As part of the Self in its Social Context module we were asked to do an assignment on a topic of our interest.

As I have an interest in the effects of drug misuse on individuals, and my work placement was in a drug service I chose do base my assignment around those particular issues.

In my assignment I am going to look how drug misuse affects communities.

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And what is being, and can be done in order to combat this problem that is affecting communities all over Britain today.

Firstly I will look at the term drug misuse, and also how different people perceive the term communities.

The term drug refers to psycho-active drugs including illicit drugs and non-prescribed pharmaceutical preparations.

The term misuse refers to illegal or illicit drug taking or alcohol consumption that leads a person to experience social, psychological, physical or legal problems related to intoxication or regular excessive consumption and/or dependence. Drug misuse is therefore drug taking that causes harm to the individual, their significant others or the wider community.

Communities within community

Etzioni’s (1995) plea for the restoration of civic virtues sees communities as social webs of people who know one another as persons and have a moral voice. The communication agenda assumes shared moral norms and a single public interest, which is shared by the community at large.

Bauman (2000) sees the community of the communitarian dream as focused on a notion of sameness. His hope is that communities can be woven together through sharing and mutual care with the rights of individuals and the rights of communities balanced. His book Community has the subtitle “seeking safety in an insecure world”, reminding us of the significance of community in the context of a crime reduction programme.

As Paddison’s review (2001) of the different meanings of community points out, the very term community assumes a degree of internal coherence which is rarely the case, and is in likelihood unattainable. Communities contain within them competing demands and the potential for conflict as well as harmony.

Massey (1994) points out those even apparently homogeneous communities have internal structures, quoting a woman’s sense of place in a mining village for example as compared with a man’s. The two groups experience the place quite differently.

‘The strength and character of a local community comes from its shared values and the distinct challenges it faces.’ (Home Office 1998)

The Social Context

In 1970 the time of the Vietnam War, almost every enlisted man was being approached by someone offering him heroin. By 1971, it had been estimated that almost half of the service men had taken opiates (mainly heroin).

Most of those who used opiates used them repeatedly and over a long period of time, and most of the troops who used drugs while in Vietnam used more than one type.

The heroin available on the streets at this time was many times more expensive than in Vietnam and much less pure.

The government set up a screening system to identify and detoxify the addicted soldiers before they were sent home. Less than 10% (Gossop 1988) of the service men continued to use opiate after there return home. Compared with the civilian statistics about opiate addiction, these figures are remarkably low.

What happened in Vietnam and afterwards conflicts with several popular beliefs about drug addiction. It is usually assumed that heroin addiction is an inevitable consequence of using the drug, that once it has taken hold, it is virtually impossible for the user to rid himself of the habit. The Vietnam experience shows that neither of these beliefs is true.

This curious episode in the history of drug taking is a good example of the ways in which changes in social circumstance can have a powerful effect upon the way people use drugs.

The young men who served in the Vietnam War were removed from their normal social environment and from many of its usual social and moral restraints. For many of them it was a confusing, chaotic and often extremely frightening experience, and the chances of physical escape were remote.

As a form of inward desertion, drugs represented a way of altering the nature of subjective reality itself, and for the servicemen, drugs were cheap and freely available.

Where is drug misuse a problem?

Drug misuse is one of the scourges of modern society and it affects people from many different backgrounds. It destroys families and young lives and permanently damages the prospects of far too many young people who acquire health problems, and criminal records instead of qualifications at school.

It fuels burglary, robbery and anti-social behavior and brings down local communities.

Drug takers are easily the most marginalized group in society.

Drug misuse is thought to be directly responsible for the deaths of 3000 people a year 450 of those who die are under 25 (Home Office1998).

The British Crime Survey indicates that in 2000, around one-third of those aged 16 to 59 had taken illegal drugs at some time In their lives, with eleven percent using in the past year and six percent describing themselves as regular users.

Most drug use is cannabis use, with only one percent of the population reporting the use of heroin and crack-cocaine.

“Drugs destroy lives and communities, undermine sustainable human development and generate crime. Drugs affect all sectors of society in all countries; in particular, drug abuse affects the freedom and development of young people, the world’s most valuable asset. Drugs are a grave threat to the health and well-being of all mankind, the independence of states, democracy, the stability of nations, the structure of all societies, and the dignity and hope of millions of people and their families.”(Mentor foundation 2004)

Drug misuse is strongly linked with social exclusion, poverty and crime.

