Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1360
TUESDAY 12 MARCH 2002
1360. How many of those do you see at PANIC?
(Ms Williams) We get calls all the time. The calls
usually come through from the parents who are asking for help
for their children. In most cases, because the kids have tried
to get help and it is not there, they have lost hope. It is the
parents who usually approach us and then we run out and pick them
up; we will pick them up from anywhere; we will go to Court with
them; we will act as an advocate to get them treatment; we even
go to the hospital if they are suicidal. If the psychiatrist will
not take them, which is often the case . . . If you go into a
detox, you usually start to get suicidal because all the hormones
have gone into a depression. We will stand and argue, "They
are a danger to themselves, they need to be detoxed", but
we do not have specialist detoxification, we do not have specialist
rehab. The only place that they can go is onto a mental health
ward and that has to do because that is all we have.
1361. Ms Williams, on a personal note, we have
sat here and listened to an expert opinion from both sides of
these arguments and, in my view, what I have heard in the last
half-an-hour has been more moving and had more of an impact on
me, albeit anecdotal but personal stories from you, than all of
the other evidence that has come before us. In terms of your son
asking you to call the police after he has had his shot, was that
just despair or was that because sometimes going to jail is the
only route in some parts of the country for getting any care and
attention for an addict?
(Ms Williams) I do not think he ever wanted to go
to jail. He thought that he had to be punished, if you like. He
thought he deserved to be punished because he had done something
wrong and he could not stop himself. I do not think that he ever
wanted to go to jail. There was a time when I did phone the police
and the police came and they charged him and they went away, but
the telly went again the next day. It was as though he could not
help himself. He always wanted to go into residential rehabilitation,
he always said he did, and we tried and we wrote letter after
letter and, like I say, in the end we had to go to the Cabinet
Mr Prosser: The other three witnesses have made
it very clear that they see the actual criminality as being the
major problem and the impact on people's health and their chance
of survival, but you did not go quite that far.
Chairman: I do not think all the other witnesses
Mr Prosser: Certainly Mr Gillespie and Mrs Humphreys
1362. I just wonder what your view is. If you
had the power to change the law and change legislation, in which
way would you do that to help people like your son?
(Ms Williams) I think that, for heroin users, especially
when they are damaged like they are and you have offered them
methadone treatment and you have offered the things that they
have on offer like Subutex, methadone and when they have been
in residential rehab, if that has not worked, then you have to
look at controlled prescribing of clean heroin. You do not get
the physical damage: you are not going to get the hepatitis, deep
vein thrombosis and other ill health that goes along with it.
If my son had not gone into a residential rehab, it comes down
to me as a mother saying, "I want him alive." That is
the basic thing that it comes down to and that is why I would
say controlled prescribing of diamorphine.
1363. Mrs Humphreys, would you agree with me
that, even in the college/university environment, most young people
are not regular drug users?
(Mrs Humphreys) I do not know. I think a lot of them
smoke a lot of cannabis and they certainly drink a lot of alcohol;
they drink too much alcohol. I would say that actually I was more
worried about them drinking more alcohol than smoking cannabis
and occasionally going to a club.
1364. I am sure that a number of people would
concur with that but, coming back to my point, would you agree
that most young people most of the time do not take drugs?
(Mrs Humphreys) I do not know. I guess that you tend
to do things that your peers do and there certainly is a lot of
it going on. I think that, at universities, you get a lot of mature
students who have all grown through it and they are probably not
messing about, drinking or taking drugs as much as younger ones
do their first time away from home. I am sure that there are a
lot of people who never take drugs whatever education they have
had, they are just not interested, but others will.
1365. Would you think however that if drugs
were legalised, not necessarily all drugs but if cannabis and
ecstasy were downgraded, that might be a signal to some who were
not taking drugs who wish to obey the law currently, however archaic
that law may be, and may think that it is no longer illegal and
therefore it is OK? Cigarettes are not illegal and alcohol is
not illegal and now drugs.
(Mrs Humphreys) It is possible that a few more might
experiment but it seems to me that anybody who wants to use them
uses them already.
1366. Mr Gillespie, you said in your evidence
that you knew your son had gone through a chain to get to heroin.
One of the debates about legalising or decriminalising cannabis
is that, if you did that, cannabis is a gateway towards serious
drugs and decriminalising it or legalising it would open that
gateway to a lot more young people in general. Is that something
that you think would happen and did happen with your son?
(Mr Gillespie) I have to confess immediately that
I regretted saying that the moment the words had left my mouth.
It is not what I intended to say. I gave entirely the wrong impression.
