The Curious Incident of PETA and the Staffordshire Bull-Terrier

PETA’s support for the Dangerous Dogs Act demonstrates its incompetence in influencing real change.

 

Google ‘Bad Legislation’ and lo and behold you will greeted by the Dangerous Dogs Act in some form or another. Google ‘How to Get Bad PR’ and PETA’s public affairs team… you get the picture.

So what on earth made PETA think submitting a response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into Breed Specific Legislation in support of the Dangerous Dogs Act was a good idea? And why do they want the Staffie banned?

Well according to PETA UK (no name supplied), in a statement which simultaneously manages to be militant and conformist, they state that the Dangerous Dogs Act is ‘what’s best for dogs’ and it’s not just staffies they want to ban, PETA say they are opposed to all dog breeding.

Their reasons, to some extent, are justified.

They state the obvious fact that selective breeding, borne out of human desire to elicit a certain physical traits from dogs, can lead to dogs having to suffer a life of pain and misery. Take the Pug for example, its pushed in face causes it to suffer from severe breathing issues, while dogs bred to be imposing often suffer health problems because of their immense size.

In addition to this PETA also highlight the very genuine homeless-animal crisis, and with good reason, the Stray Dog Survey found that over 47,000 dogs were abandoned in 2015 alone. Consequently, PETA urges:

“Everyone to adopt dogs from shelters rather than buying them from pet shops and breeders and to ensure that their animals are spayed and neutered to help prevent the overpopulation problem from getting worse”

 

So, PETA want to protect dogs from reckless breeding and reduce the number of dogs in animal shelters. Great.

PETA want to do this by supporting the Dangerous Dogs Act and by banning the Staffordshire Bull-Terrier. Not so great.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is one of the most fundamentally flawed pieces of legislation in British political history. The Dangerous Dogs Act is what happens when British Tabloids carry more influence than cold, hard facts and British Politicians make rushed and ill-informed decisions to appease an even more ill-informed British public – something repeated in recent years with the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

The Dangerous Dogs Act identifies several types of dog as ‘dangerous’, however as the RSPCA’s 2016 report Breed Specific Legislation – A Dog’s Dinner states, there is simply no reliable data which shows that the dogs banned under the Act ‘pose a heightened risk to public safety, are more involved, or are any more likely to be involved, in dog bite related incidents than any other breed or type in the UK.’

In fact, in studies which seek to establish which dogs are most likely to be involved in dog bite incidents or display a higher incidence of aggression it is often the most unlikely dogs which are indicted – for instance one study found that Chihuahuas, Dachshunds and Jack Russell terriers exhibited the highest levels of aggression across the breed.

In addition to this, in the last decade hospital admissions as a result of dog attacks rose by 76% according to the committee in charge of the inquiry – this shows Breed Specific Legislation has failed.

So what should PETA be doing if it really wants to protect dogs?

The first step should be to promote a legislative change that places the onus, in absolute terms, on dog owners instead of supporting a policy which leads to the destruction of dogs which have done little wrong, apart from being born in a country which demonises their appearance. This should include increasing the length of custodial sentences faced by irresponsible owners whose dogs are involved in attacks in order to deter owners from nurturing a dog’s aggressive tendencies.

This view is supported by the British Veterinary Association which says:

“We are opposed to any proposal or legislation that singles out particular breeds of dogs rather than targeting individual aggressive dogs. The problems caused by dangerous dogs will never be solved until dog owners appreciate that they are responsible for the actions of their animals – the “deed not breed” principle.”

 

In promoting this change, PETA should push for restrictions on the reckless breeding of animals which leads to physical characteristics that limit a dog’s quality of life.

In addition to this, PETA needs to increase awareness of the problems of buying pedigree and why pedigree really isn’t best. To their credit, they are campaigning against Channel 4’s continued coverage of Crufts, but in the age of social media they must do more to inform owners of how their preferences on a dog’s appearance will ultimately cost them in vet bills and their dog an early death.

Until PETA can form a coherent and deliverable dogs strategy, they should rescind their support for the Dangerous Dogs Act.