It affects people from all walks of life and from many different backgrounds.

It fuels the burglary, robbery and anti-social behavior that leave vulnerable people frightened to leave their homes. It brings down local communities.

Drug misuse, and the harm it inflicts, is one of the most important challenges this country has to tackle.

Drug-related crime is in effect the same as any other acquisitive crime. It is part of the patterns of distribution of such crimes as shoplifting, burglary and credit card or cheque fraud.

Drug users tend not to travel far from their sites of distribution and purchase of drugs in committing offences. Mapping of their offending shows it to be usually close to where they buy and or sell drugs.

This means that the poorest communities where drugs are most commonly sold also attract a disproportionate amount of burglaries. This in turn can lead to a cycle of abandonment and area decline. For these reasons the most deprived areas are often the location for many closed markets, especially in inner city or out of town estates.

Open street markets tend to be congregated in shopping centres in the centres of towns, and in inner-city deprived areas close to city centres where users live. They often surround bus stations and train stations.

Shoplifting is inevitably concentrated in High Street shopping areas. High profile drug markets attract related anti-social behaviour and crime.

Sex markets tend to be closely attached to street-level drug markets, especially for crack cocaine.

In deprived neighborhoods drug misuse is a significant factor. Although drug misuse is not just a problem in deprived areas; equally not every disadvantaged area has a serious drugs problem.

But drug misuse, and the crime and anti-social behavior that is so often associated with it, compounds the other problems that deprived neighborhoods face and creates a vicious downward spiral.

The visible effects of drug misuse blight communities and add to the overall fear of public safety and alienation. Discarded needles are not only a health risk; they are also graphic evidence of the underlying reasons for the rundown state of many housing estates in deprived neighborhoods.

A number of factors contribute towards this downward spiral, it maybe there are barriers to taking up legitimate work in the area or areas close by; or there may be high rates of truancy and few activities to keep young people occupied.

Society is not a simple organization. It is made up of a multitude of groups, each with its own aims, interests and priorities. Most users of alcohol, coffee and tobacco can take their drugs without challenging the ‘conventional’ social values.

The committed drug user is often spoken about as if they exist outside society, and their behavior is described as uncontrolled or meaningless. But most illicit drug users to do not live outside society; they live in ‘alternative societies’ (M.Gossop 1988) which are in many respects clearly at odds with conventional, middle class values.

The phrase ‘alternative society is derived from the dissent of the hippies during the 1960’s; but even the supposedly amoral world of the street addict has its own set of alternative social rules and values.

Businesses are also an important part of the community. They too suffer from the impact of drugs. But they can also be part of the solution. The government is discussing with businesses how their involvement in tackling drug misuse can be further enhanced.

But the sort of ways in which business can already make an important contribution at local and national level, include:

* Guarding against their business being used for money laundering by reporting unusually large cash transactions;

* Being vigilant if they are involved in international business and alerting customs and excise to anything suspicious;

* Supporting and sponsoring action in their local communities;

* Undertaking joint activities with their local crime and disorder reduction partnerships;

* Working with groups helping young people to find a better alternative to drug taking;

* Working with local employment initiatives and the employment service to provide work training and experience opportunities;

* Acting as mentors and role models for young people;

* Making it harder for drug abusers to finance their habit by shoplifting and other types of theft, for example making stolen goods more traceable; and

* Making sure that their own employees have ready access to information about the dangers of drug abuse and how to tackle it.

Minority Ethnic Communities

The Minority Ethnic Communities panel of the DAT (Drugs Action Team) concentrates on the South East Asian Communities.

The interviewees were a professional who worked either within the drugs field or with South Asian communities in the area and this information was supplemented by questionnaires with members of the South Asian communities themselves. A total of 16 professionals and 70 members of the communities contributed (lifeline 2004)

The information provided by the panel members was based on their own knowledge and was supported by the knowledge of other DAT workers and by findings of other current research.

The main findings were:

* The growth in demand and emergent drug markets was linked to an increase in the number of young South Asian people in the area.

* There would appear to be primary networks of Asian dealers across East Lancashire and into West Yorkshire.

