Richard Lewis is right to reiterate forcefully the call to treat our nationwide drug epidemic as a public health crisis, rather than a criminal justice problem (As a chief constable, I’ve seen enough: it’s time to end the ‘war on drugs’, 22 October).
Heroin-assisted treatment, proving successful in countering the excesses of heroin dependency in Middlesbrough, could, if widely adopted, tear the rug from under the feet of criminal suppliers, with all the dangers of crime, violence, adulteration of drugs and uncertainty of dosage that criminal supply entails. That criminal supply results in thousands of deaths every year among users whose lives have already been blighted by childhood abuse, family breakdowns, poverty and mental health issues.
My son Kevin died of a heroin overdose in 2017. He was funny, intelligent, a skilled worker and artist, with a lot to offer to society. But he was also the victim of a flawed care system in early childhood and of inadequate mental health assistance in dealing with childhood trauma. Heroin was his self-medication. Unable to avoid the stigma of criminality, to access the right sort of help, and to be sure of a safe supply, heroin came to dominate and to endanger his life.
I disagree with Richard Lewis about the benefits of highly publicised drugs seizures and the expensive policing that merely interrupts criminal supply for a few days. A much more effective, safer and cheaper alternative would be the legal regulation of supply, as we already have with more dangerous drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.
Emeritus professor, Cardiff University
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