The following article was penned by a well known Glasgow Keelie and appears here courtesy of that pocket rocket of critical thought and information, the Glasgow Keelie. It is a subject matter that perhaps the anarchist groups should make their view more widely known, I'm sure there are strong opinions on this matter, it would be good to hear them aired. A shortened version of this article appears in the latest January issue of the Glasgow Keelie. Have a look at what the Glasgow Keelie has to offer.
A lethal mix: Profiting from Alienation
Joe Fitzpatrick sacked as Public Health Minister by the SNP Government had a poisoned chalice. It is doubtful his successor can make much of a difference. A major onslaught on the criminal gangs manufacturing street valium could have an impact. But for how long? The same might be said for the Drug advocacy industry, what lasting impact on harm reduction can we point to? Help with mental health from groups like SAMH are an exception.
Prolonged drug use is like a slow car crash. The average drug user is in his mid twenties, but may not seek help until their mid 30s. Chances are by mid 40s, dead or severely damaged, physically and mentally. Only a minority rebuild their lives. It is not as if drug use is less throughout Europe but different drugs produce less deaths, although they may be implicated in, for example the mental health psychosis. For example, France has the highest percentage of the population aged 15-64 to have used drugs, mostly recreationally. 45% Cannabis in all it's variants. The Scandanavian countries, & Estonia have a higher minority drawn to 'hard drugs' but Scotland is in a league of it's own.
92% of Scotland's drug deaths involve users supplementing heroin or methadone with an illicit drug. The active ingredient of street valium, however adulterated, is Etizolam, which is 10 times stronger than Diazapam and most other Benxodiazepine tablets. Nicknamed by the tabloids as the “blue plague” the problem is Scotland wide, not just in parts of Glasgow or Dundee. But already other substances are in the pipeline, like Flualprazolam. Europe wide, 71% seizures are for Cannabis, with only 10% Cocaine and Heroin 5%, and less for street valium.
That Scotland has a problem that is in a “league of it's own” is undeniable. It might surprise you to find out Sweden is the next worse. But at 81 per million, that is slight compared with 229 here. That meant 1,264 deaths in 2019, rising 7% from 2018's previous 'high'! 69% are Male but the numbers of women dying are rising. The age bands which are now most at risk because of there are those born between 1976-85, ahead of the 1966-75. You might expect Cities with areas of multiple deprivation in England & Wales to be just as bad but Manchester, with twice the England average has 91 deaths per million.
That is not to say that the greatest number of deaths come from those in 'disadvantaged' neighbourhoods but that there is a (not so) 'Bonnie Scotland' effect sub-culture which is perpetuated by the gangsters, who historically have their friends amongst the Police & legal profession. As the film “Battle of Algiers” showed, and for example the experience of Militant, and later the SSP in North Pollok in the period 1995-2005 showed, the pedlars are an obstacle to political change.
https://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/topic-overviews/content/faq-drug-overdose-deaths-in-europe_en quote from 2018:
“Scotland with a population of 5.5 million reports a similar number of overdose deaths as Germany does that has a population of 83 million. Most cases in Scotland are associated with opioids (9 in 10) and benzodiazepines (7 in 10) but almost all 85% involve more than one drug. Recent increases are primarily seen in the 35–44 and 45–54 age groups.”
The Urge to Self-Destruct is not a Creative Urge
It is no accident that two-thirds of drug deaths were born in the period 1966 to 1985. De-industrialization and a decline in the typical job opportunities for school-leavers without qualifications drove many to seek escape & construct a new harsh self-destructive culture. 1979 witnessed the Tory Government that brought Thatcher & her cronies to power.
The Blair Government acted to accelerate globalisation & market forces. 'Lame Duck' industries were obliterated, some like the Miners through confrontation, but more usually by jobs being exported to countries by Multinationals with lower wage costs & social security. It is also no coincidence that after urban riots in the early to mid 80s, when collective resistance was a possibility that supplies of street heroin increased at affordable prices.
Throughout history, people have been drawn to experience substances & out of body experiences. The Late 60s glamourised recreational drugs like LSD & Marijuana as pathways to self-exploration & enhanced consciousness. From a communal experience it has become an individualised or sub group expression of alienation . Males are brought up to act “tough' not share feelings, and drugs & alcohol are escapes from hurt & confusion.
It is a challenge that those with radical politics are not meeting. This is especially true in housing schemes where anonymity is more difficult with sectarian or drug dealer attacks more likely. There are exceptions, as with the motorway protests in Pollok in the 90s, the Independence referendum 5 years back, but it can quickly dissipate. A culture of education, resistance and local agitation is largely absent. Living Rent is a cause of hope, such as in The Wyndford in Maryhill.
Where there is hope, education & a sense of an alternative, the urge to self-destruct, will have less appeal.
In case you think Alcohol is missed check out https://www.alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk/alcohol-information/alcohol-facts-and-figures/