As with all towns and cities in Ireland, Galway is awash with drugs. No, I am not being sensationalist here. This is the reality.
Despite this, we don’t have too many problems due to the good support services there are for those who seek help. Apart from burglary and thefts, Galway is little worse than any comparable urban centre for pick-pocketing or allied drug-linked offences.
All drugs are accessible should you look for them. From cannabis to heroin, and increasingly crystal meth as well as other hard core narcotics.
The issue of needles and paraphernalia has led to a number of citizen initiatives such as the Galway Drug Litter blog. There is debate about the benefits (or otherwise) of ‘safe areas’ for drug use.
For all its problems, the prevention of firearms attacks between gangs is due to very effective policing, with the Garda Armed Response Unit often seen zipping across the city. To do this while keeping a low profile and allowing the city to function without disruption is a tribute to them.
How to solve the problem with drugs?
It starts with society recognising which drugs are most harmful and which are less so. Outright prohibition as we have at the moment will not work.
Among all classes, the campaign to legalise cannabis has support. It’s relatively harmless, and must be treated with common sense. Anyone at risk of psychosis from alcohol should steer clear, or learn when to know to stop. The rest of us can enjoy it, as we do a few pints of an evening.
As for medicine, it’s crazy that there has to be legislation to allow cannabis-derived medicines, as opioids have been around for years. The case of Ava Twomey has demonstrated the benefits more than any other in recent times.
The long term affects of cannabis use seem to affect those with a predisposition to psychosis most. Those who oppose the legalisation of cannabis are often accused of simply having an anti cannabis agenda. However, all voices must be heard.
Among the middle and upper classes a similar attitude is often shown towards cocaine and ecstasy. Indeed, a female member of An Garda Siochana was caught with drugs on a social night out and claimed she got them from a colleague who was her dealer. It’s like something from the film The Guard which is increasingly looking more like a documentary than a farcical comedy!
The guard in question let herself down first and foremost. She also gave a bad name to the Gardaí, most of whom are doing great work to combat criminality.
Would drug legalisation work?
The last time we tried legal drugs was with the head shops. The amount of trouble caused on streets and hospitals meant we were safer with non-legal drugs than the legal ones. That’s the bizarre but true reality from recent experience.
What went wrong?
Legalisation was intended to lead to standards. It was meant to drive criminals out of the trade. But that is not what happened. The highs came from China, and each one became more potent, and problematic. The criminals opened the head shops and they became a front to launder money from other ‘enterprises’. Then a turf war broke out in Athlone, Sligo and other areas. While there were legitimate head shop owners, the criminal element took the major slice of the trade. So the head shops were made illegal, and some modicum of safety returned to ‘the usual’ illegal drugs trade.
What are the solutions?
A mixture of legalisation and social education / taboo will work, but it will be a long road. Just shouting ‘all drugs are bad’ will not work. So, how to we spread the ‘taboo’?
As with everything since the 1960’s, those outside the family have more influence than those within, and that reality must be recognised and worked within as opposed to without. The media dictates to a huge extent what is cool and what is not. They must bear some responsibility changing the message!
But the media are principally in business to make money. The common good is not uppermost in their minds when penning their articles. The message they are currently ‘selling’ makes money, so society must suffer from those who fall for the ‘glamour’ and suffer the lows – chasing the highs.