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Monday, 10 January, 2000, 17:53 GMT
Drugs 'fill void for computer generation'

Keith Hellawell: "Government's anti-drugs strategy is working"
Young people may be turning to drugs because they have forgotten how to make their own fun, the government's drugs czar has warned.

Keith Hellawell said "the computer generation" were used to having their thrills handed to them through electronic games and home entertainments.

And he said wider experiences of the world, including foreign travel, also meant they could be more adventurous and willing to experiment more to get their kicks.

Mr Hellawell wants to highlight human rights abuses behind the drugs trade
Mr Hellawell, the man charged with co-ordinating the Government's anti-drugs drive, said the key to understanding why people today took more drugs than previous generations was the key to finding a way to persuade them not to.

He said the question was why this generation was "so devoid of the ability to enjoy itself without the need to be drugged up".

And he said one theory was that changes in society were turning people away from generating their own fun, through team games and social events, towards more solitary occupations and instant gratification.

New tactic

Rather than "getting bruised on a hockey field", teenagers could spend 10 on a pill on a Saturday night, he said.

Mr Hellawell said a new tactic in the battle against drugs was to highlight the links between the drugs trade and human rights abuses through organised crime and corrupt regimes shored up by money from the drugs trade.

He said that just as people had campaigned against apartheid in South Africa or on environmental issues, so they should ask themselves: "How much blood is there on a line of coke?".

Mr Hellawell said he had been struck by the link on a factfinding visit to the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan, prime heroin growing areas.

Unscrupulous regimes

While he was there, two women were stoned by the Taliban, which raises money from the local drugs industry, for breaking the strict Muslim laws which have been imposed in Afghanistan banning women from working and restricting their personal movements.

Drugs in Schools
He said unscrupulous regimes in South America were also supported by drugs money, while many people could be killed transporting drugs around the world.

But Mr Hellawell insisted research showed that the government's 10 year anti-drugs strategy was showing signs that drug use among the population was levelling off and even falling among schoolchildren.

He also stressed that Britain was leading the world in terms of intervening and treating drug addicts brought before the courts.

The government has set a series of targets, including reducing reported heroin and cocaine use among under-25-year-olds and repeat offending by drug addicts by 25% by 2005.

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