* There is perceived to be an increase in drug use among people from South East Asian minority ethnic communities.

* Cannabis remains the most widely used illegal drug, but there were also reports of localised trends, for example in one area it was reported that benzodiazepines and alcohol are more common.

* The use of other ‘recreational drugs’ has also become more common.

Panel members who work with young people offered accounts of both young boys and girls using volatiles (‘tooting’ gas or sniffing glue).

There was broad agreement that heroin usage has increased. However, there was debate as to extent to which heroin was being injected rather than smoked.

There were reports (supported by police seizure records) of increased crack cocaine availability in certain parts of the locality.

There was wide spread acknowledgement of steroid use among Asian males. It was said this was a hidden but growing problem that was related to the users desire to improve both physique and image.

It was suggested that family networks reduce the extent to which dependent drug users need to commit crime and that this in turn contributes to Asian drug use being less visible. It was not clear how family networks do this.

For many young people there is considerable pressure, especially if they are not achieving in school and this leads to drug use to gain self-esteem.

There are splits between communities as to who is to blame for drug problems. It was suggested that strong religious communities and tight families limit discussion on drugs; however, the hold of the extended family would appear to be less strong than in the past.

Family responses to drug problems still include sending their children back home but it was stated that they often return with bigger problems.

Families are increasingly paying for private detoxification and it was alleged that they are falsely stating that aftercare has been arranged and to bypass existing DAT structures.

There was debate over the role of Asian drug workers and whether people would confide in those who lived within their own communities. There is debate over the extent to which services need to be culturally specific, but also drug users specific.

There was also debate as to whether access to drugs services was limited by the shared care model and whether people fully understand their rights and confidentiality.

There is a debate about the need for, and the role of, specialist Black and minority ethnic drug services as opposed to increasing access for Black and minority ethnic drug users to generic services. Specialised drug services are not necessarily thought by all to be the most appropriate way to treat drug users from some Black and minority ethnic groups, and young people may require a different approach.

What is being done?

Over time community organizations have been weakened and this is where drugs have been able to take hold of them and the government have recognized this and are setting up community partnerships involving schools, parents, the police, voluntary organizations, local government, health professionals and local businesses to be built up to fight the war against drugs in our communities.

So long as a significant amount of drugs continues to get through to our streets, however, action will continue to be needed to cut the demand for drugs in local communities.

Communities want to see those people who are already victims of the drugs industry helped to escape their addiction-helped to reclaim their future through treatment, training and employment.

One example of this is in Lambeth, with the major crack market of Brixton, which is an area where crack problems had reached crisis point in early 2002, with open crack markets and 80% plus crack houses. Accompanying the use of crack was open street prostitution and the use of guns. The local community had had enough and wanted action.

In June 2002, the home secretary met with local politicians and services to help develop an action plan for crack. This has been put in to action and since June, Lambeth has made a major start on tackling its problems. Over 100 crack house raids have taken place.

The Lambeth community knows that selling crack will meet with a swift and decisive police response. Much more action is underway as part of a comprehensive multi- agency plan to tackle the crack problem in the borough and much more is needed to sustain the progress made, but Lambeth shows that community pressure, coupled with a rapid response can make a difference.

The Communities Against Drugs (CAD) Initiative was launched by the Government in 2001 as a three year programme to help communities mobilise against drugs.

New resources were allocated to this in the spring 2001 Budget – a total of �220 million over three years (crime reduction 2004). The funds are intended for Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) to disrupt local drugs markets and drugs related crime.

In 2003 it was announced that the fund would be absorbed into a larger fund called the Building Safer Communities Fund (BSCF). This is allocated in exactly the same way and allows partnerships to have greater flexibility in management and allocation to address local problems.

There is a requirement that there should be no disinvestment from actions to tackle drugs and the three main aims of the original CAD fund need to be maintained. Partnerships are expected to spend at least the same amount as they did previously on the same three aims of the CAD fund namely:

* Tackling drug related supply

* Tackling drug related crime

* Building stronger communities

The allocation has been designed to ensure that each partnership will receive some funding while at the same time targeting resources at those areas with the worst problems.

Funds have been released to Local Authorities (who will hold the funds for Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships), as grant conditions have been agreed. Partnerships will have a great deal of flexibility over the way that the money is spent.

