Submitted by the Dance Drugs Alliance
People involved in the UK's thriving club
scene formed the Dance Drugs Alliance (DDA) as an independent
voice within the club scene. Led by clubbers and free partiers,
the DDA is a broad-based coalition of people who believe it is
time to have an honest and open debate about dance drugs culture.
The fact that drugs are being taken in
a club setting reflects the central role of drugs in today's youth
culture. We are no longer talking about a minority practice. Nearly
half of all young people in the UK will have tried drugs by the
age of 15. In the late 1990s nearly 10 million people had tried
drugs, a jump from only 1 million in the 1960s.
The influence of drugs is all around us,
in advertising, popular music, lifestyle magazines and recreational
activities. It is important to remember that in the midst of all
the anti-drugs hype that people take drugs because they are pleasurable.
The actual risks of taking recreational
drugs are massively over-stated. Using cannabis is about as risky
as being in a playground, the risks of taking heroin compare with
base jumping, and risks associated with taking ecstasy equates
to down hill skiing. Of course risks do exist but can it really
be sensible to ask organised crime to look after the well being
of our young people who are ever increasingly choosing to use
drugs? It is notable that we legally manage and regulate the two
most risky drugs: namely alcohol and tobacco.
It is worth noting that there is significant
pressure every weekend on Accident and Emergency Departments and
the Police linked to youth culture. However, all the evidence
shows that this relates to alcohol culture rather than the dance
drugs scene. Rather than condemning dance drug users and the club
scene, perhaps government should be seeking to understand and
support the positive attributes of this form of nightlife culture.
The Police Foundation Report highlighted
that classifying ecstasy as a class "A" drug was quite
inappropriate. We welcome Lady Runciman's contribution but we
were very disappointed the Government failed to give serious consideration
to her findings. The failure of government to allow any serious
discussion about the effectiveness of prohibition itself highlights
how current drugs policy is morally and politically driven rather
than evidence based. The DDA asserts the right of all adults to
make the informed choice to use mind-altering substances.
We commend the Home Affairs Select Committee
for opening a genuine debate on this drug taking in the UK. We
would therefore strongly urge you to recommend the creation of
a legal regulated market for drug taking. We commend to the committee
the "Angel Declaration", which not just asserts the
need for legalisation but begins to define a potential model for
a legal regulated market.
In the last half of our submission, we
would like to address the current pressure being faced by the
club scene. While ecstasy-related deaths are often reported as
being linked to "killer pills", they most often relate
to conditions in clubs or overheating and dehydration among individual
clubbers. As such they are all easily avoidable.
We would like to state for the record that
the idea the club industry is soft on drugs is quite false. In
fact the DDA has heard many complaints about the excessive level
of door searches, which have included women's breasts and men's
genitals being felt by security staff. Many clubs do not even
offer us the basic privacy of locks on toilet doors.
The reality remains that the criminal justice
system cannot keep drugs out of prisons. It seems quite unfair
that the police and licensing authorities are expecting outcomes
from the club industry that the prison service have failed to
achieve. Club owners and promoters are caught in an invidious
position between the desire of clubbers to take ecstasy and the
current clamp down.
The problem is that added pressure on clubs
does have an impact. However, this does not reduce the incidence
of recreational drug taking, it just increases the potential for
drug-related harm. Let us illustrate this:
We are hearing worrying reports that
dance safety initiatives are being turned away from clubs, as
owners fear that this is tantamount to acknowledging that drug
use does take place on their premises.
One club representative has raised
concerns that the current pressure on clubs may cause some to
question the wisdom of calling ambulances when people do get into
trouble. This is a problem in Ibiza where clubs often put casualties
in taxies and send them back to their hotels to avoid legal problems
In some cases, this new focus on
searching is allowing club owners to back away from in-house safety
initiatives such as free water, effective chill out areas, proper
air conditioning and on-site paramedics. In the current climate
profit can be put before health and safety.
Staff training and resources are
being focussed on searching clubbers rather than identifying and
helping those who get into trouble.
Some clubbers are choosing to take
their ecstasy before entering a club. This means people take higher
one-off doses, which exacerbates both the immediate and long-term
Many clubbers now feel they cannot
approach club staff for help, as this will lead to them being
evicted from the club.
We now have an industry whose effectiveness
is measured in terms of the numbers of pills seized rather than
for actions taken to secure the safety and well being of their
customers. In some cases unscrupulous club owners or promoters
may compound the problem but these people go unchallenged in a
climate of fear and secrecy. The vast majority of club owners
and promoters do want to offer clubbers a safe and enjoyable night
out. While we believe the drugs laws need a fundamental overhaul,
there is an immediate need to immediately recover an effective
balance between enforcement and public health in our commercial