 

You can sign a petition against Staffordshire Bull-Terriers being added to the Dangerous Dogs Act list here:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/222419

 

In loving memory of Cosmo.

 

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What About The Children? Time for a New Approach to Drug Education in UK Schools

Remember ‘Just say no’, Talk to Frank or ill-conceived anecdotes of teenage drugs misuse intended to foster abstinence? Did these ploys prevent you from using drugs? Maybe*. But more importantly, did these techniques equip you with information you would need to manage both the benefits and harms of legal and illegal substances or to understand how different drug policies influence personal health? Almost certainly not.

Currently, the UK government states that schools have a ‘clear role to play in preventing drug misuse’ and should utilise that responsibility to ‘provide accurate information…through education and targeted information, including via the FRANK service’, additionally combatting ‘problem behaviour in schools, with wider powers of search and confiscation’. However, it appears that for consecutive governments, providing accurate information on drugs does not necessitate providing a balanced overview of both the harms and benefits. This is a major stumbling block for the government as research shows that simply providing an account of the negative effects of drug use is an ineffective strategy in reducing consumption.

So policy makers are posed with a question: Continue to pursue ineffective strategies which aim to reduce total consumption or pursue a new path which equips adolescents with the information that will enable them to make informed decisions on drug use?

While the former may suit parents and educators unwilling to accept the possibility of their children or pupils using drugs, the latter appreciates the reality of teenage life and the high chance that adolescents will come into contact with drugs – either through personal or peer experimentation – and could help foster trust in the information that pupils are receiving.

A new path based on the concept of harm reduction would grant drug education the much needed credibility it has lacked since the introduction of hard line prevention education. This is crucial in the digital age where savvy students are instantly able to locate information that challenges the scare tactics employed by schools at the current time, thus undermining trust in the ‘facts’ they are receiving. Therefore, a drug education curriculum based on harm reduction would not patronise pupils but supply them with both the harms and benefits of substances, how to deal with situations arising from drug use (i.e. overdose), the economic and societal impact of drugs and alcohol and initiate an understanding of different approaches to drug policy.

It has been suggested that instead of abstinence based drug education, the Government should adopt the same approach it uses to address sex and relationship education. Insofar as students are provided with impartial advice on sexual health, contraception and accessing support services, among other issues. The theory being that if governments were willing to transition from abstinence-based to harm reduction based sex education in the not so distant past, it wouldn’t be so farfetched that a transition to drugs education, with harm reduction at its core, could be around the corner.

This is exactly what the US based Drug Policy Alliance have promoted through their ‘Safety First’ drug education programme. The programme drew upon an open letter written by Marsha Rosenbaum, Ph. D. in the San Francisco Chronicle, to her son, Johnny. The letter acknowledged that although she wishes that Johnny abstain from drug use, it is vital that he is equipped with the necessary information to keep him safe if he were to experiment and that he should feel comfortable talking to his parents about issues relating to drugs. That letter inspired the harm reduction material in the Drug Policy Alliance’s ‘Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs’ booklet, which aimed to provide impartial, science based information and guidance to parents on how to approach the ‘drugs talk’ with their children.

While Dr. Rosenbaum was delivering talks to PTA’s across the US, based upon the information in that very booklet, the Drug Policy Alliance’s Safety First Programme Manager, Sasha Simon, said the decision was made to develop ‘Safety First’ into a fully-fledged curriculum. This was in order to ‘make the parent education more sustainable’ by bringing together the ‘best practices of education and public health’ into a course of 14 lessons which could be taught by a health or personal wellbeing teacher to high school aged pupils.

The curriculum covers a variety of issues pertaining to drugs and alcohol, such as what the different types of drugs are, the effects they have on the body, what the principle of harm reduction means and the different types of drug policies – including zero tolerance and sentencing laws. The Drug Policy Alliance states that the curriculum is designed to enable students to:

“> Use critical thinking skills to access and evaluate information about alcohol and other drugs.

> Learn decision-making and goal-setting skills that help them make healthy choices related to substance use.

> Develop personal and social strategies to manage the risks, benefits and harms of alcohol and other drugs.

