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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2007, 20:28 GMT
Why are British Asians turning to drugs?
Sangita Myska
BBC News

A syringe and heroin powder
British Asian drug use needs to be addressed quickly, researchers say

Second and third generation British Asians are using class A drugs more than ever before, according to a new report.

But who exactly is using and why?

I met Naz, a 26-year-old professional British Bangladeshi in a swanky central London bar.

He started using hard drugs as a teenager - cocaine and ecstasy being his drugs of choice.

But damage to his liver and kidneys means he has been forced to stop.

Another score and he could be dead.

I took drugs because I enjoyed it. Wanted the experience. Drugs are easy to come by and cheap
Naz, former drug user

"Just water for me please," he says as we ordered our drinks.

Naz says his drug use is a consequence of British club culture. His ethnicity, he says, has nothing to do with it.

"I don't think it's about race - it's about society as a whole," he said.

"I took drugs because I enjoyed it. Wanted the experience. Drugs are easy to come by and cheap.

"As I say, last week I went out with my brothers and sisters. They took drugs and I couldn't.

"I went home early. I suppose life is more boring but I guess it'll turn out for the best."

Naz's experience is common. British Asian use of hard drugs is catching up with the rest of Britain according to research conducted by the University of Central Lancashire for the NHS.

Alternative therapies

Nearly a third of those surveyed said they had used an illegal substance. And just over 16% said they'd tried a class A drug.

So if you are hooked what is the chance of getting adequate treatment?

An hour's drive west of London is an holistic practice in Reading.

It offers a range of alternative therapies to clients from experts who donate their time for free.

It is one of only a handful targeting black and Asian addicts.

Its founders, two British Muslims who are both ex-users, say Asian communities are oblivious to conventional services or feel they are only for white addicts.

I don't like dealing to my own people, but if they want it I'd rather they got it from me, not anyone else, because I know my stuff is clean
Amjid, convicted drug dealer

Irfan Azad who launched the Black and Asian Narcotics and Alcohol Service says: "White counsellors, when they see a user coming in they don't see their backgrounds.

"They don't understand the reasons they started. Family pressures, forced marriages, there are certain expectations on Asian people.

"Trying to explain that to people with no experience of these backgrounds is hard.

"That's partly what we're going to concentrate on - training counsellors - white, black or Asian to try to understand."

Of course, as the lives of young British Asians begin to reflect those of their mainstream counterparts it is not just drug using, but drug dealing that is becoming a problem.

'Already hooked'

After dark, Beresford Park in Reading becomes a no-go zone for young families as it transforms into a haunt for dealers.

This is where I met Amjid, a 24-year-old British-Kashmiri and convicted drug dealer.

He started dealing to fund his own habit, but earning up to 5,000 a day has itself proved addictive.

I asked how he felt about dealing in a community that condemns drug use.

"It's not about that. I don't think of myself as British Asian, British black all that stuff. We're just dealers," he said.

Combating drugs 'critical'

But isn't he adding to the problem, I asked. "No, no, I don't get them hooked, they're already on it," he said.

"It's just a business see. Look, I don't like dealing to my own people, but if they want it I'd rather they got it from me, not anyone else, because I know my stuff is clean."

And what about breaking the law?

"Well I've just come out for heroin [dealing] but they didn't find anything on me see.

"That's the thing, I don't do it on the street anymore, I run a crew, and if it wasn't me doing that, if I ended up in jail or got shot, someone else would take my place."

The problem with drugs in Asian communities is now critical say researchers - a failure to tackle the issue could criminalise British Asian youth for generations to come.


SEE ALSO
Drug classification rethink urged
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