The case for legalising drugs


Sir, – I am writing to support David McWilliams’s position on the legalising of drugs (Opinion, Weekend, May 4th).

He quite rightly points out the failure of the “war on drugs” and the negative impact that the violence associated with this drug policy has on individuals and society.

Working in the area of opioid addiction over the past 20 years, I have never witnessed personal drug use being reduced by lack of supply.

The most effective approaches to drug treatment are harm reduction and demand reduction.

The ongoing criminalisation of drug users ensures high rates of drug users among our prison populations. The association between injecting drug use and communicable diseases ensures increased prevalence of hepatitis C and HIV infection among prisoners. The spread of these infections in prisons and the risks associated with prison release are major public health concerns. There are significant costs associated with incarceration and the management of the health-related issues.

The legalisation of drugs allows for quality control. This would ensure consistency of potency and prevention of contamination, both linked with overdose deaths. It would also allow for governments to tax drugs depending on their associated risks, a public-health approach that has been shown to be effective in reducing demand.

Revenue generated from this source, along with cost savings from our health and justice budgets, could be used to improve access to education and tackle social inequalities, major drivers of the demand for drugs among young people. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.