A night in the life of a drug-user

IT happened in broad daylight, with no obvious furtiveness, little attempt to hide what he was doing. The young man barely glanced to either side as he stepped off the street, straight into the darkened room. Inside it was quiet, the air filled with familiar acrid fumes..

IT happened in broad daylight, with no obvious furtiveness, little attempt to hide what he was doing. The young man barely glanced to either side as he stepped off the street, straight into the darkened room.

Inside it was quiet, the air filled with the familiar acrid fumes of other drug-users, who sat huddled in small groups, conversing in low voices.

The transaction took place with almost no discussion. The drug was measured out, the cash handed over. It was routine.

Later, more hits followed. More users got their fix, even sharing them around.

As the evening-long indulgence went on the noise level rose, fuelled by open drug-consumption on a large scale.

Finally, night having fallen, the young man staggered out into the public street. He swayed in a drugged haze, his awareness of the things around him greatly altered by the chemicals in his bloodstream.

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With others similarly dazed, their grip on reality loosened by what they had swallowed, arguments erupted, a fight broke out. Worse, some drug-crazed maniac in his deluded state believed he was fit to drive home.

The consequences of such wanton substance-abuse can be dangerous, frightening – even fatal.

I can reveal, in the shock tactic manner of a seasoned reporter, that this scene takes place somewhere in Ipswich every single night.

Not in one secret, isolated den but in dozens of similar places. The same thing happens, with the same sickening regularity, in every town in the land.

The chief drug on offer comes in many forms. Most shockingly, it may come in a brightly coloured, sweet-tasting liquid blatantly designed to hook young people into using it.

Many will be able to do so and maintain a quite normal, reasonably healthy life when not directly under the influence.

Many others, tragically, will ruin their own lives and others as they slip into a grim dependence on the drug.

The toll of death and hopelessness associated with this one substance goes way beyond anything you could put down to cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD, even heroin.

Yet the battle against those takes millions of police hours and billions of pounds every year. While alcohol continues to be sold, and even advertised, openly on nearly every street.

I have seen, close up, some of the damage that illegal drugs can do. I have seen even closer, and much more frequently, some of the devastation caused by alcohol. The chances are you have too.

It is a killer, not just of its users, but of thousands of innocent others.

It is involved in most violent crime, on the streets and in the home.

It is our most dangerous addictive drug, yet its makers and pushers may be as respectable as any member of society.

Now I am not for a moment suggesting that alcohol should be illegal. America is still suffering from the disaster of 1920s Prohibition.

Well-intentioned though the Volstead Act may have been, it created the means for organised crime to take off on the grand scale. Dangerously impure, unregulated drink could be an instant killer, and so could the activities of the gangs who got rich on it.

These days the chief trade of such gangs is in other drugs.

Those like heroin and cocaine are of course dangerous. But they are far more dangerous – not less – for being illegal.

If you or your children take drugs, the chances are they come mixed in unpredictable percentages with talcum powder, sugar, brick dust, even ground glass and stone. How are you, or your loved ones, to tell – or do anything about it?

Whatever politicians may try to tell us, the war against drugs cannot be won. It is high time the Western world recognised that fact and stopped fighting it.

Those billions would be much better spent on proper regulation and responsible education.

Regulated drugs would be cleaner, safer drugs. Those who choose to take them would not be criminalised, or throw into the midst of criminals.

Sensible, well-informed advice instead of the ignorant, hysterical ranting we are used to from both government and media would be a start. But perhaps I'm hallucinating even to imagine such a thing.

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