The trouble behind the UK’s drug taboo

Drugs are gradually becoming less taboo subjects in society, and thus have become far more acceptable for younger generations.

This is partly because popular culture serves to seduce the public. The media displays pop stars such as Noel Gallagher, Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse who have all openly experimented with drugs. Noel Gallagher has even admitted in interviews that he spent £1m on drugs before abandoning that chapter in his life in 1998. He is also alleged to have claimed that he would allow his children to try drugs, but just in moderation.

Smoking and alcohol are classed as drugs, due to the damaging effects they have and their addictive qualities. However, as these substances are available to those over 18, does this mean that illegal drugs should be controlled in the same way? Why are class B drugs regulated in a different way? Many would argue that they are no more harmful.

Rave culture embraces a diverse array of drugs, such as MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamine, GHB, ketamine and mephedrone. All of these drugs carry considerable risk and can cause permanent damage to one’s health, with problems such as memory loss, sexual dysfunction, brain damage and a tainted perception of reality. They can also cause permanent damage physically. It could be said that events like this actually popularise such drugs and suggest they are safe to use to enhance a “party” and a fun feeling. However the reality is there is no safe dosage guarantee and one cannot assume the drugs are pure.

Channel Four’s recent programme The Drug Trials dissected one of the major drugs used at raves: ecstasy. It stated that over 500 million people take ecstasy and that Britain is the drug-taking capital of Europe. It followed a group of volunteers taking pure ecstasy over a six-month period and explored the risks and effects such as an energised buzz where surroundings become more intense, and at the other end of the spectrum being panic attacks, paranoia and psychosis. However, the study did also highlight how, when the drug is used responsibly, it can help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The key thing to remember, when dealing with drugs, is to be educated, to make informed decisions and to be safe, whether the drugs are legal or illegal, and to assess their risks. The media should not use celebrities to glamorise drugs, instead they should be enlisted to promote drugs awareness and social debate, in order to educate. Drugs are not fully accepted in society and the battle for changes to legislation will continue. The way to regulate drug usage remains a complex and controversial issue.


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August 2022
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