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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 22:50 GMT
Are you worried about rising drug use?
Heroin seizure
The UK had the largest heroin seizure rate and the third highest number of heroin addicts in Europe in 2004, the UN has warned.

The UN International Narcotics Control Board also found the UK had the highest level of amphetamine abuse in Europe and the third highest level of Ecstasy abuse.

The drugs watchdog said an increase in heroin production in Afghanistan had not helped.

The country, which is responsible for nearly all the heroin on Britain's streets, grew 4,200 tons of the drug in 2004, its largest annual crop since the overthrow of Taleban rule.

What do you think of the UN's findings? Is enough being done to reduce the demand and supply of drugs? Why is drug use in the UK so high? Send us your views.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

I am 14 years old and I know about three people who are taking heroin
Sarah, Scarborough
I am 14 years old and I know about three people who are taking heroin or worse! But before you make a stereotypical judgement on me assuming I live in a council estate, I don't. I go to a decent school. I don't think anyone is doing enough to stop people from supplying it, because if 14 year olds are getting their hands on it. Something really has to be done, as teenagers don't see what's wrong with drugs. I think there should be harsh punishment on people who deal drugs so it puts teenagers off from going down the same path.
Sarah, Scarborough

The problem isn't with heroin, ecstasy or any other drug. All through out human history we have sought to get out of our head on something. The pace of modern living is also not to blame, look at the opium dens and gin joints of Victorian Britain. I think drugs should be legalised and every penny of tax generated should go to educating and helping people out of the situations where they believe they need drugs to live.
Toby, Norwich

My nephew and a friend are currently staying with us in London. They report that they are constantly approached by people offering them all manner of drugs. Apparently no attempt is made to be discreet. It all comes down to more coppers on the beat moving the dealers on.
Msmo, London UK

Would someone please explain what is the problem with people doing these drugs? Why are we spending so much money to stop them? Why not produce them in country instead of importing? Why have we demonised them? We all just accept that there is something wrong with drugs, why?
Rob M Hill, NYC, USA

The liberal pussyfooting decriminalise or detox idea has failed
Anon, Chesham
Take a leaf out of the South East Asian Handbook of how to deal with drugs. Jail 'em, no matter how little it is they're caught with. If it means more prisons so be it. Just lock 'em up, don't let 'em out. The liberal pussyfooting decriminalise or detox idea has failed. Just bang 'em up and have done with it.
Anon, Chesham

Is drug use rising, or are we just better at catching people than other countries?
James Murphy, Dorset, UK

Bring us in line with Europe on working hours and holidays, increase taxes for those who get paid over 100k and channel these funds into social projects, you will see drug use plummet. Personally, I am more worried about some trader losing my pension than some coke head trying to rob me.
Vish, UK

Everyone must be very worried. The government has got it totally wrong regarding drug policy. I fear for the children who can afford drugs with their pocket money.
Michael, Hastings, Great Britain

Clearly we're not doing enough to help people come off and stay off drugs
Jodie, Brighton
Clearly we're not doing enough to help people come off and stay off drugs. I want to see more clinics and less punishment and jail sentences for drug users. Stop criminalising victims.
Jodie, Brighton

I can't believe the suggestion that legalising and taxing drugs would make the problems go away. There is always someone ready to undercut the official price, as we see every day with ciggies, booze and clothes. So how would it be any different with drugs?
Hazel, Cheshire, England

Living in the UK is so tough for most people that it is really not surprising so many heroin addicts exist. A policy of helping the vulnerable is the only way to reduce the demand and supply of drugs.
Raymond Rudaizky, London, UK

This is a problem that is never going to go away. By criminalising drugs, we are creating criminals. Therefore, we really need a more pragmatic approach to drug use so that it can be better controlled. By legalising drugs, the purity can be controlled, and the revenue income can be used to treat addiction. Having said all that, I'm proud to say that I've never indulged and have no intention to.
Dave Godfrey, Swindon, UK

To all those people advocating decriminalising or legalising drugs: Try living above a gang of drug dealers, with users shooting up outside your bedroom window 24 hours a day. Try watching your life savings disappear as the value of your property plummets to nothing. Try living with hyper-tension, depression, anxiety attacks. Try that, and then tell me drugs should be legalised. I know - I have lived through that.
Anonymous, Preston, Lancashire, UK

We need to target the demand within our own borders
Simon Spiro, Cambridge, UK
Why are we blaming Afghanistan for this? Stopping the supply will only push up the prices and lead to more crime and destitution of addicts. We need to target the demand within our own borders - raise the penalties for being found with drugs, perhaps even compulsory community service orders for offenders. This would make people think twice before using "recreational" drugs.
Simon Spiro, Cambridge, UK

No - I am more worried by excessive alcohol consumption. Heroin addicts break into your house and steal whilst drunks abuse, injure and kill. I know which one I would rather suffer from. It is about time we, as a society, accept the existence of drugs, regulate them and provide more help to those who suffer addiction. Until this happens we can be as outraged as we like, but it will not change a single thing.
Rob, London

