The war on drugs has been raging on for decades but in recent years there has been a serious increase in the number of drug related deaths. In 2016, 3,744 people were killed by drug poisoning in England and Wales alone, 2,593 of these were caused by the misuse of drugs.
An estimated 2.7 million people in the UK are regularly using drugs, and these drugs are getting stronger. Super-strength ecstasy is on the rise, with the strongest pill tested last year containing 250mg of MDMA. Most pills contain half that amount, on average 100-150mg. But researchers say that people should be taking even less, with a recommended intake of 75mg of MDM per session.
Another huge problem at the moment are so called ‘legal highs.’ Although some substances are already banned in the UK it is no secret that the government and the law are struggling to keep up. Substances such as synthetic cannabis (spice) and synthetic speed (mephedrone) were responsible for 123 deaths in 2016. Fentanyl – an extremely powerful synthetic opioid, 50 times more potent than heroin – was responsible for 58 deaths that same year.
The government need to wake up and realise that the war on drugs is a waste of time, money and resources. The fact of the matter is; people are not going to stop taking drugs. No matter how many laws and sanctions are put in place, people are still going to take them. For some people who don’t want the threat of arrest by using illegal drugs, then they are using the loophole of turning legal highs, which has proved to be just as deadly, if not more so.
It’s near impossible to think of a high profile music festival that doesn’t have some sort of drug controversy or related death surrounding it. Year after year more people are dying from something completely preventable.
Glastonbury, V-Festival, Download Festival, Creamfields, T in the Park and Boomtown Fair (to name a few) have all tragically experienced drug related deaths, most commonly amongst teens and young adults.
Some festivals around the UK have taken the next step forwards are now offering on site drug testing, which comes with complete anonymity and no fear of getting arrested or prosecuted. This gives people the opportunity to test what is in their drugs and make sure that they are safe, before destroying them. Police have been praised for putting public health and safety over criminal justice. It’s said that at least 10 festivals up and down the country will offer this service, one of these being the Reading and Leeds festival, where this year a 17-year-old boy died.
This is a huge step forward, but we still have a long way to go.