Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
TUESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2001
180. Would you not be happy if she did not take
(Mr Davies) I am afraid she will. Therefore, I want
you to make it safe for her. How can I stop her? Should I tie
her up and never let her out?
181. It is the same way, speaking as a parent,
that you would expect to try and influence your child not to smoke,
not to engage in alcohol abuse.
(Mr Davies) There are two million parents a weekend
failing. We, collectively, the press and politicians, are making
it lethal. Those kids may know and understand why they are taking
it but they do not know what is in that pill.
182. I would like to challenge Nick Davies'
statement that heroin is harmless. I think you said it twice.
Does not the fact that it is addictive, which means the user is
unable to lead a normal life and to function normally without
it, mean that it is harmful per se; and the fact they find
themselves in need of NHS treatment to treat their addition means
that it is harmful to the wider community because that treatment
is a further burden on the NHS? Should not Government policy be
focused on treating people who are already addicted but on deterring
others from ever starting to take drugs in the first place because
they are harmful?
(Mr Davies) You are attacking a statement I have not
made. I said in the television programme and the newspaper heroin
is very addictive, and that is a very good reason not to use it.
183. You also said it was harmless.
(Mr Davies) Let me tell you what I said and you will
find I am right. Heroin does not damage the mind or body of its
184. I will challenge you on that.
(Mr Davies) I thought there was a fascinating concession,
a quiet concession, in the memo put in by the Home Office last
week. If you look at the Orange Book, the 1999 Prescribing Guidelines
which were produced with the Home Office and the Department of
Health, this is what they said about heroin, that it would produce
the following: "Viral hepatitis, bacterial endocarditis,
HIV, tuberculosis, septicaemia, pneumonia, deep vein thrombosis,
pulmonary emboli, abscesses and dental disease", official
government line. What is wrong about that I said in this Guardian
storyit is all true of the black market drug; none of it
is true of the drug itself and I am talking about heroin. Put
yourself in the shoes of the poor Home Office official who was
asked last week to produce this memo and look at what he said.
He said nothing of that listit ain't there. He said: "The
adverse physical effects of heroin are limited", and then
he goes on to talk about two things but none of that; it has gone.
There is a quiet concession there which I never thought in my
lifetime I would see the Home Office make. They dropped it. They
stopped pretending that heroin damages the mind and body of its
user. There are, however, two serious things to be considered:
one is addiction; and the other is respiratory depressionthat
is the most dangerous thing about heroin. If you take enough of
it you can depress your breathing. This is not my evidence; this
is the evidence of cancer doctors and research papers I put into
those stories. The gap between the therapeutic dose of heroin
and the fatal dose, i.e. when breathing is depressed to the point
of death, is wide. Which is why one of the most experienced cancer
doctors I could find described it as a "very safe drug".
This not flimsy little Nick Davies saying this; this is the most
experienced morphine and diamorphine practitioner in this country.
You are not challenging me; you are challenging them. I beg to
insist that they know what they are talking about, and it is time
for people like you to drop your presumptions which are false
and listen to themthey know.
185. Do you agree that it is addictive?
(Mr Davies) I have just told youI said it right
up front. Heroin is addictive.
186. You are saying it being addictive is harmless?
(Mr Davies) I am addicted to air and oxygen, but because
I can get them it causes me no harm. If you made water illegal
my life would be ruined, and that is what you have done to these
people. Do you accept, on the basis of the evidence I have got
in this quiet and extremely significant concession from the Home
Office, it does not damage the mind or body of its users?
187. We have contradictory evidence on that.
Some of it comes from distinguished people in the medical profession.
That is part of our problem.
(Mr Kushlik) Rosemary Jenkins in her evidence to the
Committee last week also says it is relatively harmless in and
of itself. The issue is, what do we do about addiction in this
188. If you are addicted to something then your
mind has been altered?
(Mr Davies) In what way?
189. Because you cannot function without that
(Mr Davies) As I say, it is like air and oxygen. Think
back to the therapeutic addicts like Enid Bagnold. Think to the
cancer patients who are given it, thank God, in this country.
If you talk to them I defy you to find any way in which their
mind is being damaged by the fact that they are addicted. Cancer
patients are addicted. Therapeutic patients are addicted. There
is Enid Bagnold writing National Velvet. You see the image
of the black market heroin user who is out of his mind. He is
sleeping rough; he is full of tranquillisers and alcohol. That
is not heroin; that is the black market. Heroin does not damage
your mind, thinking, morals or anything.
190. If you are deprived of its supply you are
unable to function?
(Mr Davies) Exactly, which is why we must not do that
to them. I do not want people to use heroin.
