The problem of drug abuse, the use of drugs for pleasure, is common in Britain and the US, especially among young people, but using drugs is illegal in both countries. Most teenagers try drugs before they leave school, and many of them use drugs regularly. There is also concern that younger children are being offered drugs. Drugs are much more widely available today than they were 20 years ago and may be easily obtained from pushers on the streets, in schools, at nightclubs and elsewhere.Many different drugs are available, each known by a variety of slang names. They include amphetamines (uppers or speed), barbiturates (barbs or downers), cannabis (marijuana, dope, grass, pot or weed), cocaine (coke, crack, ice or snow), heroin (junk or smack), LSD (acid), and also benzodiazepines which are sometimes prescribed by doctors as tranquillizers. Other drugs include mescaline, methadone, morphine, nitrates (poppers) and phencyclidine (angel dust or PCP). Some children experiment with glue-sniffing (= breathing in the gas given off by strong glue). One of the most fashionable drugs of the 1990s was MDMA, better known as Ecstasy or E. Using Ecstasy has led to several highly publicized accidental deaths.Many people are concerned about the problems associated with drug-taking. The main worry is that using drugs often leads to addiction, poor health, and even death. Reflecting public concern, the courts have taken a tough attitude towards pushers and drugs barons, the people who supply drugs to the pushers. Addicts are less severely punished but are encouraged to get medical treatment and attend rehabilitation centres.Drug-taking is blamed for a lot of crimes, as addicts sometimes steal in order to get money to buy drugs. Also, criminal organizations that sell drugs use violence to prevent others selling them. In the 1980s these problems caused the US government to begin the War on Drugs and it set up the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1988. But not everyone supports the programme: many young people say that they can use drugs without becoming addicted. They also say that it is wrong for alcohol, also an addictive drug, to be legal, while the drugs they enjoy are not. In Britain there have been many campaigns to try to reduce drug use, and in 1998 the government appointed a drugs czar to lead the fight against drugs.There are often calls in both Britain and the US for soft drugs, the less harmful drugs such as cannabis, to be made legal, but this is resisted by many experts on the grounds that people taking them are likely to go on eventually to hard drugs, the more dangerous drugs such as heroin. People who want drug-taking to be legalized say that making tougher laws against using drugs has not worked, and that many of the problems associated with drugs would be solved if it were legal to use them. For instance, the government would be able to control the supply of drugs, and their quality and price. Criminal organizations would no longer be involved, and that would help reduce violence. The government could put a tax on drugs, as is the case with tobacco and alcohol, and the money could be used to help pay for medical treatment for people who become addicted. But many people are scared by the increasing use of drugs and do not believe that legalizing them is a solution. In Britain, the possession of cannabis was made a less serious crime in 2004..
* * *