What I meant was that, when he was at school, he was introducedand
I cannot remember what the drug wasto some kind of tranquilliser
that a doctor's son, who was a fellow pupil, had given him and
that it moved on from there. That is what I meant by "the
chain". It did not go from that drug to bigger drug to bigger
drug, but that is where it started with him. What he took after
that I honestly do not know. I know that he did not smoke cannabis
because he was not interested and smoking was not something that
interested him at all, so it was not cannabis. I am not defending
cannabis in any way but I know he was not that keen on it. How
he actually got into hard drugs, because by that time he was living
away from home, I really do not know. I did ask him several times
but I just got the raised eyebrow; you know, if you do not ask,
you will not be told any lies. That was just the way he was.
1367. I wonder if any of the other witnesses
would like to comment on that.
(Mrs Humphreys) I certainly do not think it is a gateway
drug. If it were, then we would have millions of heroin addicts.
Some of them may have smoked cigarettes, drunk alcohol and smoked
cannabis and any of those things could be a so-called gateway
drug. I think that has been disproved. There is nothing that makes
anybody who tries cannabis go on to anything stronger.
1368. In terms of services, both Ms Williams
and Mr Gillespie have mentioned detox and rehab. Are there any
other specific things which should be provided or should have
been provided which are not?
(Ms Williams) I think heroin users mirror the population
at large, they are not all the same, and I think that you have
to offer choice. They actually know what they need. If you ask
them, they really do articulate that. With my son, it was residential
rehab. You could go to somebody else and they might be fine on
methadone. It has to be choice and, whatever it is, it has to
be accessible. It has to be there when they put their hands up
and say, "I need help."
(Mr Gillespie) Answering your question, I would move
it forward a little. I think the billions that we are spending
at the moment on trying to pull something back that is not possible
could be channelled into better education and better prevention,
all these things before we get to the treatment stage, and for
those kids who do not respond to either of thesethere will
always be people who will self-destruct; we all perhaps like a
social drink and a cigar but there will always be somebody who
will go over the top and become an alcoholic or whateverthere
has to be proper treatment as well. If I go to a cardiac unit,
the doctor is not going to say to me, "I am condemning you
for eating too many cream cakes or drinking too much." It
is not a moral judgment, it is something you have to fix because
a person is broken. I think it would be dangerous to get into
a situation where we say, "This is self-inflicted, why should
we bother about people like that?" when there are other self-inflicted
things that we do bother about. I think it is a little earlier
than just the treatment stage. I think if we can get the education
and prevention messages right and spend much, much more money
and investment at that end, then there will be a bigger payoff
at the other end and certainly kids would not be dying as they
are at the moment. That is my view.
1369. Mrs Humphreys, it might not be fair to
ask you this question because what I am about to quote is by Mick
Humphreys who is your husband.
(Mrs Humphreys) Yes, Mick is somewhere here.
1370. He wrote in his evidence about ".
. . charities, DATs, DRGs and the vast miasmic web of management
created by Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain." He
wrote about that very scathingly in the sense of, "This is
completely useless and it is not an answer."
(Mrs Humphreys) I do not think I should be blamed
for anything my husband said! He does get a bit "over the
1371. What do you think about action teams?
(Mrs Humphreys) I think that sometimes they seem to
think that you need a drug action team because drugs are such
a huge problem, but they are not always such a huge problem. Let
us have teams of people educating and all that kind of thing but
really, if kids are going to take drugs, it has to be done safely.
You can pour tons of money into education and go on and on and
on and it might not do a whole bunch of good. Smoking education
does not really seem to stop the blighters smoking, does it? I
mean, they still do it.
(Ms Williams) I am a member of our local DAT, but
that is only me with one vote, if you like. It is so complicated;
there are about 20 different funding streams. Although overall
the area gets about £3 million to spend on drugs, very little
seems to go down to the users themselves. What I find is that
it is all about ticks in the boxes. You get money if you get a
tick in the box. If that person is going into a methadone treatment,
though they might not have got it yet but they are still in treatment,
they get a tick in the box and you are paid by the ticks in the
boxes. They are not actually measuring the value of the services
and their effectiveness.
1372. You are saying that money is being put
into these programmes but we are not actually seeing positive
results on the ground.
(Ms Williams) Yes, I can honestly say that I do not
know many clean ex-users. When you are looking at drug treatment,
if you could get 50 per cent of our workers who are ex-users to
work in there . . . We have a number of users but I think I know
two people who are now well. There are very few well people where
I live. They are really, really bad, losing limbs and dying.