191. They must not start using it in the first
(Mr Davies) Exactly. What is the most effective way
of stopping people using heroin; and for those who are using it,
how do we save their lives, their health, keep them out of crime,
homelessness and unemployment? We have to stop it.
192. I would like to address my questions to
Mr Kushlik but, before I do so, could I ask Mr Davies if he is
actually advocating that ecstasy is prescribed?
(Mr Davies) I know less about ecstasy. Really my only
point is that one: I want people who are consuming to know what
is in it. It seems to me that regulated sale is the way to do
that. I am agnostic as to whether that is through doctors, pharmacists
or, on the alcohol basis, through licensed retailers.
193. Would not regulated sales put off young
people who generally want to try something because it is illegal?
(Mr Davies) I am too old to answer that question.
I think you should ask someone younger.
(Mr McNicholas) The legalisation is about putting
a legal structure around something. What we have at the moment
is an utter free-for-all. People see the natural ultimate extension
of legalisation, as far as you can get with ecstasy, that you
would be able to go into Boots and there would be, say, four brands:
one would be, sunny day ecstasy, another would be happy day ecstasy
and each of the tablets would come with their own little logo
on it and you would be able to get them and choose your brand,
go down to the nightclub and take them. That is exactly the situation
that we have at the moment only kids do not know what is in them.
I do not know if you know of the Mitsubishi pill which blew up
around about 1997. The actual dosage of MDMA in ecstasy tablets
had gone down to round about 60 milligrams or as low as 30 milligrams;
and essentially what seemed to happen was the big producers and
dealers based in Holland realised demand was going through the
floor because people did not like the products. What they did
was they came back with a tablet which was right back up to 120
milligrams of MDMA and it came with little Mitsubishi industry
logo on itthree diamonds. It revolutionised the whole market
overnight. There was a huge demand for this. Everyone started
buying it, and these were good quality pills from a recreational
ecstasy user's point of view. They were very pure; people knew
exactly what was in them. But what happened very, very quickly
within a matter of weeks was, because it was an unregulated system,
you had lots of dealers who were quickly printing up pills with
a much lower use of MDMA, or whatever they could lay their hands
on stuck in there, and putting the same Mitsubishi logo on it.
People thought they were buying something they trusted, but actually
they were buying where they had no idea what was in it. In this
current situation we have a system where kids are buying into
branded pillsthey would go for Rolexes, Armanis, Nikes,
Golden Apples or Mitsubishisbut they have no security of
knowing actually what is in the pill. We actually have the worst
of all situations. If ecstasy were to be sold over the counter
at the chemist, as you suggested, and it came in a very anonymous
box with a leaflet inside that told you exactly what the tablet
containedhere are some instructions if things start to
go wrong; here are certain things you can do; make sure you take
a rest, drink water but do not drink too much wateryes,
I think that would put a lot of people off.
194. Would that not encourage the 80 per cent
of young people who do not take drugs to start taking them?
(Mr McNicholas) No, I do not think that is the case
at all. If somebody really wanted to take drugs, I do not believe
illegality really puts people off. If you are the kind of person
who either fears or respects social laws and regulations, to the
extent that that puts you off taking drugs, you are really not
the kind of person who is going to be taking drugs to begin with.
195. By what indicators should we measure the
success of drugs policy?
(Mr Kushlik) We put in an addendum with our submission,
which we are calling Transformer(?), which offers up a series
of indicators which we think would be far better. Keith Hellawell
explained very clearly how he came up with his indicators when
he said they were not based on any statistical analysis. It seems
like he pretty much made them up over breakfast as a result of
going to the UN General Assembly Special Session of 1998, which
called for a drug-free world. Keith, in his wisdom, knew that
was a completely crazy thing to go for. He came back and said,
"Okay, we'll go for a half drug-free world". Which is
why the indicators are 50 per cent reductions or 50 per cent increases
on various of those indicatorsso to reduce crime by half,
to increase the number of people in treatment by 50 per cent.
The targets are wrong. As I said earlier, Mike Trace and Keith
Kellawell have both admitted now that if they had their time over
again they would choose different indicators. Our view is that
it is so important that we get the targets and indicators right,
because that is what drives the policy. If you set indicators
that are about reducing prevalence then prohibition might look
like a good way of doing it. If you give that more weight than
the transmission of hepatitis C or HIV or the number of homeless
people or the number of people involved in prostitution as a result
of drug misuse, then you are going to start doing some really
strange things which will actually be incredibly counterproductive.