> Understand the impact of drug policies on personal and community health.

> Learn how to advocate for health-based drug policies.”

The course was piloted in Bard High School Early College in Manhattan, NY in March 2018 and recently concluded. It will now undergo an evaluation process which will identify room for improvement and it is hoped that the curriculum will be released to the public in the Autumn.

While the evaluation of the Drug Policy Alliance’s ‘Safety First’ pilot is just getting underway, what is clear is that harm-reduction can be developed into a feasible school curriculum for teenagers in order to provide them with an overview of the realities of drug use. This offers a compelling alternative to the UK’s current approach to drug education and as such policy makers and schools alike should pay close attention to the development of ‘Safety First’.

If you would like to find out more about the Safety First programme click here. Also if you would like to check out the Drug Policy Alliance’s podcast ‘Drugs & Stuff’, which covers a range of topics from the state of Cannabis legalisation to how to stay safe when taking drugs, then click here.

*The Home Office’s Crime Survey for England and Wales 2015/16 revealed that over one third of adults in the UK have experimented with drugs at least once

The Long Journey to Medical Cannabis: A look at the UK’s strained relationship with the drug

By Haig Stringer

On November 1st specialist doctors in the UK will be able to prescribe medical cannabis for the first time. This decision comes years after similar policy changes in the majority of US states and in Canada, as well as many European Countries. As a result, patients have had to endure a long and agonising wait as the UK played policy catch-up on the issue.

The move to make medical cannabis available on prescription follows a prolonged period of mounting pressure on the government. Certainly, the highly publicised plight of Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell would have played into the government’s decision, as well as facilitating a shift in public opinion.

The decision has not only received a large amount of interest because it will enable tens of thousands of patients suffering conditions such as MS to chemotherapy related nausea, but because it is a decision that stands in stark contrast to the entrenched direction of British drug policy. That direction being firmly fixed on prohibitionist policies, with the controversial Psychoactive Substance Act being brought into force in 2016 – a law which essentially bans any substance which alters a persons mental functioning, with exceptions for alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.

So how did we get here?

2001: Labour government announce their decision to reclassify cannabis from Class B to Class C and instructs the Home Affairs Select Committee to undertake consultations on the matter.

2004: Following the consultation process the Labour government finalise the decision to reclassify cannabis as a Class C drug, in doing so it reduces the maximum penalty for possession of the drug to 2 years in prison.

2005: Little over a year after the reclassification came into effect, Tony Blair commits to reviewing the reclassification of cannabis during his 2005 general election campaign.

2006: Following a review, Home Secretary Charles Clarke announces cannabis is to stay a Class C drug as per advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

2007: Labour, now under the leadership of Gordon Brown, announce yet another review into the classification of cannabis.

2008: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announces that cannabis will be reclassified as a Class B drug, increasing the maximum penalty for possession to 5 year in prison.

2009: Cannabis officially reclassified as a Class B drug.

2011: Home Office reject calls from Global Commission on Drug Policy for prohibition to be overhauled.

2012: Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg publicly clash over the latter’s call for drug laws to be reformed.

2016: Highly contentious Psychoactive Substance Act 2016 comes into force, reinforcing the prohibitionist trend in British drug policy.

February, 2018: Conservative government refuse request for medical cannabis licence for Alfie Dingley, a six-year-old boy whose rare form of epilepsy was improved after using cannabis oil.

May, 2018: Home Office issue ultimatum to the GP of Billy Caldwell (a twelve-year-old boy with a similar condition to Alfie Dingley) to stop his prescription of medical cannabis or lose his medical licence. In the following weeks his mother has cannabis oil obtained from Canada confiscated at Heathrow airport.

June, 2018: Following public outcry both cases are granted special licences for the use of medical cannabis. Home Secretary Sajid Javid subsequently announces review into medical use of cannabis.

October, 2018: Home Office announces specialist consultants will be able to prescribe medical cannabis from November 1st, a full 22 years after Californian’s approved Proposition 215 which legalised medical cannabis in the US state.

What does the future hold for cannabis in the UK?

