East End Life Article - Drugs in Tower Hamlets

The war against drugs in Tower Hamlets has been given a further boost this week when the Home Secretary announced an extra £183million, over the next three years for drug prevention treatment. I’m particularly pleased with new drugs policies because Tower Hamlets is one of the communities that needs this new money most.

In Tower Hamlets, drugs affect everyone, even if you’ve never taken a drug in your life. Because, drug taking in Tower Hamlets as we all know, fuels crime, ruins the lives of our young and creates a breeding ground for anti social behaviour.

The starting point of the Home Secretary’s announcement today is clamping down on the more serious Class A drugs such as crack cocaine and heroin. Recent statistics from the Metropolitan Police show that twenty-one people were murdered in London during 2001 in drug related shootings and 441 people nearly all aged between 16 & 35 were arrested carrying Class A drugs - mostly cocaine.

The price of heroin in Tower Hamlets is the cheapest in London and there are kids to be found who can buy heroin for less than it costs them to buy a bar of chocolate. Drugs agencies in Tower Hamlets have witnessed a 50% increase in heroin abuse over the last two years. The most dramatic increase in abuse has been seen within the Bengali community.

I want drugs policy to target the drugs that harm most and cause the greatest destruction in our communities. We know Class A drugs harm the most because every year in Britain, 10 people die from taking ecstasy and 2,100 from taking other illegal drugs; 30,000 die from alcohol use and 120,000 from smoking. No one in Britain has ever died from taking cannabis.

What worries me most is the window between the ages of 17 and 22 years when drug taking can become a way of life and many enter into a life of crime to feed their addictions. What happens to our families, children and young people then when a loved one’s drug taking has become a monumental barrier to having a job, an education or a fulfilling life?

That is why today’s announcement is genuinely such good news. Because, the money will be spent on preventative treatment and tackling the most addictive Class A drugs which threaten the most vulnerable – our children.

I welcome the Government’s support for local initiatives, which aim to divert young people’s interest away from drugs. Sending people to prison for smoking cannabis is a policy approach doomed to fail. Tackling the dealing of Class A drugs on our streets, which threaten our communities, and offering preventative measures has much better chance of turning drugs abuse in Tower Hamlets around.