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Fatal addiction: the story of Scott Douglas


Two years ago Scott Douglas died of a heroin overdose. Why, then, is his father, who is a staunch opponent of drugs, calling for all drugs to be legalised?

"Legalise, don't criminalise" is Howard Douglas' motto. He insists the only way to control drugs is to regulate the sale of them. "I don't want a soft line on drugs. I wish to God that people wouldn't use them. But they do, and so we need to put some order into the market."

He firmly believes that his son would still be alive today if heroin had been legal. Scott Douglas was 33 when he died two years ago. A long-time heroin user, he was forced to do without the drug during a five-week prison term. He was killed by his first dose after being released.

An inquiry into Scott's death found that because he had been without the drug for several weeks, his body could not take his normal dose. It also revealed that his final shot contained an impurity - urine acetylcodeine. "If there had been a controlled environment for my son to take his heroin, and it had been supplied legally, he would still be alive. There are basically two policy options: you can legalise and regulate the supply, as you do with other drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, or you can leave criminals to control everything."

Although Mr Douglas concedes that legalisation would be "anathema" to many fellow parents, he would like to see heroin supplied by the health service to addicts and a "clean and controlled environment" for it to be taken with free needles and medical advice.

One obststacle is that the political will to tackle the problem just does not exist yet. He says the only prospect of change would be if "a government minister's son or a member of the royal family dies from drug abuse".

After Scott's death, Mr Douglas became deeply involved in the debate and was able to understand why many young people turn to drugs. "I met a lot of Scott's associates and they had one thing in common - they couldn't get to grips with the world. "Scott could never understand why three-quarters of the world had to go hungry while one quarter had more food than they needed. For a lot of [addicts] the world is a very painful place. Drugs take the edge off reality."




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