We are failing to stop the flow of drugs into the country because we have slashed our Customs Service to a skeleton staff. The amount of heroin seized is the tip of the iceberg and the volume available on the street means drugs are cheaper than ever. Customs staff are spread thinly stopping illegal immigrants and cigarette bootleggers and have little time left to make any impression on the drugs trade - which is why most of them joined the service in the first place. That they seized any drugs at all is a tribute to their commitment but they need more support, more money and more people to be effective.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK

Am I worried about rising drug use? Nah, this everyday major problem is apparently nowhere near as dangerous as terrorists! I mean, in 2004, Britain had the third highest number of heroin addicts and Ecstasy abuse and the top level of amphetamine abuse, in Europe. In that year, how many people were murdered by terrorists on British soil? Zero. The government has been brainwashed into thinking terrorism is the greatest threat to this nation, when there are clearly larger dangers facing our society.
Jack, London

Forty years ago I had a friend who smoked cannabis and took heroin. He died after a long period of physical pain and delusional mental torture during which he screamed until his vocal cords were so damaged that he could only scream in a whisper. Of course I am not worried that half the children of today will die in a similar way.
Keith, Rayleigh, England

So the Afghan farmer gets paid a few pennies for his crop, which then passes through the chain to the consumer, at inflated prices. Why don't we just pay the farmer not to produce anything, and destroy the whole thing at a fraction of the price?
Andrew M, Walsall, UK

The authorities don't seem to want to look at the root causes of these problems
Adele, Yorkshire
It seems that when we're not binge-drinking, we're taking drugs! But the authorities don't seem to want to look at the root causes of these problems. The fact is that we're an increasingly stressed out and aggressive nation, which regularly uses drugs (including alcohol) as an escape. Perhaps if our society was less obsessed with money and image, and didn't marginalise so many people, things would begin to improve.
Adele, Yorkshire

The Taliban had almost eradicated the production of heroin in Afghanistan. Now look what free enterprise and democracy has done.
Derek Betson, Switzerland

When the death toll by drugs approaches that of car use - then we should be worried!
Tom Potts, Harlow, UK

Drugs breed crime because they are illegal, not because they are drugs. Legalize and tax everything, sell the drugs from licensed outlets and the crime will go away. The money which is raised from the tax could pay to mop up what is left of the black market with very aggressive policing. As for recreational drugs which cause crime in town centres, I presume that means alcohol.
Christian, Liverpool, UK

The class system prevalent in the UK means politicians live in wealthy suburbs and therefore don't see heroin and crack problems - therefore to them it's a philosophical-ideological issue rather than a street-crime nightmare reality.
Anon, London

Largest seizure rate but only the third highest number of addicts. An effective customs and police force surely?
Toby, Surrey

If you make drugs illegal it creates a market for drug dealers
Neil D, Birmingham UK
Time and time again governments in the UK fall into the "get tough on drugs" trap. If you make drugs illegal it creates a market for drug dealers. Drugs have a value and that value is directly linked to the fact they are illegal. If you can get drugs anywhere in the UK, which one can, what is the use of them being illegal? All it does is make it a good career move if you want to make large amounts of money fast. Most, or all, of the drug problems are of our own making with the high value of drugs leading to violence, crime and deaths in some cases. It seems strange that the people who created the perfect environment for drug use are now wondering why everyone is using drugs !
Neil D, Birmingham UK

Using the police and prisons to combat the drugs problem has not worked. When are governments and policy makers going to look beyond the obvious solutions and realise drug addiction needs to be treated as a public health problem and not a criminal justice problem?
Susie, Birmingham

The old "war on drugs" has obviously failed miserably
David R, Plymouth UK
What I'd like to know is why recreational drug use is so much lower in countries with more liberal drug laws. Every couple of years we get tougher on drugs and the problem just gets worse. Since sentences for recreational drug use have never been reduced and policing has never been cut in recent years, how tough can we get? Perhaps its time for a new approach, the old "war on drugs" has obviously failed miserably.
David R, Plymouth UK

Why not make heroin legal? Then addicts would be provided their fix under medical supervision, removing the need to steal to support a habit, and see how quickly dealers disappear from the streets when their clients have a clean, safe alternative. Surely this would then reduce uptake of the habit and gradually take the problem away?
Mark, Lancashire

Here's a novel idea for Tony Blair to consider. Pay the Afghan farmers for opium. The farmers get a tiny fraction of the street price of the drug, so it will be very easy for us to pay more than the dealers. Even if every square inch of Afghanistan was turned into a poppy farm the cost to us for the raw opium would be a fraction of the cost of treating the heroin problem here. The Afghans get hard cash, the dealers and middle men (who also fund terrorists) are put out of business, we get a massive reduction in the amounts of heroin reaching the UK and the Afghans would love us for pumping so much cash into their country. Everyone wins!
Peter, Nottingham

It does not help that there are still so many TV programmes and films that glamorising drug use - it is still portrayed as something superstars use. But it is such a big part of the underground economy that it would take the sort of drastic action that our "liberal" government would not contemplate - after all it could infringe the criminals "human rights"!
Bob, UK

