There was a fascinating article by Melanie Reid in The Times on Monday. It covered the release of a report by Dr Fiona Measham and Dr Karenza Moore, criminologists from Lancaster University which set out to "explore the hidden world of pharmaceutical intoxication in Britain’s bars and night clubs". Here are a few snippets along with my thoughts:
They discovered evidence that almost all Britain’s thousands of clubbers routinely take drugs, in particular cocaine (tried by 83 per cent of people), cannabis (93 per cent) and ecstasy (85 per cent). Eight in ten had taken a drug within the previous month, and nearly two in three of those questioned had taken, or were going to take, drugs on the night they were surveyed.
The extent and complexity of drug use that the academics uncovered surprised them. “Everyone knows that it goes on,” says Measham, a senior lecturer in criminology, whose 2001 study Dancing on Drugs was until now the seminal study of recreational drug use. “How else would the clubbers stay awake until 5am, when the club closes? But it’s unspoken.
...Here too is highlighted another contradiction: between the growing commercialisation of the night-time economy and the increasing government policy of what Measham calls “the criminalisation of intoxication” without education, advice or treatment services attached. The people who suffer, under the present situation of tacit tolerance of drugs, are the users. “Even if the club owners wanted harm reduction literature in their club, it would acknowledge that there was drug taking on the premises. And they are concerned about being arrested or shut down.”Last year the owner of the Dance Academy in Plymouth, Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh, and its manager, Tom Costelloe, were found guilty of allowing the venue to be used for the supply of Ecstasy and jailed for nine years and five years respectively. This despite neither man having actually sold drugs on the premises.
Clubbers of all ages queue quietly outside the Manchester venue — many, Measham’s evidence would suggest, already “front-loaded” with drugs. Notably, only people who have taken alcohol are behaving obnoxiously. The security on entry is strict but not too strict: Measham and Moore found that in practice only large quantities of drugs — ie, too much for personal use — will be removed from clubbers.
What is important, Measham and Moore say, is to draw the distinction between this kind of recreational drug use, and the problem drug use that dominates the political agenda and absorbs its resources. The two groups do not overlap; the dealers are different; and so are the drugs. Clubbers almost never take heroin or crack cocaine, the academics’ surveys show, and they remain in society. The UK’s problem drug users, with a daily dependency on such drugs, may be hugely outnumbered by the recreational drug takers — 150,000 as opposed to four million — but they remain the focus of government policy.