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Promoting Human Rights Above the Prevention of Drug Abuse?

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Britain now has an estimated 1% of the population taking illegal drugs. Approximately 300,000 children are being raised in homes where one, or both, parents is an addict. And the trade is estimated to be worth more than £5.3billion.

Yet it seems that Human Rights is the god of the era. A report in The Daily Telegraph, by Neil McKeganey, Professsor of Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow, concludes that, “For too long we have couched our nation’s drug habit within a moral vacuum, in which the decision to use or not use illegal drugs is seen to be a matter for the individual.” It’s enough to make you weep. And it certainly makes you wonder how this generation of policy-makers will go down in history. All the talk about preventing drug abuse just seems to be a lot of hot air. Have we abdicated all reason and morality?

Too right, we have!

TEENS AND DRUG ABUSE
I knew very little of the facts about drug abuse when my daughter started experimenting with soft drugs at school, but I knew something was wrong. Wrong enough for me to seek help on her behalf. Without exception, I was made to feel by successive establishment figures that I was an over protective mother. My daughter wanted to leave school, to befriend drop-outs and felons and to live with her boyfriend who was on bail, awaiting trial for his part in a gang rape. My ‘interference’ was seen as over protective parenting which impinged upon her Rights. The child psychologist mounted a campaign against me which almost cost me custody of my children. Citing my faith and church attendance as indicative of my ‘repressed sexuality’, he implied this as the motive behind my desire to ‘curb the needs’ of my under-sixteen year old.

HUMAN RIGHTS
Even my daughter found that an affront. But she knew her Rights. ‘You can’t keep me locked up,’ she told the police the first time she ran away. And so it proved. They were under-resourced even then. Unable to keep returning my runaway to me, they caved in and persuaded me to allow her to live with a young woman some thirty miles from home, whilst I sought help from the Courts. Fat chance! Like the psychologist, the Official Solicitor also implied that I was being over-protective, and he strung the whole affair out until it was too late. Too late for me. Too late for my daughter, by this time involved with a criminal gang.

Little wonder that by the time she was eighteen, she was a fully-fledged heroin addict. Nevertheless, I never gave up on her. But it was clear that there was little or no access to drug treatment clinics. For the next seven years she fluctuated between a love affair with the needle, and a terrible fear of dying. Her first attempt at coming clean involved a dodgy doctor and methadone prescriptions. Having read, recently, on a website, of the plight of meth addicts, I’m glad that that means failed her. Next came a spell in a mental hospital where, she was told, she was ‘lucky’ to have a bed. A terrifying place for me when visiting her, it was also, evidently, too much for her to cope with, as she discharged herself within a fortnight. The following year, denied any further medical intervention or access to drug treatment, she tried cold turkey. That proved a hideous trauma for the entire family.

I could go on. Tough love on my part, and sheer grit and determination on hers, eventually freed her. For five years only. During that time she lived a happy and fulfilled life. Until one morning she died a sudden death in suspicious circumstances.

FAILED BY A MORAL VACCUUM
It would be easy to feel bitter. Certainly I feel that my daughter and I were failed by the various agencies from which we sought help. Right back at the beginning, I questioned how pot could be smuggled into a Convent boarding school. But then – hey – the authorities subsequently decided that cannabis should be down-graded. No, it’s not bitterness I feel but sadness. Sadness that we’ve failed a whole generation of young people. Sadness that we’re on course to fail many more.

Most of all I feel saddened to be part of a society which has not only allowed a moral vacuum to develop, but has encouraged it. Once we could call ourselves a Christian country. Once our laws were based on Christian ethic. What have we to replace it? Nothing but scepticism. And the very intolerance (about faith) that secular thinking was supposed to eradicate.

LIVING A HALF LIFE
There are those who advocate the legalisation of drugs as a solution to the problems we face. I cannot condone this. To take that argument to its logical conclusion, are we to legalise any addictive / destructive habit that we find difficult to police? I think not. Besides, in my experience, over the thirteen years of my daughter’s addiction, she was desperate to be clean. Not because her lifestyle was maintained by an illegal substance, but because she recognised that it was not a life worth living. More of a half-life, really, in which she hung, like a leaf blowing in the wind, with no sense of any of the normal human pleasures: no emotions, no affection, no taste, no nothing. Just an empty numbness. And a terrible fear of death.

BOOK ROYALTIES FOR CHARITY
Education has been cited by others as the best means of dealing with the problem. I agree that this is a crucial factor – though only one of several. That’s why half the royalties from the novel I’ve written, titled ‘A Painful Post Mortem, are going to a charity which has a project ‘drug-proofing’ UK teenagers. (The other half is destined for a charity dealing with 3rd World babies born HIV+). The book is inspired by my daughter’s story and will, I hope, be an inspiration to parents, social workers and policy-makers. Read it and wonder: could this be me? My child? My loss? If we do nothing, how many more children are going to be led down the golden garden path of Rights, only to find a Serpent at the other end? And how many more mothers, like me, will be left remembering the betrayal of a society which did nothing? And the death of a much-loved child?

© Mel Menzies, November 2008

The author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No. 4 Bestseller,

Mel is also an experienced Speaker and has addressed live audiences of between 20 and 700+ in addition to participating in TV and Radio chat shows.

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