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As Scotland's 'Trainspotting' Generation Ages, the Dead Pile Up (nytimes.com)
116 points by notathing 67 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 92 comments

Not mentioned in the article:

The Scottish heroin epidemic started in Edinburgh, the more prosperous of Scotland's two largest cities. This was largely due to the presence of MacFarlan Smith, which was at one point the world's largest producer of pharmaceutical opiates. That initial cohort of heroin users in the 1980s predominantly used drugs that were diverted from the legitimate pharmaceutical supply rather than smuggled from abroad, which led to an unusually rapid increase in the user population and the illicit market.


The majority of overdose deaths in Scotland involved multiple drugs; for reasons that are not entirely clear, Scottish addicts are particularly prone to concurrently use opiates, benzodiazepines and alcohol in an indiscriminate manner. This vastly increases the risk of overdose due to the cumulative and unpredictable respiratory depression induced by multiple drugs.


> The majority of overdose deaths in Scotland involved multiple drugs; for reasons that are not entirely clear, Scottish addicts are particularly prone to concurrently use opiates, benzodiazepines and alcohol in an indiscriminate manner.

I don't believe this is specific to Scotland. My layperson understanding is that heroin is relatively safe in the sense that most opioid deaths fall into one of the following categories: multiple drug interaction (benzos/alcohol being a very common combination), tolerance change due to relapse and, more recently, increased variance in potency due to strong synthetics (fentynyl, carfentanil, etc.). This is the theory behind people who advocate for maintenance prescriptions.

59% of drug overdose deaths in Scotland involved a benzodiazepine, compared to less than 16% in England and Wales. Scotland has an unusually serious and rapidly increasing problem of benzodiazepine-related deaths.


The Macfarlan Smith link is interesting and not something I’ve ever heard before. Is there any other information on this on the web or elsewhere? A google for “Macfarlan Smith” and “Heroin” only returns your comment here as best I could find in a few minutes of searching.

As a pharmaceutical product, heroin is called diamorphine, which should turn up more information. This article from The Scotsman newspaper mentions the theft of diamorphine from the MacFarlan Smith factory.


Thanks for the link!

You may also be interested in this interview with Dr Roy Robertson, who was one of the first to identify the heroin problem in Edinburgh and the subsequent outbreak of HIV/AIDS.


The first of Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting" books, the prequel "Skagboys", has that factory as a core component of a few of its story lines. I though Skagboys was at least as good as Trainspotting, and I'm glad I read it first.

The schemes on the outskirts are pretty grim as where parts of Leith

Redheads are known to have greater pain tolerance. Perhaps there's a relationship to that phenomenon here.

Watch out @yostrovs, HN is not a safe space for humor attempts.

Though I did find my comment amusing, I do believe there may be something to it.

It is a fact that redheads have higher pain tolerance and respond differently to anesthesia compared to the rest of the population. Considering these phenomena are related to drug abuse, I feel like the downvoting is a matter of ignorance.

That is rare information. Never heard of MacFarlan Smith before.

To add to the cocktail of drugs there is also glue sniffing. South of the border you will never see anyone sniffing glue and I doubt there are many people in England who wake up in the morning with a burning desire to sit in the street sniffing glue. But this goes on in Glasgow. I found this shocking to see.

There is also 'Bucky' that alcohol that is not sold south of the border.


15% alcohol in what is effectively an energy drink. Happy times.

> South of the border you will never see anyone sniffing glue and I doubt there are many people in England who wake up in the morning with a burning desire to sit in the street sniffing glue

This is quite an unsubstantiated claim. Never? Of course you will, and do.

> There is also 'Bucky' that alcohol that is not sold south of the border.

This is patently false. It's made in Devon at Buckfast Abbey, so of course it's sold south of the border. And you see it south of the border all over the place. I know several places off the top of my head in Leeds and London where you can buy it. You can buy it on Amazon as well.


Buckfast is also sold in Ireland and it always had a reputation for getting people messed up when drinking.

Looking at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckfast_Tonic_Wine

1 bottle 750ml @ 15% alcohol + caffeine equivalent to 8 cans of coke, that will do it alright.

edit good god just found this, why? https://www.dailyedge.ie/buckfast-easter-egg-3300036-Mar2017...

You are nit-picking here.

I have spent a lot of time in the scummier parts of London and yet to step over some kid sniffing glue. In Glasgow it is an all too common sight. You can check the health statistics and I am sure there are a few parts of North England and Northern Ireland that are similarly blighted but glue is not a problem south of the Watford Gap in the way that it is in Glasgow.

