When it comes to illnesses such as heroin addiction, many people believe the current drug policies are simply not working. The law in the UK states that those found in possession of Class A illegal drugs such as heroin can face up to seven years behind bars as well as an unlimited fine. Those who supply the drug, and this includes giving it to friends, can be imprisoned for life along with an unlimited fine.
Many people are of the opinion that drug addicts should be protected instead of criminalised; this includes Rose Humphries, who lost two sons to heroin addiction. She is now calling for the UK government to make a change to current drugs policies at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event.
Transforming Drug Policies
Rose and her husband Jeremy have joined the ‘About Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control’ campaign after losing their son Jake to heroin at the age of thirty-six. Jake was their second son to die after struggling with a heroin addiction; their other son Roland died in 2004 at the age of twenty-three.
The campaign, which was launched by the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, aims to get the Government to change the existing law; Rose and Jeremy are of the opinion that drug prohibition simply does not work. They believe that drug addiction should be a health matter and not a criminal justice one, and they think that addicts should be given protection rather than being punished.
Choosing to Use Drugs
Rose and Jeremy, who had three sons, decided that Bromsgrove would be a good place to raise their family because of the low crime levels. Rose said, “People have remarked ‘It was their choice to use drugs’ as though they deserved what happened to them. Yes, of course it was their choice. But nearly 40 per cent of our young people make that choice. For some of those, unfortunately, it gets out of control.”
Rose believes that had there been a different drugs policy in place, her sons would not have died. She said that Jake was doing well after staying clean for seven years but then suffered a relapse. She stated that he had no option but to source drugs from a street dealer, but if he had been able to access heroin from a clinic, it is likely he would not have suffered an overdose.
She also believes that Roland would have survived if the people he had been with when he overdosed were not afraid to call for help for fear that they would be punished. She said that had his friends called emergency services sooner he might have been saved. She added, “Although changing drug policy is too late for my sons, I hope we can influence it so other families will not have to lose their children like we did. I didn’t expect this to happen. It can happen to anyone.”
Ineffective Drug Laws
Rose said that drug laws had not stopped people from becoming addicted to drugs, adding, “As the last 50 years has shown, persecution does not stop drug use, it causes, in fact, more drug-related deaths.”
She conceded that drug policy might have led to a decrease in the number of people using drugs, but she said that the number of drug-related deaths is at the highest level since 1993 when records began. It is her opinion that policy should be based on the number of people who are dying from drug use and not the number of individuals who are using drugs.
Rose said, “That figure is frightening when the National Office of Statistics has reported there is up to 50 drug-related deaths in the UK every week. We should be looking at how we can prevent people from dying, and the best way to achieve that is to make drugs safer.”
In order to prevent more deaths from heroin, the legalise campaign believes that special clinics should be prescribing the drug to users to reduce the number of overdoses. They also argue that this would put a stop to criminal gangs making huge profits from those with a heroin addiction.
Opposition to legal heroin prescriptions are often made by those who feel that this is the same as condoning drug use, but Rose said that this is an easy mistake to make. She added, “I would prefer people not to take drugs, but so many are at risk when they buy from criminal gangs so it’s up to us to make it safer, and as seen in countries like Portugal and Switzerland, where users are given counselling and support, where drug-related deaths have fallen considerably and re-integration into society through rehabilitation been nothing short of successful.”
It is unlikely that there will be any changes to drugs policies here in the UK at the moment, as Rose received a letter from the Government in which they state that they are of the opinion that existing laws in the UK do work.
Nonetheless, it is likely that Rose and other campaigners will continue working hard to make changes so that more people do not die from illnesses such as heroin addiction.
Source: Bromsgrove mum who lost her two sons to heroin addiction heads to Conservative Party Conference to campaign for drug laws reform Bromsgrove Standard)