As long as your prevalence rates are kept lower than alcohol and
tobacco it all looks great: which is what the Home Office again
was doing in its evidence and saying, "Our heroin use and
our ecstasy use is far lower than our alcohol and tobacco use,
therefore prohibition works and legalisation stinks". The
issue here is looking across the whole series of indicators: like
drug-related prostitution; misusing drugs; like the size of the
illegal trade; 8 per cent of international trade is now involved
in the drugs business; and the impact that prohibition has on
producer countries. If you begin to look at other indicators,
like health indicators, reduction of crime indicators (organised
crime currently makes the vast majority of its money out of the
illicit trade) you could wipe that out. That does not mean organised
crime disappears; they will go and find something else to do;
but let us not hand them the whole business on a plate. Property
crime, turf wars and drug war criminals just disappear. What if
you could reduce the prison population by half. If we choose those
as indicators then there is a whole other set of policies which
come out of it, and enforcement of the drug laws drops off the
agenda; it is not a useful way forward in terms of hitting the
kind of indicators that the majority of us want to see.
196. It is not a matter of reforming the indicators,
it is completely changing them?
(Mr Kushlik) It is changing them. They need to be
thrown out and we need to go back to the drawing board. Prohibition
has been in place and drug policies for the criminal justice oriented
have been in place now for about 100 years. Society has moved
on radically from a situation where we have a thousand heroin
users in 1970. There was no ecstasy use in 1970. In 1971 the Misuse
of Drugs Act comes in for very laudable reasons in order to reduce
misuse and reduce harm and stop tradeall laudable aims;
but there is a whole cultural change that has gone on in the meantime
which means the prevalence of both use and misuse of drugs that
were not even invented, or certainly were not being used in 1971,
were now on the scene. We need to have a completely different
way of dealing with things. When you have a situation where about
half or perhaps more of property crime is committed to support
a habit, whilst we have this very, very small group (and it has
been mentioned a number of timespeople who misuse drugs
and get into problems with them) they are committing half of all
property crime and filling up our prisons and causing mayhem in
the cities. We can throw statistics back and forth in terms of
what is drug-related and what is not, and where prohibition impacts,
but what I suggest to Committee members and anybody in this room
here is just go and take a look around. Does it look like the
drug laws are working and drugs policy is currently working? When
Keith Hellawell, Rosemary Jenkins and Sue Killen tell you it is
all very effective and going great, talk to your constituents,
talk to your local bobby and ask your local drugs workers if it
is working, and they will tell you, "No, it ain't and it
needs to be changed". Vic Hogg describes us as a small group
of people with a vested interest. Our vested interest is in reducing
harm, reducing crime, reducing the prison population and making
the world a better place to live in. If those are vested interests
I am proud to have them.
197. We must emphasise we are talking about
a drugs policy that has been in place for three years, and sometimes
we are looking back over the last five or ten years, so we are
talking about the last three years. How successful or not have
those three years been while having the national drugs strategy,
using the Government's target and also looking at the targets
you would wish to see?
(Mr Kushlik) In terms of the Government's targets,
the young people's use of heroin and cocaine has risenit
certainly has not reduced. Re-offending rates of drug misusers
they still have not got proper base lines for, and that is another
problem here. Because Keith set his indicators in isolationhe
had not talked to people at the research and development part
of the Home Office who would have told him that we do not even
have systems in place to give baseline data on that. We still
do not have baseline data on that stuff. It is certainly clear,
if you talk to any prison governor, prison officer or police officer,
offending rates amongst misusers are still going up. Availability:
there is still no methodology in place to set the baseline indicators;
but the evidence on price and purity, which we think is the easiest
way to measure availability, is that purity has either remained
the same or gone up for all drugs, and the price has radically
reduced. The price of heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, not so much cannabis,
but in terms of the drugs that really cause problems to the individuals
and those communities, are all more available and cheaper. Treatment:
treatment provision has certainly risen but, as Nick has described,
there is just an under-provision of gargantuan proportions. There
are not the treatment places. 2,000 people went into residential
rehab last year. There are 200,000 usersit does not touch
the sides. In terms of the kind of provision we want to see, we
want to see heroin prescribing, maintenance support and respite
care. Crack usersthere is nothing for crack users and they
cause real problems for the community in terms of crime. Nobody
knows what to do with them yet. In terms of Government indicators,
they either have not got the data or, where they have, it is going
in the wrong direction, so they are failing and they know it,
but they will try and tell you otherwise. In terms of our indicators,
we are looking at development, what is going on in Colombia and
Afghanistan. It is interesting now that Mr Blair has decided the
war against terrorism can also the war against drugs, and the
links are quite clear when he talks about bombing the poppy fields.
The attempts to eradicate the production of drugs have caused
absolute mayhem for the very poor under-developed countries all
over the world. We are not intercepting drugs at any level whatsoever
and Customs are really being hauled over the coals at the moment
for a lot of corruption which took place in the late 1990s to
give the impression their seizure rates and their operations were
more effective than they were. It is failing everywhere, on any
indicator you care to look at, the Government's drugs policy has
failed again and again and again and will continue to do so to
the extent they do it within an international framework which
denies any flexibility in terms of managing drug use.