1373. Mr Sims, what is your experience?
(Mr Sims) The thing that strikes me about the question
you asked about drug action teams, for example, is that inevitably
they are driven largely by the Government's 10 year strategy which
actually does not mention families once. The word is mentioned
in the introduction to the original document by Keith Hellawell
but it is nowhere else. What tends to happen as a result of that
is that the boxes sometimes are not even there to be ticked as
far as family support services are concerned and, even though
a lot of the needs as expressed here are needs that we hear in
our consultations with families around the UK and are about people
who use as they undoubtedly should be, families have a whole separate
list of separate needs for themselves and other members of the
family that are hardly ever addressed and, where good services
are trying to address them, they tend to try and do it on limited
resources and try, for example, to have the same worker working
with somebody who is using as well as with the family members,
and that is putting workers in an impossible situation because
they are stuck between very different poles. I think that the
over-emphasis on the criminal justice elements of the work in
the drugs field and also the lack of sometimes even boxes to tick,
other than when families, for example, are seen as avenues to
helping young people or avenues to helping somebody else, all
of which is important, they are rarely seen as groups in need
of their own services.
1374. First of all, I would like to agree with
Mr Prosser that you have given us the most clear and the most
articulate evidence that we have heard; you have given it to us
straight and I am very grateful for that. Mr Gillespie, can I
just ask you about your remarks regarding legalising heroin. I
am surprised. I just want to understand why you go that far. When
you find you have a heroin user in the family or in the community,
is the priority not to get them into treatment or get them stabilised
through prescribing heroin or whatever, rather than actually legalising
which could mean that it is much more widely available than it
is at the moment?
(Mr Gillespie) I do understand what you are saying,
Mr Cameron, but two things arise from that. To talk in terms of
treatment, as I think you said, lets the thing get too far down
the line. Legalising, from my point of view, is in no way advocating
the wider use of drugs for more people. I do not think there is
a great reservoir of disaffected youth outside of these walls
waiting to rush in and use drugs. They could do it now because
I could go 150 yards from this Chamber and get you whatever you
wanted if I had enough money, I am sure. I would have no guarantee
of its purity of what is in there: I think the stuff that killed
my son was talcum powder. The reason I go for legalisation is,
if the Government and the laws wish to curtail or prohibit the
supply and use of drugs, if that is the wish, how can we regulate
supply if we are not in charge of the power station? We have to
take control away from criminals and place it back where it belongs,
with us, the people. At the moment, criminals are calling the
shots and we are not.
1375. It is a very powerful argument.
(Mr Gillespie) That is all I am saying.
1376. Do you accept that, if you did legalise
heroin, it would be even more available than it is at the moment?
I accept that it is very available and is very easy to get in
any town in this country, but you are making it even more available
and you may therefore get even more use and, if the priority is
reducing harm, is not the key getting people into treatment, whether
that is a clean supply of heroin or methadone or residential treatment
as quickly as possible?
(Mr Gillespie) I think, without being presumptuous,
that we are on the same side here except for the legalisation.
Let me just explain what I am saying and I am not being patronising
by saying this, I am probably not explaining myself properly.
I cannot for the life of me see how we can expect to deal effectively
and efficiently with a situation like prohibition in America between
1920 and 1933 if we are not actually in charge of the supply of
the stuff ourselves. We are leaving it in the hands of criminals.
What we are basically saying is that the best we can do is leave
it in the hands of criminals. As a member of the public and as
a bereaved father, I do not accept that. I think that the executive
should take control of this, regulate supply and make sure that
the stuff is clean because kids are going to use it anyway. They
are going to use the stuff anyway. To answer your point specifically,
no, I do not think there would be a mass upsurge of drug addiction
as a result of legalising this very addictive drug if it is allowed
to get into the mainstream of our society in the way it is at
the moment. It is decimating our young people, it is causing enormous
burdens to families whose sons and daughters are being affected
by it which it need not do. We have hundreds of different toxic
side-effects from tobacco and alcohol, both of which kill many,
many people. There are no known medical long-term side-effects
to heroin. That is not my opinion, that is the medical evidence
and I have gone to a great deal of difficulty to get it. There
are no long-term side-effects from heroin, none whatever, yet
that is illegal and the other two are legal. I do not think, as
I said before, that there is a massive reservoir outside waiting
to burst through and take it and if the education and prevention
message is put over properly and we take control, I do not think
we can say to people, "Just because we are saying that drugs
are now safe does not mean it is OK to go and do it." They
are prepared to do it now when they know that drugs are unsafe.
1377. Mr Gillespie, you are talking only about
heroin, are you not? Supposing you say the same with crack cocaine.
(Mr Gillespie) I am talking about all drugs, Chairman.
I use the same analogy: how can we control the supply if we are
not in charge of the power station? That is it for me.
1378. The point put to us about crack cocaine
is that it promotes violence and unpredictable behaviour. Do you
agree that is so?
(Mr Gillespie) So does alcohol, more so.
1379. Extremely violent behaviour.
(Mr Gillespie) So does alcohol.