The case must be made that austerity has failed Thanet.

The rise in drug deaths and the increase in crime, especially violent crime share a common underlying cause. Or rather, set of causes. Austerity has to shoulder a share of that blame.

It seems to me that whatever the motivation for austerity, it harms rather than helps. Austerity has done nothing to alleviate the causes of poverty. If anything it has made them worse.

Poverty and drugs

drugsIt is well established that opiate addiction leads to crime. The longer the problem goes unchecked, the worse it becomes. Think of addiction as those impossible to remove vines that invade gardens. We’re better off not letting those weeds get a foothold.

Which is a problem because poverty – a lack of resources and opportunities – is a huge and pervasive risk factor for drug abuse.

NCDA drug talk:

Drug use and addiction have no single cause but the risk factors for drug use include poverty. A person in an impoverished situation may abuse drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the dangerous environment she lives in, a way to deal with her financial stresses or a way to cope with physical or emotional abuse. Many times, drugs and alcohol are easily accessible in impoverished neighborhoods where some people actually sell drugs in hopes of overcoming poverty.

Drug addiction is like a snare that claws a population back towards poverty. In 2014 it was estimated that 1 in 11 adults aged 16 to 59 took an illicit drug in each year. This was higher among young people and the numbers have been rising.

Why addiction traps children in poverty, Centre for Social Justice:

There are an estimated 380,000 problematic drug users in the UK aged between 15-64 while 1.6 million are classed as dependent on alcohol. Meanwhile, it is estimated that 1 million are addicted to prescription drugs. Many of these people are parents whose children grow up surrounded by substance abuse. For those in treatment for drugs alone (50 per cent) 105,780 are either parents or live with a child.

Addiction, not drugs, are the problem

With all this talk of drugs, it is easy to miss the fact that it is the addiction and not the drug use that is the problem. That is why the “war on drugs” is not working. Why should it if we are ignoring the roots of the problem? Maybe it is time to stop fighting and start fixing?

In the 1990s Portugal was suffering a massive drug problem and it was only getting worse. In 2001 they abolished all criminal penalties for personal use of drugs. Drug dealers were still punished by users were given mandatory medical treatment instead of prison. By making drug use a health issue, teenage drug use fell along with the rate of HIV infection.

If we are going to build super-sized GP surgeries, we should include medical treatment of addiction.

Fight poverty, not people

Health Depression Sadness Mental Health Mental

Tory initiatives such as the bedroom tax, universal credit, and endless assessments serve only to reduce available income and punish the poor for not being rich. All Tory austerity has done is increase poverty and make it a more terrible thing to go through.

Nearly 90 people a month are dying after being declared fit for work, we are told. We knew austerity was killing people back in 2015.  That sounds like a war on the poor to me. We need to be fighting poverty and not the poor.

What Thanet needs is an end to these destructive (Tory) policies. Until that happens, we are going to see an increase in food-bank use, preventable deaths, and unsurprising reports of record drug use (fuels by addiction).

It is time to stop victim blaming. If the drug death figures alarm us, we must act on the root causes of those figures. It is time, instead, for us to start grappling with the difficult and challenging issues of poverty. Even if the figures do not bother us, simple human decency should be enough motivation for us to want to see an end to this war on the poor. We have to loudly say no to austerity.