Sure Bucky is now stocked by Booker and therefore available in corner shops in England, however this is a recent development. Five years ago it was near impossible to buy the stuff in England. As for today, good luck buying bucky in a normal supermarket - Tesco, Waitrose, Asda, Sainsbury's, Aldi, Lidl etc. or even in a pub. It isn't marketed in England in the same way it is marketed in Scotland.

> I have spent a lot of time in the scummier parts of London and yet to step over some kid sniffing glue. In Glasgow it is an all too common sight.

I studied in and now live and work in Glasgow. I've been here for a total of 7 years. I walk to and from work across the city. I'm out late in either the City Center, the west end, Finnieston or the Merchant City at least once a week. I'm maybe out twice a month for past 1am nights and I'm up early for the gym a few mornings a week too. I have not once seen anyone sniffing glue or doing any kind of drugs openly on the city streets.

Cities are weird beasts. I live in Midtown Atlanta and walk to and from work, I am also out and about sometimes in the evenings. It's one city at these times. But if I'm out late at night, every now and again I'm froggy for a late night walk, I see packs of people just hanging out. I have no idea where they came from, where they live, Midtown is an expensive place, or why they feel like Midtown is a great place to bring your private outdoors party, but I don't encounter it unless I'm off my routine.

It's possible that open drug use might be happening right under your nose and you're never around to see it.

Maybe the glue point was nit-picking as it's fairly unreasonable to interpret your text as "literally exactly 0 people sniff glue in England", but "is not sold south of the border" -> "um, yes it is here and here" does not seem at all like nit-picking to me as it's far more reasonable to read that text as absolute.

> It isn't marketed in England in the same way it is marketed in Scotland

Scot here - Buckfast is certainly notorious in the central belt, but I've never seen it actually advertised anywhere, in any medium?

Buckfast isn't really something that gets marketed in Scotland, as far as I've ever seen. It's more just garnered that reputation as a drink that will get you buzzed on a night out really fast. I drank it when I was younger, but these days the hangovers just aren't worth it.

Buckie is definitely sold south of the border. I've moved from Scotland to England and I see Buckie for sale in cornershops here with the same frequency I would in Scotland. Buckfast is made at an abbey in England, it doesn't originate in Scotland.

Bucky is absolutely available everywhere in England. I sought it out last summer on vacation in the Lakes, largely as a joke to share (via social media) with other friends of mine who are also fans of Ted Leo. (Leo has a song that references Buckfast, and has had to explain what it is at concerts for years.)

It is terrible.

Buckfast doesn't deserve to be lumped with glue sniffing. It is more an icon of revelry than alcoholism with it costing about twice as much as cheap wine. Its herbal stimulants give it an immediate effect similar to doing shots of a spirit but with half the alcohol load.

I never realised it was anything other than alcohol. I had a quick look, but didn't see anything about "herbal stimulants"?

Never heard of any herbal stimulants myself, and I drank a few bottles in my youth. It does have a disclaimer on in saying "the name tonic wine does not imply any medicinal properties". I think it's just the combination of alcohol and lots of caffeine which gives the desired effect

Admittedly I was thinking along the lines of gin and other drinks herbal contents. But while Buckfast Abbey is guarded about "the recipe" they say it is essentially the same as it was 120 years ago. It is said to be made from "fortified wine" (which besides alcohol and sugar, is loaded with plant based tannins, some reservatrol, and any number of extra ingredients), a couple of preservatives, vanilla extract... and it has caffeine in it.

It seems like a liability for the traditional branding if they do not make it as they claim "along the same lines and according to the same basic recipe as used in the very early days" They could be just mixing in highly refined caffeine like an "alcho-pop" manufacturer but I'm not so cynical to expect that.

It's caffeine, which can be extracted from natural herbal sources.

There is plenty of solvent abuse outside of Scotland including glue sniffing.

I recall talking to a colleague from Edinburgh (with a PHD ) who commented she as considered a lightweight as she cut her bucky with lemonade.

Ah, Buckfast is viewed with a bit of affection in Ireland (the Republic) as well. Though I've never seen anyone actually drink it.

I did a semester in Ireland back in the 90's and it was an occasional purchase by myself and other college students. Basically along the lines of how we'd get 40oz malt liquor in the states (or later on, those alcopops with caffeine like Sparks).

They don't taste good but they're cheap and strong so they were popular with college kids looking to hang out and get buzzed with friends. Even then we sort of did it with a wink and a grin, knowing that we were drinking some pretty "trashy" stuff.

