Despite the fact that addiction is a recognised illness of the brain, drug possession is still treated as a criminal issue rather than a health one. It is illegal to possess certain drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, heroin, and ecstasy, and those found with drugs here in the UK, even small amounts, can expect some action to be taken against them. It may mean a fine or even a prison sentence.
While many believe that the current drug laws are effective at deterring people from getting involved with drugs, others think that these are ineffective and that the war on drugs is failing. Some are even calling for the decriminalisation of drug use.
Liam Knights from Keighley agrees that those who use drugs should be treated rather than punished. A recent report by the Faculty for Public Health (FPH) and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) that argued for the decriminalisation of drug use is something that Liam wholeheartedly agrees with. He believes that it should not be a criminal offence to be in possession of drugs for personal use.
Liam has battled his own drug addiction; during his addiction, he stole over Â£20,000 from the bingo hall where he was employed. Liam was homeless, and after taking the money, he left the UK and headed to Amsterdam. However, he returned and handed himself over to police. He was then sent to prison.
A New Life
After being released from prison, Liam was in danger of returning to his old ways as he found himself back sleeping on the streets. Nevertheless, he was helped by Bradfordâ€™s Inn Churches group and has never looked back.
He started working as a builder and has now completed the first year of a degree course with Leeds University. Liam is about to head off to Ghana for twelve weeks on a relief mission.
The Taking a New Line on Drugs report calls for young people to be given more education about drugs and drug abuse in school. Experts believe that punishing drug users often leads to greater harm as many are sent to prison where they are introduced to harder drugs. They also feel that criminalisation of drug users has a long-term adverse impact on the affected personâ€™s family, and it can result in users finding it difficult to get work or further their education.
Liam agreed and said that most people do not choose to be addicts. They are unable to stop even if they want to, so it is unhelpful to treat them as criminals. He said, â€œIf the police catch somebody with drugs and confiscate them, it doesnâ€™t mean they will just go without drugs that day â€“ they will just go and buy more, and if they donâ€™t have the money for it, then they are likely to commit a crime in order to fund it.â€
He said that by doing this, the supplier would just make more money because, in effect, they will sell double the amount they would have done.
Liam, like many health experts, believes that decriminalising the possession of drugs for personal use would cut costs and allow officials to spend their time going after the main players in the drug industry â€“ the suppliers and dealers. This would allow drug addicts to access the treatments they need to overcome their illness without being afraid of prosecution. He added, â€œIt is hard to go for help sometimes and to be open and honest about your problems when you know you are at risk of being prosecuted.â€
Source: Keighley man who battled addiction backs decriminalisation of drugs (Keighley News)