While medical cannabis will be available from November 2018, the legalisation of the recreational use of cannabis doesn’t appear to be on the horizon just yet.

Despite calls for serious drug policy reform from senior politicians, including William Hague, the government has remained firm in it’s opposition to the legalisation of cannabis.

In a written statement to parliament, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I have been consistently clear that I have no intention of legalising the recreational use of cannabis. To take account of the particular risk of misuse of cannabis by smoking and the operational impacts on enforcement agencies, the 2018 regulations continue to prohibit smoking of cannabis, including of cannabis-based products for medicinal use in humans.”

However, the Royal College of Psychiatrists announced at the beginning of October that they will undertake a review of their current position on the legalisation of cannabis. Significantly, if the college were to adjust their position on legalisation it could leave the government treading water as it has leaned heavily on the organisation’s research when defending the continued prohibition of the drug in the past.

While the Liberal Democrats included a pledge to legalise cannabis in their 2017 election manifesto, support for legalising cannabis is also growing within Labour and the Conservative party with both parties’ playing host to pro-legalisation panel events on the side-lines of their 2018 conferences.

Although Sajid Javid’s stern opposition to full legalisation of cannabis may have disappointed many liberal-minded Brits. There does appear to be a growing cross-party consensus that prohibition has failed dramatically in it’s goal of eradicating drug use and there are positive signs that parties are readying policy ideas for a post-prohibitionist Britain.

Royal College of Psychiatrists to Review Position on the Legalisation of Cannabis: Could this shift the debate in British drug policy?

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has announced that it is to carry out a review into its opposition to the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Traditionally the organisation has resisted calls for its opposition to relaxing laws for the Class B drug to be dropped and this move may signal a shift in the beliefs held by the College’s leading psychiatrists.

Significantly, this announcement comes just a week before cannabis derived medicines will be available on prescription to patients fulfilling strict criteria and after a summer of gathering momentum for campaigns seeking to relax drug laws in the UK.

It is important to note that at this point the Royal College of Psychiatrists will only be reviewing its opposition to the decriminalisation of cannabis and not of the legalisation of the drug. The review will mainly be conceived of an analysis of evidence gathered from countries where cannabis has already been legalised, which will enable it to identify whether decriminalisation and legalisation has an impact on incidences of mental disorders associated with cannabis use.
Royal College of Psychiatrists Head of policy and review chair said “We need to look at it in more detail to get more evidence. One of the arguments for legalising cannabis has been that you will get purer forms of it and you can tax it so governments benefit.”

Irrespective of the scope of this review, it could be a pivotal moment in British drug policy as some of the College’s leading psychiatrists have been involved in research which the government has utilised in its frequent rebuttals of arguments for decriminalisation and legalisation. Additionally, a number of its members occupy powerful positions advising the government, including Dr Owen Bowden-Jones who is the chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Therefore, without the scant backing of a few of the College’s psychiatrists, the governments current position would become increasingly untenable.

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So what evidence is already exists?

From an analysis of Dr James’ interview with the Daily Telegraph it is possible to identify the areas that the review will be delving into.

The link between Cannabis and Schizophrenia

Dr Adrian James reiterated the College’s official view that its opposition to legalisation of cannabis is due to concerns that is can cause psychosis in users.

“Our official view is that we are concerned about the health risks and we are against legalisation of cannabis on that basis but there may be arguments that outweigh the psychiatric arguments”

Despite the numerous headlines each year purporting that a ‘link’ between high-strength cannabis and schizophrenia has been found, there is still no evidence that a causal link exists, instead studies find an association between use and schizophrenia. This is critical as an associative link does not account for other factors in a users life that may have caused the onset of schizophrenia.

It is important to note that this area of debate is highly nuanced and while there is an association between high-strength cannabis or ‘Skunk’ and schizophrenia, there are also a number studies which have found CBD (Cannabidiol) to have anti-psychotic effects and in one study scientists found CBD to protect against the long-term negative psychiatric effects of THC in mice. Therefore it is possible that cannabis strains higher in CBD could reduce the risks of cannabis induced schizophrenia.

