Student drug use is causing the most vulnerable to be exploited

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By Tim Bodey, Second Year History

Too many Bristol students kid themselves into believing that their drug use exists within a vacuum and cts no-one but themselves. The reality is that their recreational use is costing lives.

'Is it fair to say, commissioner, that some of these middle-class [people have] actually got blood on their hands of some of the people who are dying on the streets?'

'I think anybody who is not seriously mentally ill, seriously addicted, who is seeking ‘recreational’ drugs, particularly class A drugs, yes, I think that is a good way to put it, I do.'

After the stabbings a few weeks ago, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Cressida Dick, made the above comments.

While on LBC, a call asked if these stabbings would go down if there was a smaller market for drugs. She began her response by saying that her “absolute priority … is violence”. She said that stop and search aims to target the people causing harm, as opposed to those using drugs. When pushed by the caller she stated that the force is dealing with the ‘Mr Bigs, but that their priority has to be violence.

The presenter, Nick Ferrari then pushed her on to the next topic. However, I think this is a great loss. Ms. Dick has previously been outspoken about middle class cocaine users, the role of which in the rise of gang violence is undeniable.

She had previously specifically targeted those who “sit round...happily think about global warming and organic food but think there is no harm in taking a bit of cocaine. Well, there is; there’s misery throughout the supply chain”.

With Bristol recently announced as the Cocaine Capital of Europe, alongside the University's identity as a progressive, protest-filled cohort, this cerainly seems to hit close to home.

But surely the harm also goes further than cocaine?

Victoria Atkins, a Home Office worker, commented on the relation between drugs and crime, calling drugs “the main drive...of this serious violence”.

Why are there gangs in the UK? Mainly, to provide drugs.

County lines are a system used by gangs where children are exploited to traffic drugs into cities, and these traffickers are left unfed and in squalid conditions. These gangs exploit the vulnerability of poor children, left behind by society. Desperation leads to violence, tension and unrest.

But how do such foul gangs survive? Because they are profitable.

What makes them profitable? Customers.

Customers like Bristol University students. Surely this is something we must take notice of, particularly in the light of recent knife crime in the city?

This is a basic principle, yet it seems to be ignored by far too many.

Suppliers exploit children to ensure that their product remains profitable. They do not have to pay children, and children are less likely to get arrested. However, this does make life more dangerous for children. One of the more publicised killings of late is that of 17-year-old Jodie Chesney, in what is speculated to be a case of mistaken identity.

I am not claiming that all stab victims are involved in gangs, Ms. Chesney was not, or even that all stabbers are. What I am saying is that a huge proportion of children involved in gangs are involved because of drug supply.

This is causing violence to increase, by creating a culture where people feel that stabbing is a solution. If we want to help in this situation, surely the first step we can take is admitting that student drug use is not harmless?

It does not fit the simple utilitarian justification that ‘it doesn’t hurt anyone, it makes me happy’. Surely, we can see it does hurt people, and more than that it hurts the most vulnerable people in society.

The point of this article is not to present a conclusive case for the correlation between drugs and violence toward young people.

Although I would contend the case for that correlation is strong, it requires one more able and better informed than I. What I want to argue is that we should consider the impact that our actions have on other people.

Funding the drug industry does lead to harm, and significant harm, even if we cannot see it being done in front of us. The conclusion from this could be one of legalising drugs, or of cracking down on them.

Either way, at the moment, drugs are not harmless. They are very harmful. Particularly to those who cannot help themselves.

Featured image: Flickr/Brandon Anderson

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