"Buckfast gets you fucked fast!" was the common joke.

Can anyone compare / contrast Bucky with FourLoko from the US? This was also an energy drink that was forced to reformulate and pay some fines for being too crazy.

I recall people hoarding “original formula” watermelon fourloko when it started disappearing from shelves.

Edit: a decent overview of the “banned” four loko vs reformulates version: https://youtu.be/XUPXFzag258

Buckfast was, and still remains a very potent drink. It’s a very cheap way of doing rather idiotic things and reaching a level of caffeine and alcohol mix that lends itself to university parties or clubbing. However it tastes absolutely awful past the first sip or two, with a flavour resembling cough syrup.

Fourloko seems to have a similar reputations with my friends from universities across the pond, but is a fair bit less alcoholic, and served in large beer can quantities rather than 750ml wine bottles. If you down a bottle of Bucky you’re having a night you probably won’t remember.

regarding glue sniffing in England:

There were plenty of them where I grew up in NE England, so that it pre '86. You'd often find them in the local park when out walking the dog - or the dog would find them.

Scotland is a tiny country but it never ceases to horrify me at the depth of the social and health divisions between different parts of the country, Scotland is often described as the "sick man of Europe" and Glasgow in particular has a remarkably bad life expectancy - the "Glasgow Effect":


I can strongly recommend Darren McGarvey's Poverty Safari a personal account of a deprived childhood on the outskirts of Glasgow.

Edit: Something I find grimly fascinating is the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) and its interactive map visualisation:


Thanks for sharing that map it's fascinating. Quite eery that knife-shaped area of orange/red in the west of Edinburgh from Sighthill into Haymarket - it is so pronounced and so contained between the train lines. I used to take the bus out from the city to Heriot-Watt University and both 25 and 34 routes zig-zag through that area and it's a bit grim. Playing 5-aside in the pitches at Sighthill was also a fun adventure.

I worked at Riccarton for a few years and cycled from Leith - had a few late night "adventures" including someone throwing a brick at my head, which fortunately missed.

While this is most pronounced in Glasgow, this is something that's seen at smaller but significant levels throughout the UK (outside of Scotland), so I don't think it's particular to that country. Wales, Northern Ireland, and the north of England (Liverpool and Manchester are specifically mentioned in the Glasgow effect Wikipedia article) have similar stories.

The comparison to Liverpool and Manchester is that Glasgow sees worse life expectancy despite similar climate, population, wealth etc.

Yup. It brings them up as similar, but less severe comparisons.

I commented because I thought the implication that Glasgow/Scotland is anomalous seemed odd, rather than simply being the extreme low-point in a general regional trend.

The Glasgow effect is notable because it’s not explained by the usual factors of poverty. If you graph life expectancy vs poverty, Glasgow is an outlier, an anomaly from the trend line.

There was a recent study which suggested that Glaswegians’ higher risk of premature death was caused by rehousing skilled workers in new towns, and leaving the poorest behind: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jun/10/glasgow-effec...

In the US one of the most persistent areas of poverty and opioid abuse (Appalachia) was largely settled by Scots displaced during the 18th Century. I wonder if anyone has done any research into a correlation, it not there's at least a master's thesis in it for some sociology student somewhere.

Thomas Sowell digs into this in his book "Black Rednecks and White Liberals"

quote from the book's Wikipedia page:

Sowell argues that the black ghetto culture, which is claimed to be "authentic black culture", is actually a highly dysfunctional white southern redneck culture which existed during the antebellum South. This culture came, in turn, from the "Cracker culture" of the North Britons and Scots-Irish who migrated from the generally lawless border regions of Britain.

That reminded me of Slatestarcodex excellent review of „Albion’s Seeds“:


That is a great book review.

I don't want to make this overtly political but there is often good news on https://thoughtcontrolscotland.com/

The Scottish Government is at least trying to address the problems with some degree of success and a certain amount of innovation, which the posts on the above blog often feature. However there is clearly a long way to go.

> Scotland is often described as the "sick man of Europe"

Off topic. So I thought the "sick man of Europe" was used exclusively to describe the Ottoman Empire and dig into this and turns out there has been multiple countries in different eras called the "sick man of Europe". Read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sick_man_of_Europe

> Scotland has been called "sick man of Europe" several times, but for health reasons instead of economic.[26]

Haven't seen this data in the form of an interactive map before.

For anyone else wondering "Geographic Access" is based on public transport times to selected public services. This is outline in the methodology documentation [0].

