SCOTS drug deaths still on the up, despite the previous years of initiatives. Listening to radio programmes on Friday morning, in which experts in the field, recovered addicts, family and voluntary organisations discussed the history, I was particularly taken by an ex-police officer who was in a “drugs unit” but is now a supporter of making a difference.

It seems that the UK has been the subject of a systematic view that drug addicts bring it on themselves. They need to do “cold turkey” and get over it. They are generally weak individuals. It’s their own fault, so why should we “taxpayers” fund their “habit”? I work all week and pay my taxes, I object to them getting free drugs. They should be forced to go out and clean up the streets.

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Readers of this newspaper will have noted other papers shouting from their red tops that “something should be done about these druggies”. Lock them up and throw away the key is a common outpourings.

In 1730s London, gin was the “opium of the masses”. It was very cheap with no tax, no controls. Adverts proclaimed: “drunk for one pence, dead drunk for tuppence”. Ordinary folks couldn’t afford wine or brandy so gin was their escape route liquid of choice. The government of the time’s solution was to tax it, driving gin production “underground”.

This seems to be the same strategy used on drugs now.

In 1830 gin production was drastically reduced when the Sale of Beer Act was passed, which had the effect of substituting high-strength distilled spirit with brewed beer.

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The drug market is driven by demand, availability and circumstance, but under the control of criminality, not any government agency. The killer products are the cheap benzodiazepines aka “street valium” and the like, which are manufactured to variable standards. Addicts on the replacement methadone can “top up” their need by using these street drugs.

The lessons are plain now: poor employment, poor levels of disposable income, poor education, poor diet, leads to poor health and life expectations and drives the demand for drugs of all sorts. We see this acutely in Scotland now, but other areas in the UK are also affected, and we can’t deport them to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) as used to be the case.

Why would Scotland be so different from European and UK death rates? Is it that street valium costs 50p per tablet?

READ MORE: To solve Scotland's drug crisis we must urgently deal with 'street benzos'

Just like cheap gin? Why do our deprived communities have a higher death rate compared to more affluent suburbs? Is it poor self-esteem, lack of role models, lack of support systems or all of these? Like Industrial Revolution London?

To disrupt this market, it needs to be taken away from the criminals. Banging up the dealers is a tried and failed tactic.

Legalisation and providing quality, controlled drugs could cut the link to the criminals.

Safe consumption rooms, decriminalising some drugs for personal use, additional rehab facilities could starve the criminal gangs of their revenue stream.

Alistair Ballantyne
Birkhill, Angus

DRUG-DEALING, like knife crime, is a public health problem.

I watched a documentary on reducing Glasgow knife crime and a policeman said the police went to the gang leaders, told them they knew who they were, and that they would be prosecuted if they stepped out of line. And did prosecute them when they did.

Why can they not do the same with drug dealers? Surely its time for for much more police effort to be put into tackling drug dealing?

I’ve heard the drug dealers are waiting outside Scottish secondary schools for pupils to come out.

Daibhidh Beaton