Monday 19 August 2019

'If you're going to create demand, you are creating supply - when the next person dies you need to take some responsibility' - campaign looks at recreational drug use

(Stock image)
(Stock image)
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

Recreational drug users have blood on their hands and need to realise their habit is feeding into a cycle of gangland intimidation, violence and murders, a campaigner has said.

Philip Jennings, a Community Policing Forum Coordinator Blanchardstown Local Drugs and Alcohol Task Force, said that some while people care about issues like the welfare of coffee farmers, they won't acknowledge the life-ruining impact their drug use can have.

Mr Jennings was speaking about his organisation's Think Before You Buy campaign, which was launched last year and is urging people to consider the drug supply chain if they are planning to use illegal substances on a night out.

He told "People don't want to be associated with drugs but it's a package - you can't do a line of cocaine on a Saturday, sleep it off Sunday and then go to school or work or wherever on Monday and complain about the drug dealing scumbags.

"If you have used recreational drugs on a Saturday night and want to know what a drug dealer looks like, then look in the mirror, the only difference between someone who spends  €10 on drugs and €10,000 on drugs is just quantity and price.

"If you're going to create demand, you are creating supply - when the next innocent person dies you need to take some responsibility for that.

Philip Jennings
Philip Jennings

"These people go out and buy Fairtrade coffee because they want farmers to be treated fairly in poorer countries, yet they won't look at the damage their recreational drug uses causes, not just here but also in other countries."

He also said that while he acknowledges that some people want drugs to be legalised here, he feels that could take a long time, if it ever happens, and Mr Jennings says the best thing people could do in the meantime is to not feed into the supply and demand chain.

He explained: "Recreational drug users are part of the package, you'd imagine that if you had a magic wand and could get everyone to stop using recreational drugs, then why would anyone import and try to supply it, there would be no demand?

"If you think of how gun violence has developed in the last 20, 30 years around drugs, it's just gone through the roof.

"At one time someone might get a beating for not paying their drug bill, now it'll be a serious beating, or the dealer might not even bother with the person who owes it but go straight to their parents' home.

"Parents don't know how to handle it, they've never had anything to do with drugs or police and suddenly they have these thugs at their door demanding money or their children will suffer; they don't know what to do so they pay up.

"There's an awful lot of extortion going on in that way."

The Think Before You Buy campaign came about when Mr Jennings heard more frequent stories about intimidation by gangs over drug debts in his area and wanted to see how other areas were tackling the problem.

When he could find very little research on he topic, he decided to compile his own report, 'Melting the Iceberg of Fear', one of the recommendations in it was to highlight the clear link between recreational drug use and criminality.

The Think Before You Buy campaign has been adopted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and is being taught in some schools.

Mr Jennings noted: "We're trying to grow this and build awareness but it needs a lot of funding to go national, which we just don't have yet...If you think of all the innocent victims of drug feuds, it's huge and the gangs behind their deaths are driven by drugs, they're indiscriminate and fairly random.

"We're trying to make people aware and get them to stop and think before they buy."

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