[0] https://www2.gov.scot/simdpublictransport

Something similar to SIMD for England is the Atlas of Variation: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/atlas-of-variation

Fingertips also provide a range of useful information: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/

I’ll add my recommendation for “Poverty Safari”, it’s an eye-opening read.

This is a particularly active political issue too – drug policy is at present a reserved matter of the UK government, which means the devolved government of Scotland is missing some important tools they could use to help deal with the issue.

This something that the pro-independence Scottish government are making quite a bit of noise about now; some of it is probably opportunism, but Scotland's drug culture is different enough that it certainly seems to require different tools. In particular, there is pressure among some people for the introduction of safe drug consumption facilities, with the idea being that this keeps people off the street, with access to medical care, in the system, and with support to help them recover. These are currently prohibited in the UK.

We'll see what happens over the next few years, of course. The current UK government is unlikely to be giving any concessions.

A secondary issue is also policing culture.

As a cost-saving measure due to Westminster-imposed spending cuts, the Scottish government merged all six regional Scottish police forces into a single force, Police Scotland, in 2013.

This involved a game of musical chairs at senior rank as posts were merged, so the senior officers with the best resumes (most people working for them, biggest budgets) ended up getting the plum jobs. In practice, this meant that Police Scotland lost its distinctive regional specialities and became dominated by senior cops from the former Strathclyde police force (i.e. Glasgow). This force was culturally presbyterian and prone to a puritanical zero-tolerance culture, which they exported to the rest of the nation, damaging local initiatives such as Edinburgh's unofficially sanctioned brothels (attacks on sex workers spiked) and setting relations with the LGBT community back by a decade. They also clamped down on tolerance of cannabis, which didn't help, and were notoriously unsupportive of harm reduction initiatives such as shooting galleries.

Police Scotland seems to be improving these days as they re-learn a lot of hard-won lessons about how to do policing in places that aren't the west end of Glasgow, but the combination of an intolerant, harsh policing culture and Theresa May's Home Office calling the shots on drugs was utterly toxic.

The only time I've encountered someone who displayed open sectarian bigotry was a (distant) relative who happened to be in the Strathclyde police force!

Mind you this was going back a bit (1980 or so) but someone who ranted about the evils of Catholicism to anyone in earshot probably didn't get many counter arguments from their colleagues.

Sectarian bigotry is still common. In fact, bigotry in general is still common. What has changed is the self-righteousness and the change in focus onto groups that "deserve it" (i.e. the English, Jews to name two of the most common...not including sectarian obv, as that is just so prevalent).

And I know someone who used to work as a diversity officer (they ran seminars on diversity) for the Police: bigotry runs very deep unf. The slightly bizarre twist recently is that the Police now spends a lot of time on hate crime (i.e. chasing easy arrests on Twitter)...poacher turn gamekeeper I suppose (and again, the self-righteousness is utterly incomprehensible).

The UK used to prescribe heroin for addicts, which I understand inspired the Swiss treatment of addicts. Rolling that back as part of the war on addiction seems to have been counterproductive in terms of overall health.

The Swiss experiment was a massive disaster. Wish we had never done it, and it certainly took a few decades to clean up its effect on parts of Zürich. It attracted junkies from all over Europe and with it brought crime and violence. I spent a few years going to primary school near the epicenter of it in the late 90s. The number of times I saw people shooting up in broad daylight right in front of my school… is shocking. Even more shocking were the parks littered in used needles. Parks kids would play in… can you imagine what can happen? They'd be cleaned up on the regular, and staff would literally have bags full of used needles!

It was pretty traumatic to see, not that I really understood it as a kid.

It was way worse than the streets of San Francisco today, which are an absolute disaster too!

Good riddance, getting rid of that "treatment" was the best thing we ever did.

I don’t think the parent is talking about the heroin free-for-all experiment in the Landesmuseum park but rather the supervised injection clinics which continue to be a component of Swiss drug treatment policy. Compared to other cities of similar size, it’s rare to see actual junkies in Swiss cities.

Great story, thanks for sharing.

I don't think direct heroin-assisted treatment has been commonplace in the UK for a long time. You need an individual license from the Home Office for diamorphine prescription [1], whereas the opiate replacement drugs can be prescribed by any medical prescriber (though in practice this tends to be only done by specialists and some GPs).

[1] - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/controlled-drug-domestic-licence...

My late brother used to talk about an area outside Glasgow called Springburn and how it is consistently listed as one of the poorest/deprived places in Europe (not sure if that was the correct term but it gets the point across).