We are ignoring recreational drugs that contribute to town centre violence
MS, West Midlands, UK
I'm a police officer who believes that not enough emphasis is placed on tackling so-called recreational drugs. The National Policing Plan focuses on Class A Drugs but in my experience we are ignoring recreational drugs that contribute to town centre violence and focusing too much on heroin because of its obvious link to property crime. Let's be as pro-active in dealing with recreational drugs, Class A or otherwise that impact on users health and community safety.
MS, West Midlands, UK

MS, West Midlands, UK. I agree, let's combat all recreational drugs that contribute to town centre violence let's just remember the fact that the vast majority of this town centre violence is alcohol related and that alcohol is a drug. We have a major drug problem that we refuse to acknowledge in the case of alcohol. I believe all drugs should be reviewed in terms of harm to health, legalise based on a sensible notion not an assumption.
Andy, Stoke

I am unconcerned with personal drug use, it is a personal choice. However, I am very concerned that by making these drugs illegal, drug gangs and dealers are making a small fortune. If the status quo is maintained, then soon the police won't be able to stop these dealers.
Jon, UK

This was bound to happen after Paddick's misguided experiment in Lambeth and the even worse downgrading of cannabis. We should put the law back as it was and fight the war against drugs properly.
A Hewlett, Cheshire, England

There is a constant focus on supply rather than demand. No matter how much money you give to regimes like the Taliban to cut off the hands of farmers, if one supply dries up another will arise. That is the way the markets work, even with illegal goods. We need therefore to work on the demand problem - which has to include looking at our ludicrous drugs prohibition laws, which have been shown again and again to simply not be working. On what other area would such a failed and expensive policy be blindly continued?
Katherine, London, UK

Surely full legalisation and regulation is the only way forward?
Rob, London, UK
Isn't it time we just admitted that the "war on drugs" has been lost? Surely full legalisation and regulation is the only way forward? It would cut property crime, ease prison overcrowding, free up the police, remove a major source of income from organised crime and raise tax revenues. If people want to take drugs, they will. No amount of government "tough talking" will change that.
Rob, London, UK

Heroin is a highly addictive drug that often drives users to crime to fund their habit. This is a problem to society. People floating around clubs at the weekend having taken a few E's? Hardly a threat to society and not a real problem at all in my eyes as long as it effects no one else.
Richard, Reading

Tony Blair believes that the attack on Afghanistan was right because it freed the Afghan people from the tyranny of the Taliban (and also because George Bush thought it was a good idea). Since then the opium yields have ballooned and countless thousands have died all over Europe because of the easy availability of heroin. What about the British people, Mr Blair? When are you going to do something for us rather than run round the world after Bush invading other countries to 'save' their people.
John M, London, UK

There is nowhere near enough being done to reduce drug offences
Carol, Basildon, UK
Yes - increased drug use leads to increased crime as addicts offend to fund their habits, or commit violent acts whilst under the influence. There is nowhere near enough being done to reduce drug offences - we need zero tolerance, larger jails with drug withdrawal programs. In many communities drug use is seen as the norm, or glamorous - this image needs to change.
Carol, Basildon, UK

Yes, I am worried. Now we should reap the reward of being part of the EU, namely in huge grants to tackle this problem. Why should French farmers be the only beneficiaries of our VAT ?
Rob, Bath, UK

All I know, is my town has been overrun by drug problems. In the last 5 years, my town has changed from a family seaside resort to a drug and crime mecca, the local police and courts seem to do little about the problem.
Mark Gillespie, Weymouth, UK

What's not to worry about. Even if you're a person who has no strong feelings about 'mind altering drugs' the money being made in drugs is going to gangs who participate in other illegal activities. Other side effects are the large number of muggings that take place by addicts in order to pay for their addiction.
Andrew C, Hitchin, UK

Drugs are the modern warfare and are here to stay
R Moore
I feel that drugs are the modern warfare and are here to stay. No amount of drug tsars or watchdogs will stop what is now a multi-million pounds industry at the expense of people's lives.
R Moore

Of course we are all worried by the rising drug use - it leads to more crime. I am simply amazed at the lack of resources that the police are given. Some drug culture areas have even become "no-go", how has this allowed to happen? If the police do not have the resources to clean up the streets, then a dual operation with the army should be executed and the dealers put behind bars. The longer we leave it, the worse the situation will become (and the more expensive it will be).
Chris Kisch, Milton Keynes, UK

How ironic that the Taliban were doing more good for Britain than bad, hence the CIA supporting them to the tune of $4bn to help control that drug flow, up until to 911. I think the problem of heroin abuse has been multiplied by the supply chain being completed with the large amount of Eastern European gangs that infiltrated Britain by asylum distributing it from source to the British street. If you have no documents then you don't show up on criminal data bases.
Phillip Ellis, Northampton, UK




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SEE ALSO:
The solution to Afghanistan's opium?
19 Nov 04 |  South Asia
Following the Afghan drugs trail
18 Nov 04 |  South Asia
Afghanistan's opium problem
18 Nov 04 |  South Asia
Police seize heroin worth 2.2m
07 Feb 05 |  London



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