May 18, 2017 Tas Britas

Why raids don’t work

Let’s accept the fact that some young people think drugs are cool, and they will do anything to avoid the law, whatever laws you make. Let’s accept the fact that drugs can be dangerous, people can die, and addiction is not a good thing.

Let’s also accept the fact that in Lithuania young people get very little information about the effects of drugs, and when you have no information – you make bad choices and accidents happen.

Let’s agree that we all want young people to be healthy, and not to die.

Whether your favourite drugs are legal like alcohol and caffeine, or illegal like cocaine, kas per daug – tas nesveika. Even too much adrenalin is a bad thing.

So what can we do about drugs in nightclubs?

To help answer this question, I have invited Vice narcotics expert Max Daly to Lithuania. Max is a leading specialist in drugtaking culture, and he knows more than the Lithuanian government about the best policies to reduce the harm caused by drugs. We will be discussing this issue in Peronas on 23rd May, and you are all invited to come and learn more about drug control policies that actually work.

Why raids don’t work: A discussion with Vice drugs expert Max Daly

Find the event on Facebook here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/208541552993204/

Young people are looking for new experiences, they want to try everything, and they don’t mind taking risks. Some drugs, like cannabis or ecstasy, make you feel nice and help you to have a great party. Young people are not going to listen if you tell them they don’t feel nice on drugs. They feel nice, and therefore they ignore you.

But if you don’t take care of your health, you become unhealthy, and if you become very unhealthy you die. And that’s bad. It’s absolutely tragic, and death damages the economy. We can make things better, if we use logical and scientifically-proven methods, instead of attacking people who need help and information.

There are two ways to react to the problem of harm caused by drugs:

(One of these ways works, the other doesn’t work)

1: Punishment

Instinctively, people who know nothing about nightlife assume that the best way to stop people harming themselves is to punish them if they carry or sell drugs. Makes sense, right? If all the drug dealers are in prison, problem solved, no more drugs!

This policy might sound logical, but this policy doesn’t work anywhere in the world, even though governments have spent billions trying. And worse than that – governments don’t seem to care how much harm their policies cause, as long as people who know nothing about drugs vote for politicians who are “tough on crime” and “fighting the war on drugs”.

2: Harm reduction

What we all want to do is reduce the harm caused by drugs. We can’t eliminate drugs completely, even if we use Russian-style policies like scaring people with guns and throwing them in prison. Drugs still exist in Russia, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Also, the war on marijuana and ecstasy doesn’t stop people moving on to more dangerous drugs. Heroin, for example, goes along with HIV infection, and Russia has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world. We can all agree that HIV is harmful, and that Russia’s policies are not working.

We need to stop thinking that terrorising nightclubbers is a way of reducing harm caused by drugs. We are not protecting young people with these aggressive punishment policies, we are attacking them and exposing them to even higher risks.

So let’s change our aims. We should aim to reduce harm.

The way to do this is called “harm reduction“.

Harm reduction does not mean encouraging everybody to take drugs. That would increase harm, not reduce harm, so that’s not harm reduction. Suprantate? Suprantate.

Harm reduction means looking at policies and thinking – “does this reduce harm?”. To find out, you ask scientists, not the Bible or some oligarch who does folk dances near Šiauliai.

Harm reduction means working with people who know what they are talking about. That’s what I am doing, and that’s what I want the Lithuanian government to understand.

Meet Max Daly from Vice

Max Daly

Max Daly has spent years researching the science and talking to thousands of drug users, policemen and politicians about this issue. When he heard about the raids in nightclubs in Vilnius, he decided to fly here and help us out.

To learn more, come along to the event and ask him your questions. This is our chance to move the debate forward and start encouraging lawmakers to make laws that work to protect us, not to harm us.

Some people think that the Night Mayor is a lobbyist for hedonism, drunkenness and drug addiction. The opposite is true. In all other cities which have a Night Mayor, he works hard to make sure that nightlife is more fun, and also safer. That’s what I am trying to do as the Night Mayor of Vilnius. Because harm is not fun.

You can read about what I think (in Lithuanian) here:

http://markasftw.com/del-reidu-vilniaus-naktiniuose-klubuose/

See you in Peronas!

Hopefully the event won’t be raided by policemen in balaclavas carrying automatic weapons, because that would make Lithuania look very stupid, and very Russian. That’s not the kind of Vilnius I want.