We’re nearing the end of festival season. All muddy tents, Portaloos, beer-soaked moshpits and, of course, that old festival favourite – drugs. We’re not just talking Es, whizz, weed, coke and LSD, though – that’s when the drugs scene was simpler. Whether you dabbled, were addicted or were totally anti-drugs, at least you were aware of what was out there. Today’s drug scene has evolved. Legal highs have flooded the UK recreational scene faster than a sweaty clubber’s heartbeat and it’s those legal substances that made the headlines earlier this month.
A couple of weeks ago, 19-year-old Katie Wilson told her experience of taking Benzo Fury, which saw her parading around Tesco naked in the middle of the day, karate-kicking a policeman in the face – which also raised the issue of the death of teenage festival-goer Alex Herriot, who took the same drug at RockNess this year. Certainly it’s made the authorities listen up, and music festivals across the UK have either banned or cracked down hard on the substances.
The problem is that while the government desperately tries to stamp down on legal highs with a size-10 Churchill loafer, the websites selling them are always one step ahead. Just as one drug goes underground following the Temporary Class Drug Orders introduced by the government (take methoxetamine as an example – the only drug so far to be made instantly illegal under the order), chemists are busily dreaming up the next chemical compound like oompa loompas in a chocolate factory. In 2011, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) identified another 49 new substances to hit the market – and I’d place a wager on that being just the tip of the iceberg. New concoctions are being introduced every day, and all with the view to be sold as ‘research chemicals’ in a bid to dodge the drug laws, selling to naïve clubbers that think because they’re legal, they’re safe to use.
Worrying statistics show that four times more new legal highs were found in the UK than in any other European country in 2010. And two thirds of all clubbers questioned in a 2012 MixMag/Guardian survey admitted to trying them. Clearly, the issue is widespread, and one that won’t be going away any time soon.
So, what’s the solution? Sure, everyone might think the best thing is to criminalise, but the authorities just couldn’t keep up with the chemists who make it. At least keeping it legal gives the authorities the chance to investigate these drugs properly, but the flip side of that is that users think they’re safe.
The answer has to be more awareness. The message needs to be put out there that these drugs are potentially lethal and try to persuade people that taking them is just too risky. By educating the festival and clubbing generation, we might not be able to stamp out the scene altogether, but we’d certainly be saving lives – and that’s a step in the right direction.
I had some of the most profound experiences known to man during my 13 year love affair with drugs, always in and out through addictions.
If you, or someone you know would like to chat in confidence about drugs, or addiction, then I’m a good pair of ears and see things from both sides.
Sober Coaching could be just the answer you’re looking for….