Additionally, a number of studies have found an increased association between cannabis use and schizophrenia when consumption was initiated during adolescence. In this regard, legalisation and decriminalisation provide positive policy signals as there appears to be a minor link between legalisation and a reduction in consumption by teenagers.

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Cannabis and Criminal Justice

Dr James also highlights the issue of criminalising an act that is so prevalent throughout the UK.

“As a forensic psychiatrist, the strongest argument is decriminalising behaviour that is widespread and avoiding people getting caught up in the criminal justice system and ending up on a conveyor belt. If you can decriminalise it as an activity, you prevent that and the stigma associated with it”

On this front the panel will be able to draw from an array of data which shows that the criminalisation of consumption of any drug is wholly ineffective in reducing use and such efforts have a negative impact on harm reduction.

Furthermore, while we already know that police are arresting less and less people for cannabis offences – which may be in part due to police prioritising more serious crimes owing to funding cuts. Therefore were the burden of policing cannabis related offences lifted off police entirely it may enable the resources utilised in policing cannabis to be reallocated to areas of greater need and significance.

Vitally, a move to decriminalise cannabis would remove the fear of prosecution for over 7% of the adult population who use the drug.

What does this mean in reality?

Due to The Royal College of Psychiatrists close ties with the government and the use of it’s members’ research by the government in defending the status quo this review could be a defining moment in British drug policy.
It’s possible that a change in the College’s opposition to legalisation of cannabis could be the catalyst for the decriminalisation of cannabis and in-turn potential legalisation. If the College were to publicly withdraw their support for prohibition owing to concerns over how the substance can affect a user’s mental health, it would make the government’s current position on the drug unsustainable.
While scepticism may remain about how independent the review will be due to the College’s links with the government, Dr James has stated that the panel will be looking at research from countries where the drug has been legalised with an “open mind”.

A move to decriminalise the drug would not only help to end the stigma associated with cannabis, following the Spanish model it could mean citizens would be able to cultivate a small amount of the drug without fear of prosecution, while the sale of the drug would remain illegal.

Crucially, such a move would enable researchers to conduct studies on the drugs effect on the brain, free from the constraints and hurdles they can encounter when working with restricted substances and may eventually open the door to legalisation.

So you want a Career in Cannabis?

It might appear that the green-rush is upon us, but don’t quit your job just yet.

If like me, you got a little excited when the Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that the government would conduct a review of the scheduling of medical cannabis. You probably exploded when William Hague, yes that William Hague, called for the full legalisation of cannabis and stated the war on cannabis has been ‘comprehensively and irreversibly lost’.

Of course this news is fantastic for the families of chronically-ill children, such as Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, who have been forced to endure life-threatening epileptic fits, as well sufferers of Crohn’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. A change in the law will grant people suffering avoidable pain, legal access to the medical cannabis they desperately need.

But could it also be fantastic news to the secret green-thumbs amongst us who have always dreamt of their own legal weed empire?

Maybe.

You see, ‘legal’ medical cannabis already exists in the UK. It’s called Sativex and it’s only manufactured and sold by GW Pharmaceuticals, to whom the Home Officer issued an ‘Open General Licence’ in 2011. Seems a bit strange doesn’t it? The government has continued to claim that cannabis has no medicinal value, despite it being available via GW Pharmaceuticals on Private Prescription (in some cases via the NHS in Wales) for the sum of £375 excluding VAT. Yes, the treasury make money from the medicine they believe has no medicinal value. Mind. Blown.

If somehow your brain hasn’t been blasted into the Exosphere, it might be when you find out the UK is the world’s largest exporter of legal cannabis. According to the International Narcotics Control Boar in 2016, the UK produced ninety five tonnes of cannabis for medical and research purposes, exporting just over two tonnes of the crop.

So if you want a job in cannabis in the UK right now your best bet is to keep checking the GW Pharmaceuticals careers page. However, there are other options open to you but you may need to look a little further away from home.