(Mr Davies) We are lucky they are failing as well.
Do you understand this? If Keith Hellawell had succeeded in cutting
the supply of heroin into this country, two things would have
happened. One is the dealers would have increased the amount of
additives in the drug in order to keep the supply up, and it is
the additives which are dangerous, so it would have directly increased
ill-health and conceivably death. The second thing is that the
demand for heroin, an addictive drug, is completely inelastic,
it does not react according to the supply, but the price would
have risen because of the scarcity, therefore the consumers would
have had to fund themselves to a higher level, and the hard core
would therefore have had to commit more crime. I am extremely
grateful that Hellawell has failed. If he had succeeded, we would
have had more illness, more death and more crime, and that really
goes to Tom Watson's point; prohibition in principle is destructive.
Thank God they are failing.
198. So we should not be bombing the poppy fields
(Mr Kushlick) No. It is basically aerial rotivation,
it will turn over the soil for next year's crop.
(Mr Evans) To add an historical footnote, there is
a tendency to think that this is a recent issue or a 1971 issue,
but when I was a young barrister I operated the 1920 Dangerous
Drugs Act and that Act was virtually identical to the Misuse of
Drugs Act 1971. The special character of heroin is derived from
the actions of this House in 1920 when they found there was already
some opium legislation in existence and therefore there had to
be special provisions for opium and therefore heroin as an opiate
derivative in the law itself, so heroin has acquired a very strange
legislative status because of pre-1920 oddities of legislation.
This goes back a very, very long way. Prohibition has been tried,
it was a result of American fundamentalism in 1919, we unfortunately
followed the Americans, they failed to persuade us to prohibit
alcohol but they succeeded in persuading all the European countries
on drugs. Everyone has a Dangerous Drugs Act 1920, incidentallyFrance,
Sweden, Germanybecause it was one of the penalties of going
along with the American settlement at Versailles. So we imported
American fundamentalism in 1920 and we still have it.
199. Is it fair to expect a ten years' drug
strategy to work in three years?
(Mr Kushlick) No, but if you had a strategy which
would work in 10 years it would be worth sticking with it. Given
we know a prohibition-based, a criminal justice-orientated drugs
policy is doomed to failure, what is the point of continuing with
it, when it contributes to death, misery, crime, the funding of
the international mafia, the destruction of developing countries?
I think the time to stop it is now and put in place something
where we can intervene in terms of price. For instance, the Chancellor
can put a penny on a pint, the changes in price which operate
at street level with illicit drugs are not anything to do with
him, or anything to do with the Department of Health. When Rosemary
Jenkins said that the 59 deaths from contaminated heroin were
something which were dealt with, they were not dealt with by her
or her department, they were dealt with by dealers who took that
rubbish out of the market and replaced it with gear which would
not kill their punters because that is not good business; it had
nothing to do with the Department of Health. In terms of dealing
with this whole thing, it is left up to unregulated dealers and
the mafia to do it, and legalisation basically offers the Government
numerous points to intervene in terms of distribution, price,
quality, the whole kit and caboodle. To the extent it is prohibited,
someone else will get to do it. As Roger so eloquently said, the
issue here is breaking the relationship in terms of the UK domestic
and foreign policy from the US and aligning ourselves with Europe,
where the progressive moves on drug policy are having real benefits
for users and the communities in which they live.
(Mr McNicholas) I take your point, how can we expect
a ten year policy to work in three years, but the changes that
Keith Hellawell made in policy really were moving deckchairs on
the Titanic, the whole system is not working at all and what he
was doing was just tweaking. From my experience, if there were
any indications that young people's lives were being improved
as a result of the legislation which came in three years ago,
then you might have me sat here saying, "Maybe we should
give it a little more time", but things have got an awful
lot worse for lots of people. The more people try and clamp down
and reach this mythical situation where we will remove drugs entirely
from certain areas of society or society in general, the more
that is pushed forward, the more those drug users are pushed underground,
the less likely they are to respect authority or turn to people
in authority. You have a situation where if a young person wants
to experiment with mind-changing substances such as ecstasy and,
let's be honest, enjoy the experience because it is fun, to do
that they necessarily have to commit an illegal act, and that
immediately puts them in their perception outside of huge areas
of society, which means that when things do go wrong, all the
people in uniform are suddenly the enemy. So if your friend is
in a nightclub and is suffering and they have taken drugs during
the night, when the ambulance man or woman asks, "What have
they taken?", the natural reaction of most people is to keep
their mouth shut, and it is the worst possible thing they can
do. That is the result of prohibition.