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Friday, August 31, 2007

Drugs and poverty

Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood, demonstrates this morning that being part of a coalition government has not dulled her critical sensibilities with the publication of research, which shows that heroin users are nearly twice as likely to live in former coalfields areas than anywhere else in Wales.

The study reveals 2.8 people per thousand in the valleys had asked for treatment for heroin use compared with 1.5 per thousand in the rest of Wales. Leanne is quite clear as to the reasons for this disparity:

"This research shows that people who live in the former coalfields of Wales continue to suffer the effects of the pit closure programmes," she said.

"Not only does this problem affect the lives of those who use heroin, it also affects the lives of all those who live in these communities.

"They suffer from high property crime levels associated with high levels of heroin use," she added."

Ms Wood said she was "encouraged" by the Labour-Plaid assembly government's approach to tackling drugs.

But she warned that there was a "long way to go" before former coalfield areas could "shake off the damaging effects of previous economic neglect".

Commentators on Radio Wales this morning support her belief that higher drug use is directly related to poverty levels, unemployment and social dislocation. However, Leanne must be disappointed by the response of her government to these revelations. They have issued a statement saying that they recognise the importance of tackling all forms of substance misuses. It continues by asserting that ministers had "acknowledged this through the significant additional investment made to increase access and availability to treatment services in Wales.

"In 2007/08 the substance misuse action fund stands at £22m. This substantial increase of 660% since 2002/03 has created over 9,300 treatment places since 2004. The Welsh Assembly Government is in the process of developing a new substance misuse strategy for Wales to replace the current strategy from May 2008."

So it is more of the same? I am doing some research of my own on substance misuse but my unsupported impression so far is that the information is still not there to properly target resources at the areas most in need or to deal with spikes in demand for services. Equally, it is clear that to put in place a substance misuse strategy in isolation from other policies and strategies is no longer enough.

This agenda has to be about education, prevention, treatment, economic development and regeneration. We also need to think radically about how we view the demand and supply of drugs. If we can undermine the work of criminal dealers by better controlling the way addicts access their drugs then we should seriously look at that prospect.

Leanne believes that there needs to be a wide-ranging enquiry into this issue. I agree with her. We can no longer hide behind old certainties and failed programmes.
Agree with both yourself and Leanne about the need for an enquiry.

On the theme of acting on new information, how can we trust a party (Labour Party) who are convinced they won the Assembly elections in May, sound like Leanne has a fight on her hands if she didn't already know it.
As a trendy lefty nasty nationalist, I would expect the Wood woman to be up to speed with the drug scene. BBC Wales Radio ran this story today and produced an interview witrh a very recent Heroin addict who said that Heroin abuse was on the wane in these valleys as it was being repcled by a bigger scourge - "Crack Cocaine". So Miss Wood who would not meet the Queen, it seems you're not only out of your depth in Cardiff Bay, but you are not in touch with your own constituency problems. Perhaps you need a break - why not gpo to a Palace Tea Psrty and chill out?
obviously there's a link between social deprivation and drugs use, but one aspect which never sems to get raised in these 'discussions' is that some people like taking drugs! They make them feel better! they are not all victims as some of the coverage of these issues would have you believe!
I used to live in inner-city Birmingham, which has convinced me that the only solution to the drugs woe is to legalise their supply (taking away the glamour and maybe the murderous gangs who control the resource during the current ineffective prohibition), taxing them as we do tobacco and alcohol and re-directing resources into education, and yes, rehabilitation. MOst people in the inner-cities know this, but their politicians have a cartel on the so-called 'hard line'for perceived electoral reasons.

And no, I am not remotely interested in having access to, or taking, drugs, other than a bottle of red from time to time.
You're going to have to try harder to have a dig at Plaid on this, Peter.
Plaid's manifesto was clear on the need for harm reduction and we CURRENTLY have three GPs in Wales licensed by the Home Office to prescribe heroin/diamorphine (a 100 in the UK). What is needed is an extention of this carefully controlled system whereby we provide medical solution and not criminal justice "solutions" that just recycle the problem via prison.
One Wales backs pilot studies in a similar way - not far enough in my opinion but the Labour regime in London just isn't moving with the times on this.
This wasn't an attempt to have a go at Plaid. In fact I agreed with Leanne. My point was precisely that made by you, that the One Wales agreement was not keeping up with her whilst the current Minister's response seems to be very conservative by comparison, Is he capable of taking the radical steps necessary? Is the government up to the challenge?
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