indicate a dangerous weakness in our ally's government if it cannot even protect its most influential servants.

Are we pulling out too soon?

Brian O'Connor

Mayfield, East Sussex

UK troops are under pressure

I was bemused, yet not surprised to read your report "Longer tours of duty will pile pressure on troops and families" (2 August). You report that "supporters of longer tours have compared British troops' six-month duties with those served by US military personnel which can last up to 15 months".

If you want to operate a force like the US Army, then expect to fund and support it like the US Army. Education and welfare allowances, currently being repealed, must be reinstated – nay, enhanced, and offered to spouses too. Soldiers ought not to pay tax while deployed, as well as getting bonuses. Extensive upgrades in relationship support and welfare facilities (video internet etc) must be made.

I served alongside US forces during the 2006 car-bomb campaign in Baghdad. I can tell you that an exhausted and distracted man, racked by agonising images of what his wife might be doing, expecting a custody battle, is not going to win a war for you.

Many experienced men and women will leave, though perhaps this is what the Government wants, as we steadily decline to a minuscule defence force that acts as a fig-leaf for foreign policy decisions of other nations.

S Preisner

Former SNCO, Royal Armoured Corps,

South Nottinghamshire

Smokers spoil our summer fun

Now that we are into the summer and al fresco dining and drinking is again de rigueur, I have noticed that this is now far from a pleasure. This is as a consequence of the ban on smoking in restaurants and pubs etc. The outside terraces of restaurants have been colonised by the smokers. I suppose that this is probably their just reward for having to brave the winter weather in order to pursue their habit. However, the terraces of many restaurants are partially covered and the smoke collects just as it did inside. So non-smokers must swelter inside: not much point in sitting by an open window since the smoke just drifts in and again spoils the dining experience.

Chris Elshaw

Headley Down, Hampshire

Memories of a badger digger

My gamekeeper uncle was a famous badger digger ("Badgers join the hit list", 2 August). On Sunday afternoons in the Sixties, with a couple of friends, he would load picks, shovels, spades and terriers into his van. At the invitation of local farmers, he would excavate a sett exposing the badgers for the kill. As far as I know, badger digging was a bloodsport then, akin to beagling and hunting with hounds but without the upper-class connotations.

On his way home, he would call at our house for a cheerful Sunday tea and I would listen in horror and fascination to his tales of clubbing badgers with spades. I felt very ambivalent when he asked me to be his bridesmaid.

Jenny Willan

Cullompton, Devon

No compulsory cycle helmets

Your witty correspondent John Hade (2 August) is somewhat confused. Of course a cycle helmet will provide some protection when the wearer is hit over the head. However, the real issue is whether drivers take less care when cyclists are helmeted (there is evidence that this is the case).

Another consideration is the extent to which people who would otherwise become cyclists are put off if helmets become mandatory. Again there is evidence this is the case, and that the fewer cyclists on the roads, the greater the average danger.

Matt Homer


I wonder if John Hade is familiar with the "straw man" argument? He is certainly good at using it. Perhaps he might consider evidence from Australia where it was found that the use of helmets increases the size of the head and so the likelihood of the head contacting the ground, and increased risk of rotational neck injury from wearing a helmet.

Alternatively, I am prepared to hit him on the hip and shoulder with his piece of wood to see how well his helmet prevents injury.

Jonathan Hills


John Hade is so right about the need for cycle helmets – almost every time I go out on my bike I get hit on the head by a plank of wood.

Trevor Roberts

Bramford, Suffolk

Perspectives on the Gurkhas

These gallant soldiers need better pensions

I write in the strongest possible terms to balance your report of 2 August relating to Joanna Lumley and the Gurkhas. I was the person who started in 2004 what grew into the Gurkha Justice Campaign, securing Miss Lumley's involvement in 2008. I then worked with the solicitors Howe & Co to guide the campaign to its ultimately successful conclusion. The article appears to rely heavily on comment from one particular association of retired Gurkhas – the Brigade of Gurkhas Welfare Society (BGWS). There are several similar groups and the BGWS's view needs to be put in a wider context.

First, it was the BGWS itself that approached me to fight the campaign to allow retired Gurkhas to have the same rights of settlement in the UK as other foreign and Commonwealth soldiers serving with the British Army. It seems strange that they now question the wisdom of that campaign. Second, let's remember the central issue at stake. We were living with a situation in which human beings (the retired Gurkhas) who had served with the British Army, often facing great danger and winning numerous awards for gallantry, were banned from living in the UK. The vast majority of the British public understood this to be wrong on every moral ground. Neither Joanna Lumley, nor I, nor the lead solicitors Howe & Co had to persuade them of this. Joanna acted as a focus for an existing strong and genuine current of British public opinion.

The BGWS is right in one respect. It remains scandalous that the Gurkhas are discriminated against in terms of pension payments. That is a battle that needs to be fought for a just resolution. However, it should not be used as a reason to undermine or discredit the citizenship campaign so brilliantly led by Joanna. The retired Gurkhas deserve BOTH the right of settlement and the right to a fair pension. By implying that they should have fairer pension, but not the right of settlement, the BGWS risk opening the door for the MoD to work on Ministers to see the citizenship agreement rescinded.

In the Gurkha Justice Campaign the people spoke, the Government was forced to listen and a great wrong was put right. There are numerous stories of retired Gurkhas happily living and working in the UK as a direct result of that campaign.

Peter Carroll

Gurkha Justice Campaign,


Nepal loses out when veterans settle in the UK

Unfortunately, the Lumley initiative has had other unintended consequences. Gurkha pensions have a fraction of their spending power in the UK as opposed to Nepal, where ex-Gurkha soldiers are regarded as wealthy. They are also able to make there a serious contribution to their country, deploying in retirement the many and various skills that service in the British army has offered them.

It is of real concern that the unexpectedly high number of those, with their dependents, who have been attracted to the UK by the spurious promise of higher living standards represent an increased cost which the MoD may conclude is unaffordable, hastening the day when our long association with Gurkhas is ended, an outcome devoutly not to be desired.

Christopher Martin

London W2