Let’s talk about drugs
The PCC's blog this week is on changing the the way we talk and think about illegal drug use.
As joint national lead for alcohol and substance abuse for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, I wanted to use my blog this week to try and help raise awareness on some of the issues that surround drug use and young people.
The recent ‘From Harm to Hope’ a 10-year drug strategy that launched just before Christmas is a substantial change in the way we will address illegal drugs in our society and mirrors my view that we need tough enforcement, effective rehabilitation and impactful education particularly around ‘recreational’ drugs.
I have deliberately put quotation marks round the word recreational. That word is misleading in my view and symptomatic of the need to change the narrative around drugs like MDMA, Ketamine and Cannabis. Implying ‘fun’ for toxic substances normalises and causes great harm.
Too many of our young people are dying or harming themselves using illegal drugs such as cannabis and MDMA.
Again, in the last couple of weeks we have seen grieving parents calling for more awareness around these dangers. Young lives tragically snuffed out. This must stop and difficult though it is, we need a paradigm shift in the way these drugs are thought about and talked about.
We need three things to happen:
1. More impactful drug education
I have asked Dorset police to review their educational offering on illegal drugs. Teenagers already know what they all are, and they know the legal penalties. They think they understand the risks involved, but more needs to be done to make them aware of all the potential health issues they face.
MDMA – the fact that you can take just one tablet and die should be a message that is shouted loud and clear. To lose your life and have all your dreams gone, simply by taking one tablet, is playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun.
Ketamine – the fact that your bladder can be compromised with irreversible long-term damage from taking Ketamine is not a well-known fact. Can you imagine living without a bladder in your 20s?
Cannabis (THC) - this is the insidious one - the attitude that ‘it’s just a bit of weed’ is wrong - it’s not! There is now a wealth of scientific evidence supporting it being a gateway drug, not just in the way dealers use it as a loss leader/entry point for exploitation but in the way it is used as a stepping stone to experimenting with other illegal substances.
The link that Cannabis use has, to damaging mental health has been well known for years, but now other equally concerning evidence is coming to light. It has been shown to be linked to cancer, birth defects and premature aging. It is toxic to our very genes and can cause not just harm to a person but to their descendants.
These are the messages that we need to get across to our young people.
2. Earlier moral boundaries created
In Dorset, we have children as young as eight years old acting out drug lord behaviours.
So, we must all collectively work together to reinforce the morals of our very young so that they don’t see illegal drug use as ‘normal’ behaviour.
I shall be working on plans to see what can be done locally to support parents and schools in tackling this problem and I will be lobbying nationally to ensure that good citizenship messages are made earlier in our educational establishments.
3. Society coming together
I call on celebrities, the press and everyone who has a public ‘voice’ to call out the normalisation of illegal drug use and especially the use of so called ‘recreational’ drugs.
Every young person deserves to be healthy and have a great life – but illegal drug use has the potential to stop that all in its tracks. All of us have a responsibility to raise awareness. Saying ‘don’t do it’ isn’t enough, so let us come together and let’s shout about the risks.
My Police and Crime plan was deliberately set for two terms of office, not because of arrogance or a belief in my own self-importance, but because there are issues that don’t deserve sticking plasters.
We need to engage with and put in train changes that will have long term sustainable effects and that sometimes takes time and long-term commitment.
Every story I hear about the harm caused to young people by drug use makes me more determined than ever to find ways of dealing with the problem and I hope you will support me in whatever way you can, as a parent, a grandparent, a teacher, a peer, a friend or simply as a concerned human being – we must all take action to change the narrative around the use of illegal drugs in our society.