Opinion: We should give drug addicts safe places to shoot up

Maybe if drug addicts had safe places to shoot up we would see less destruction by drug addiction, a

Maybe if drug addicts had safe places to shoot up we would see less destruction by drug addiction, argues Steven Downes - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Steven Downes has a controversial solution to the problem of drugs on our streets

When The Verve sang The Drugs Don't Work, it was a lazy generalisation.

I can testify that they do - or at least the lithium does, for me.

For accuracy, and to avoid riling pharmaceutical firms and narcotics dealers, they should've gone for The Drugs Don't Always Work.

Alternatively, another safe bet - though less catchy - is The Legislative Approach to Tackling Illegal Drugs Doesn't Work (It Just Makes Things Worse).

It's not great for the merchandising, but I think it's true. And I'm convinced that it's time for a radical rethink of how we deal with drugs.

If you want to know why, try looking around you in Norwich and our major towns. The sunken eyes and sallow skin of some of the people tell sad stories of lives ruined by heroin and other hard drugs.

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There's a strong sense that the problem has escalated recently; something evidenced by the police's operations Gravity and Granary, which are doing a superb job of stemming the tide of young dealers travelling to Norfolk.

It's strong, brave police work, confronting people who aren't afraid to carry machetes and even guns.

But (and I'm sure the police admit this privately) for every dealer taken off the streets, there are plenty more to fill the vacuum.

Like the Hydra, when one head is lopped off, two more appear.

The issue is having an impact on our legal system, with 38pc of cases at Norwich Crown Court from April 1 to June 30 involving drugs.

Who knows how many of those that were not drug-related were influenced by drug misuse?

In my local area, in two years I have seen worrying signs of a slide. I've observed drug deals being conducted near a children's park, people walking in the middle of the road, clearly off their faces, and a rise in antisocial behaviour and crime.

Not everything is down to drugs, but much of it is.

So let's try something different: something that will make right-wingers fulminate - let's give addicts somewhere safe to inject.

Give them an NHS prescription for their drugs, which would eradicate the need to commit crime to get money to score.

It would also mean far fewer vulnerable addicts for the London dealers to exploit. They rely on finding people who desperately need money for a fix.

So give addicts their drugs in controlled circumstances, set up places for them to shoot up, staffed by medical professionals and with officials from counselling, support, advice and housing agencies on hand.

At the other end of the drugs spectrum, make cannabis for personal use legal.

I very much doubt that police want to spend time arresting and processing someone for possession of a small block of resin or for growing a couple of cannabis plants.

But that's what happens, and it's time taken away from facing down the scumbags who bring heroin, cocaine and other hard drugs into Norfolk.

These people provide a chilling threat to our children and our communities, promising to produce addicts, lift crime rates and drive up deprivation.

Draconian jail sentences for dealers would help - starting at a minimum 10 years for anyone dealing hard drugs.

But if you take away their easy targets, the addicts, by supplying their needs and treating their problems, the deliverers of death will go elsewhere.

Yes, it's simplistic. And there are many nuances that I can't explore in this article. My grand - not very original - plans would need much revision before implementation.

But something needs to be done, starting with the end of the demonisation of drugs and drug addicts.

Safe spaces and support would change the game.

Then we can save the demonisation for the dealers, whose only safe space should be a small jail cell booked for many years.