Yet each election term they voted in either the same politicians or politicians with the same manifestos.

Nothing will change!

Well, it's more complex than that.

In a country that has for many years only had a broadly two-party system, there was little effect to be had by voting for someone else. And given Glasgow's historical politics, that was always going to be the lefty party.

Things have changed, though. The devolved Scottish Parliament has now been in operation for 20 years; in Westminster, Glasgow North-East (which is the parliamentary constituency covering Springburn) was in 2015 one of the constituencies that saw its vote swing massively behind the pro-Scottish-independence party that was traditionally unpopular in UK-wide elections, though they narrowly lost that seat in the unexpected 2017 election.

And this is the reason it is important – drugs policy is reserved to the UK government, and there's a fair bit of chat about it now.

My issue with drug policy revolves around two key points: 1. The war on drugs is an utter failure (by that I mean, it hasn't halted drug use but there are likely those in power who benefit from this) 2. None of their policies tackles root causes, e.g. putting ex-drug users back into their old habitats will likely guarantee they'll just do it again.

I'm from Glasgow (Kirkintilloch), live in Ayrshire now, and I saw it first hand: I had two friends die of OD's years ago.

I only visit Glasgow city centre on occasion and each time I do it appears to get worse but I live near Irvine now and you can tell a mile away who's had their methodone so it's no better down here.

While I don't think it’s a cure all, Portugal seems to have had significant improvements in drug related health problems (at least in the short term), crime and anti-social behavior after radical decriminalization in 2001. But sounding tough on drugs is too tempting for politicians, and most of the press screams at any sign of decriminalization.


I always find that weird, people from places way far out claiming Glasgow. We never did that in Paisley, we always said Paisley. I'm almost sure I've heard people from Wishaw, and even Shotts claiming they're from Glasgow. Overspill identity crisis or what.

Paul Sweeney is one of the last remaining Labour MP's in Scotland, its very unlikely he will survive the next election. the MSP's are majority SNP now as has Glasgow Council recently been replaced by the SNP.

I see the drug problem in described first hand, I live in Glasgow city center and if our tenement flat door is opened at night in the morning I will be stepping over users and needles on the stairs.

However things are changing, the SNP are pushing for drug consumption rooms, currently being blocked by the UK GOV, but they are under increased pressure and will either buckle or independence will make it a non issue, as well as general city wide improvements, better policing + rehabilitation, reducing of shorter sentences etc.

Arethuza posted a link to map visualisation of data on various factors around deprivation in Scotland. Here is Springburn on that map in case you are curious: https://simd.scot/2016/#/simd2016/BTTTTTT/14/-4.2336/55.8776...

Its Scotland :-) when Donald Dewar died suddenly (senior Labour MP) the was no question that his agent (who I know) wouldn't be the next MP.

Made a change to have an MP who had done a non political job for 20 years plus before becoming an MP.

> Yet each election term they voted in either the same politicians or politicians with the same manifestos

There is a large cross-section of the population that vote for Labour irregardless of, well, anything.

Generations have voted for Labour because their parents, grandparents and great great grandparents did, and because they believe Labour stands for working class people and values - all the while without once considering what their policies or values actually are, or indeed those of the opposing parties.

This cross-section also firmly believes the Conservatives are 'rich toffs' trying to screw over the working classes, and the Liberal Democrats are 'liberal lefties' (and of course we can't have that!)

Will the dogma ever end? The tabloid press, and indeed sometimes Labour politicians, continue their poisonous to stoking of the flames, and people just nod their heads.

Politics in the UK really is a terrible mess.


This is just a list of unrelated facts. Totally incoherent.


The bias that the only country that has regular large-scale shootings also makes it easy for it's citizens to buy guns!

And then there were a bunch of other facts not at all related to guns that have no bearing on it, culminating in an ill-advised moralising conclusion that it (it being a lot of deaths and what I have to assume is bad policy) is deserved because of all those things.

The point was intended to be general, that average people are not rational, nor even moral, using an exceptionally lopsided comparison where reason and human life stands on one side, and emotion and propaganda on the other. Emotion and propaganda wins, obviously.

Probably every generation in history looks back in time at every other generation and has no hesitation in coming to this conclusion. It is only with our current generation that our cognitive biases and emotional nature tell us to believe otherwise.

This thread is about Scotland, pal.

For the record, I love Scotland and visit at least once per year. The North East coast is beautiful.