Canada has just passed the Cannabis Act and will become the second country in the world to fully legalise cannabis in October, ending 90 years of prohibition. Although the legislation to legalise cannabis was passed at the federal level, it will be up to Canadian provinces and territories to determine exactly how people will be able to obtain their weed and cannabis derived products. Some states, such as Newfoundland, will only have privately owned weed shops, whereas residents of British Columbia will also be able to buy their provisions from publicly-owned stores.

Founded in 2015, Cannabis at Work are at the forefront of the recruitment of weed specialists in Canada. Their site hosts hundreds of jobs in the legal cannabis sector across Canada, from Regulatory Scientists to Master Growers and every job in-between.

Those seeking to find a role in the industry in Canada should be cautious and realistic with regard to their salary expectations. An average wage for someone working as a general grower hovers around $50,000 (£28,000), while a director of production could make $100,000 (£56,000).

Prior to securing a job in Canada you will need to obtain the appropriate work permit. To find out more about working in Canada, go to Work in Canada.

Alternatively, you may wish to pursue a career in one of nine US state that has legalised recreational cannabis or one of twenty nine that has legalised medical use. Like Canada you will need to obtain a work permit, although you may find it more difficult to gain employment straight away in the US legal cannabis sector.

“For UK citizens, obtaining work in the US cannabis industry is an uphill battle” says Jace Grantham, founder of Cannabis Verified, a cannabis focussed talent and staffing agency which hosts the profiles of verified cannabis professionals. “Most states require a person to be a resident for at least 6 months before they are able to work with legal cannabis.”

Once you have fulfilled this qualifying period, you could initially expect to earn around $28,000 (£21,000) as a cannabis production-line worker in California, while as a President or Chief Operating Officer you could take home in excess of $200,000 (£150,000), plus performance bonuses.

Strong-Arming the Steroid Hysteria: Taking on the IPED panic and how to reduce harm to the UK’s steroid users

Steroids and their users are no strangers to sensationalised media reports, however their use is increasingly being placed under the spotlight. From court hearings for the London Bridge terrorist attack which claimed the assailants had taken dehydroepiandrosterone prior to their killing spree, to warnings from health care professionals that with up to 1 million people in the UK taking anabolic steroids a public health emergency is imminent, it appears a perfect moral panic has been created. This has been particularly evident as many harm reduction and pro-legalisation advocates have placed an emphasis on dealing with drugs more frequently associated with the ‘night time economy’, culminating in a disturbing imbalance in the reporting of steroid related issues. Therefore, it is vital that progressive drug policy advocates do not turn a blind eye to the treatment of steroids and their users in the media, thus ensuring any discussion on the reclassification of the substance is not a one-sided affair.

While tabloid newspapers and even respected news outlets emphasised the role played by steroids in the killing of eight innocent people by Islamic extremists, the reality is that the overall harm caused by anabolic steroids is comparatively low in relation to commonly used illegal and legal recreational drugs. The 2010 “Drug Harms in the UK: A Multicriteria Decision Analysis” study into the harms caused by twenty substances, gave anabolic steroids a ‘harm score’ of 10, placing it behind Ketamine (15), Cannabis (20), Tobacco (26) and Alcohol (72). Nonetheless, it is important to contextualise these findings, as Prof. David Nutt noted, the legal status of drugs will have an impact on harm levels, with the availability of alcohol going some way to explaining its ranking. Likewise, if a drug were to see its number of users increase it could also expect to see its harm level increase as the ‘harm score’ takes into account indicators such as ‘economic cost’, ‘environmental damage’ and ‘crime’. As such, it would be feasible that anabolic steroids would now, eight years on from the study, have a marginally increased ‘harm score’. Certainly, with a surge in the amount of users over the past decade it would be reasonable to expect a slight increase in the economic cost of the substance owing to the ill effects on the health of users and the subsequent costs this has on the NHS. However, the continuing reports of an imminent steroid-induced public health emergency are misleading and unhelpful in attempts to reduce harm and ultimately stigmatises users.

So how can the rise in steroid use be addressed within the current legislative framework before it becomes a major public health concern?