The only requirements are that CDRPs should have the agreement of the local BCU police commander and Drugs Action Team on a strategy before any interventions funded with the money can begin, and that the money is used for the purposes of disrupting drugs markets and tackling drug related crime and disorder.

It is expected that the level of spend on drug problems should be not less than the figure of �50m allocated in the first year of CAD (crime reduction 2004).

Also the NTA (National Treatment Agency), which is a new special health authority, established by the government in 2001 with a remit to increase the availability, capacity and effectiveness of drug treatment in England have set out a national framework called Models of Care, which is for the commissioning of adult treatment for drug misuse. This is set out in four tiers:

1. Non-substance misuse specific services requiring interface with drug and alcohol treatment.

2. Open access drug and alcohol treatment services.

3. Structured community-based drug treatment services.

4. Residential services for drug and alcohol misusers.

Tier 3 services are provided solely for drug and alcohol misusers in structured programmes of care. These include psychotherapeutic interventions, counseling, and community detoxification to name but a few. These services take in to account the rural and urban differences. For example, structured day programmes may be more difficult to provide in rural areas and may need to be adapted.

The government is working in partnership with Drug Action Teams, and The National Treatment Agency (NTA), to target locally determined measures designed to strengthen communities, and generally tackle drugs and drug related crime.

The government has set out a new initiative to provide offenders with rapid access to treatment.

Paul Hayes, NTA chief executive explains “the NTA is working with treatment services to reducing waiting times for all drug misusers. Within this, we believe that it is appropriate to focus on those who cause most harm to themselves and others-including offenders whose criminal activity is fuelled by their drug problem. Rapid access to appropriate treatment is particularly important for the offenders targeted by the government’s fast track initiative as these offences cause the public most alarm…

We believe that there are four main benefits to the community of providing treatment to offenders at an early stage:

* Their offending rates are likely to drop, thereby protecting their potential victims

* It focuses on a group who traditionally do not access treatment and thereby provides an opportunity to engage them in the system

* Treatment is likely to be more effective and efficient at an early stage before their drug problem becomes entrenched, therefore speeding their passage through the care system and freeing up services for others

* Early treatment reduces the spread of blood borne diseases such as Hepatitis and HIV.” (NTA 2004)

It is important that the minority of offenders, who do not receive a prison sentence, are stabilized through treatment within the community as soon as possible.

On 11th May 2004 the Home Secretary David Blunkett speaking ahead of his speech to the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) annual conference, Mr Blunkett said:

“Much has been achieved by the police and the Government to tackle the menace of drug abuse, however the law abiding citizen expects us to do more. Drugs tear families apart and create dysfunctional communities undermining the culture of support and respect…

We have provided the police with the tools they need to do the job by helping to tackle the ‘revolving door’ between offending and prison with the Criminal Justice Interventions Programme. This programme targets offenders committing crimes to fund their drug habit and is being supported by funding of �447 million over three years.” (Drugscope 2004)

There seems to be a culture of hostility towards the police in some communities, and a perceived lack of presence in others. The poor physical design of housing estates and public areas, and alley ways, provide easy opportunities for crime and for drug dealers to operate.

The government are introducing new resources such as the CJIP (Criminal justice intervention programme) Team and DTTO’s (Drug treatment and testing orders) to help tackle this problem at the first opportunity through high quality and effective treatment in the community.


The war against drugs will never be won by the government alone. It can only be won by the whole community mobilising together.

The government has already done much to help tackle the problems caused by drug misuse. But the government can not win this war on its own.

It will take local people, the police, the prison and probation services, the voluntary sector, community organisations, teachers and youth workers, health workers, social workers, and business, all working together with central and local government, to tackle the evil of drugs, and drive the drug dealers out of our communities.

What was achieved in Lambeth is a good example of how communities and agencies can come together to tackle the problem which is effecting every community in every town.

Drug dealers do not thrive in strong, active communities that will not tolerate their presence and which have the confidence to drive the dealers out of the areas where they prey on vulnerable young people.

Our communities want to see the dealers driven out. But they also want to see their sons and daughters who are already the victims of the drug industry helped to escape their addiction- helped to reclaim their future through treatment, training and employment.


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