For people outside the UK, I'd recommend tracking down a BBC documentary called The Scheme. It's quite old now (~2010) but still pretty relevant.


It's all available on YouTube, although the quality isn't great, it's still watchable. It might be a struggle for people not used to Scottish accent though.

Episode 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X6KfCYJx_g

Episode 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgwELFu6Erw

Episode 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9YV4aJ49SI

Episode 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bK0bleFCuI

Episode 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E90kfvhSS7E

Does anyone know what is going on with Estonia in that first graph?

The first spike in deaths for Estonia seems to happen after the 2008 financial crisis, but I'm surprised to see that the dfinancial crisis hit Estonia harder than the US?

What other facts give Estonia a surprisingly high mortality rate from opiates?

Googling some gdp graph tells you that Estonia's GDP dipped -14% in 2009 while some other countries featured in the article's drug graphs had it a lot easier (around -5% for Scotlan, Denmark, USA). Seems like the # of unemployed quintupled as well. Combined with the country's rather light social safety net and relatively low GDP to begin with it must have been pretty nasty.

A lot of young Estonians went west to make money to send home, and that money counts towards GDP in France/England et cetera, not Estonia, even though it then was sent home.

Meanwhile, they were not home to add to the public health statistics, while those who couldn't do that stayed behind, including those who fell into opiate addiction.

So the stats make the Estonian situation look more miserable than it was. (Which is plenty miserable, mind.)

> A lot of young Estonians went west to make money to send home, and that money counts towards GDP in France/England et cetera, not Estonia, even though it then was sent home.

If that money was sent home to Estonia, then it is getting measured in the impact it has on GDP. It shows up in, for one example, household consumption data.

Jane takes remittance money, goes into a shop in Tallinn, makes a purchase. Now that's part of GDP. Jane pays her rent with remittance money, now that's part of GDP.

That's exactly how it should work. Further, those remittances are a small minority share of all generated production by that person - leftover savings (which can then be shifted) after expenses necessary for existing in France/England.

Mexico as one famous example often leads the world in remittance figures, money coming from the US ($20-$30 billion per year). The impact of that remittance money shows up directly in the measured GDP figures of Mexico. It's still only 2% of the Mexico economy each year however.

If you look at Estonia's remittance numbers, you see a modest increase after the great recession. That increase difference would be a trivial share of their economic results, 0.3% or so. Total annual remittances today are higher now than they were in 2010-2013. Back then it was typically 200m-300m euro annually, or roughly 1% of GDP (nowhere near meaningfully denting the 14% decline figure referenced by the parent).

Apparently high numbers of fentanyl users (article from 2012 which more or less coincides with the big spike in the graph)


Easy access to opiates thanks to Russia.

I remember the discussion here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18766301 Is this what growing up in those tenements leads to?

I do feel that the book had the effect of popularizing the insinuation that trainspotting is a futile, otiose pursuit, where as for many people it is a pleasearuble, fulfilling hobby with some of the same evocations that birdwatching does.

Do you mean heroin is a fufilling hobby? 'Trainspotting' is a euphemism for taking heroin. The novel and the film don't have anything to do with literally spotting trains.

I meant the real trainspotting.

Maybe there’s just no solution to the drug problem. We’ve tried everything already at great cost. Sometimes it’s better to admit a war is not winnable and to pull out before wasting more resources.

There is a solution, but it involves the rich paying more tax to rebalance society and boost social mobility. We've not tried everything, we've just tried most of the things that don't involve rocking the boat.

"We've" tried everything only in the sense we've consistently pandered to the regressive, dogmatic and poorly informed war-on-drugs brigade.

Heroin is less dangerous than paracetamol (though much more highly addictive) and almost all the harms arise from reusing injection equipment, poly drug use, unknown strength or the drug being cut with crap: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/politics/20...

So yes we should admit that the war is unwinnable but not as an admission of defeat but rather that we are finally doing the obvious thing and that regressive politicians and voters who have prolonged the phony war on drugs are never let near public health or criminal policy again.

We’ve tried everything already at great cost

Even if that's the case (I don't think it is), maybe we should try the things that cost a lot less? Maybe legalize it and tax the hell out of it? Cut out the illegal market by legalizing the sales and production channels? As a bonus, you will get much more accurate statistics about drug use, the effectiveness of countermeasures, and you get better quality control.

We also haven't tried the most harsh but cost-effective solution: flood the market with 100% lethal knockoffs, consequences be damned.

There are solutions to the drug problem, just like there are solutions to the alcohol problem. Going to war with a concept is just not one of those solutions.

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