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If anyone is winning the drugs war, it is not the politicians
date: 06-March-2006
source : SCOTSMAN
editorial comment editorial comment
Well, the war on terror just started so give the troops a chance to catch up with something that has been going on for 30 years.

FIGURES just released which show a sharp decrease in the number of Edinburgh youngsters being treated for drug addiction could be taken as a sign that the battle against drugs is being won. Sadly most evidence points to the contrary.

If anyone is winning the drugs war it is not the politicians or the police but the highly-organised and ruthless criminal networks which continue to exploit the vulnerable and impressionable who provide a ready market for the abundance of drugs more readily available than ever. Even in Edinburgh last week, the Evening News gained an insight into a vicious turf war which took place on our own streets in the north of the city with two gangs using petrol bombs, shotguns and violence in a bid to win control of supply.

Three ringleaders are now behind bars but the police are not naive enough to predict that will be an end to it, fearing others will simply step into the breach to fill the shoes of those temporarily removed from the streets.

Indeed the police have had remarkable success in the past year. Operation Foil has resulted in record seizures of both heroin and cocaine, but still the thin blue line is unable to halt the avalanche of white powders flooding into the city. It is not surprising when the amount coming into the country is considered - one seizure of cocaine last month from a vessel off the south coast led to the recovery of three and a half tonnes, with a street value of £350 million.

Heroin is just as freely available and although the Aids problem of the Trainspotting era which so tarnished the city's image has diminished, there are still about 2500 users here, with addicts said to be responsible for crime costing £200m. Worryingly, there is growing evidence of addiction being passed down through generations, with around 60,000 children in Scotland thought to be under the care of junkie parents, and growing concern over incidences of misuse and dealing among children in their early teens.

This inability to halt the scourge of drugs is hardly unique to the UK. Although the Home Office estimates drug misuse costs the UK between £10 and £17 billion a year by creating a burden on the NHS, social services, police and courts, just over £1bn is spent on combating drugs, despite research suggesting that every pound spent on rehabilitation and treatment saves society £18.

The West as a whole needs a radical re-think on the way the war on drugs is fought. It is ironic that it is a war which costs more lives daily than the war on terror.

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