Sunday, 18 October 2009

Drugs Kill (unnecessarily?)

Two press stories caught my eye this week. Both involved the tragic deaths of two young women.

The first one concerned the mother of 20 year old Haniska Pett, a regular recreational user of cocaine who died following use of the drug earlier this year, who is to star in a police video advertising the dangers of drugs. The inquest into Haniska's death was clear that it was not cocaine that killed her but the combination of the various substances (including MDMA, MDA, and BZP) it was cut with. Although tragic deaths like this are used to justify the prohibition of drugs like cocaine and the associated war on drugs by law enforcement agencies they also highlight how that very prohibition, by placing the control of the production, distribution and retailing of these products in the hands of criminals inevitably results in the coke sold on the street being far more dangerous due to it being cut with all sorts of much more harmful products. If Haniska had been able to purchase her cocaine from a local chemist she may well still be alive.

The second story also involved a drug death. Sixteen year old Rhona Tavener sadly died after a heavy drinking session. Alcohol is a legal substance manufactured, distributed and retailed by some of Britain's most successful and profitable companies. It is aggressively marketed, particularly at younger people and the industry has successfully persuaded the government to adopt policies designed to maximise sales rather than to promote public health. It is likely that the alcohol industry and the government are directly responsible for some alcohol deaths.

Haniska's death was recorded as 'death by misadventure' by the coroner whilst Rhona's death was classified as an 'accident'. David Nutt did some research on the relative harm of Alcohol and Ecstasy. His findings are interesting.

Deaths every year Alcohol = 22,000 Ecstasy = 10;

It is clear that although illegal drugs do kill people alcohol is a massively bigger killer.

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