As with any drug, legal or illegal, the reduction of harm must begin with information sharing and the educating of users. State and charity run NSPs (Needle Syringe Programmes) offer a natural avenue for providing users with an understanding of the side-effects of anabolic steroids and how these can be reduced. The focus of education should revolve around ensuring users have regular health checks and highlighting the risks of poly-drug use. The findings of a 2017 study into the use of IPEDS (image and performance enhancing drugs) emphasises the need for this type of education, as its results show that regular alcohol and cocaine consumption is common amongst steroid users – a combination of drugs which place stress on the cardiovascular system, as well as the liver.

Another venue which has been utilised by steroid users to provide information to fellow users is YouTube. While YouTubers, such as Thomas Maw, are not health care professionals their steroid information videos play an important role in informing users of both the practical use of anabolics – such as how to inject – to the side effects experienced and how to address them, but they also play a key role in de-stigmatising users. However, in recent months YouTube has begun to scrutinise steroid-related content more robustly, with accounts which discuss the topic being issued warnings and viewing numbers for steroid related videos falling dramatically. Perhaps understandably YouTube is concerned that its platform is being utilised by steroid users to provide what it views as ‘unqualified’ advice to fellow consumers and the potentiality of being implicated in drug related deaths. Although, it would be wrong to suggest that P2P (peer to peer) information sharing cannot play a role in harm reduction.

P2P information sharing is currently being utilised for substances more commonly associated with the ‘night time economy’. Pillreports.net is a database created by an online community of Ecstasy users based on both ‘subjective user reports and scientific analysis’ which provides information to its membership regarding the content and safety of Ecstasy pills. Certainly, with the production and supply of anabolic steroids being dominated by black market imports and domestic underground laboratories – where the danger of contamination is a real issue due to unregulated production practices – P2P information sharing can play a crucial part in ensuring the harm faced by users is reduced.

Indeed, some underground laboratories have started to take precautions in ensuring the safety of their consumer base, with vials of anabolic substances being stamped with codes which can be inputted into their respective websites and subsequently validated as official products. While this practice may show that laboratories are willing to make themselves accountable to their consumers, it does not go far enough and may lull users into a false sense of security. Instead, with an estimated 1 million users of anabolics in the UK it is vital that substance testing is made readily available to this group to guarantee their safety from contaminants. The Loop has blazed a trail in a similar domain with its efforts to reduce the harms associated with recreational drugs at nightlife venues, but an equivalent organisation dedicated to the safety of IPEDs users is notable in its absence.

As efforts to safeguard users of recreational drugs from unintended harm intensify, it is important that consumers of anabolics are not left behind due to the ‘hard man’ stigma attached to their use.

Change and Continuity in British Drug Policy: An Advocacy Coalition Framework Analysis

 

British drug policy continues to be a policy area characterised by its complexities, both in its formulation and implementation. While the British media has indulged in bringing conflicts over these complexities to light, particularly where policy change is concerned, the existing scholarly literature on the issue has been broadly descriptive or explanatory. The main aim of this paper is to confront the lack of literature which analyses the conflicts and complexities of British drug policy in a concurrent manner. This paper examines British drug policy between 2000 and 2016, utilising the Advocacy Coalition Framework as its theoretical basis. The major research question of this study is: Where drug policy in Britain has encountered adjustment and modification, what have been the key factors behind such change? In answering this question the applicability of the framework and the number of advocacy coalitions operating within the British drug policy subsystem are also examined. A thematic analysis of documented evidence provided by actors within the policy to parliamentary committees is undertaken to indicate the prevailing forces driving policy change and continuity. This is followed by a cluster analysis using the data from the document analysis to demonstrate the distribution of coalitions. The outcome of the thematic document analysis revealed the preponderance of a pro-prohibitionist policy core driving the direction of policy change, while the clustering of actors indicated the existence of two significant opposing coalitions. While these results suggest the broad applicability of the Advocacy Coalition Framework across diverse policy contexts, it is recommended that the framework is developed further to incorporate the role of institutions and to expand the methodological parameters prescribed to researchers applying its principles.

To continue reading, download the below file:

Change and Continuity in British Drug Policy – An Advocacy Coalition Framework Analysis