This time six months ago, I thought I was Jesus. You know Jesus, that potentially fictional character from a book someone cobbled together over the last fifteen hundred years or so. Well I was him, albeit in female form (even at the height of my delusional phase, I wasn't quite far gone enough to think that I had a penis). I also believed that aliens were coming to save the world from imminent destruction and that I was part of a global conspiracy, in which I was being protected by 'good' aliens, as the power of my words alone were enough to change the nature of reality. I saw special agents directed to follow and protect me in the rainy streets of my hometown, cunningly disguised as middle-aged shoppers in parkas, carrying their shopping bags from Poundland.
Now you might wonder why a seemingly sane and rational person suddenly began to believe that they were the saviour of all mankind. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the story began on a park bench with a packet of legal highs.
Since I was a child I have lived with crippling anxiety and depression. Banal experiences and minor mistakes were an excuse for the part of my mind which had become my constant and most vicious persecutor to berate me for my total inadequacy as a human being. I had tried many different types of medication and therapy. Nothing worked. Except cannabis, a substance which I had tried as a young adult and had brought temporary relief from my symptoms. Despite this I did not want to be a criminal. On one fateful and particularly desperate day I turned to legal highs, a 'herbal' substitute for cannabis. Believing these to be fairly harmless I sat down on a park bench and transported myself to a peaceful, yet entirely debilitating, oblivion.
After two weeks I was completely addicted. Within two months, my friends and family knew that there was something seriously wrong and tried to talk to me about having gone a bit 'David Icke'. I viewed them suspiciously, believing them to be part of the conspiracy above, employed by the devil to stop me from saving the world. Within six months I had lost my house, my job and my sanity.
If you are expecting the remainder of this article to descend into a 'drugs are bad' lecture, worthy of a public health official, you are about to be disappointed. Having become intimately acquainted with irrational thoughts and beliefs, I can tell you right now that the current political position in the UK on drugs is what is truly insane.
If I say the words 'drug addict' to you, what image does it conjure up? A man in a hoodie with pupils the size of a small moon, nicking the presents from under your Christmas tree? I do not deny that drug addicts commit criminal acts. What I do question is the reason why they are driven to do so.
Imagine, if you will, the most brutal and heartless person you have ever met. Maybe it's an abusive parent, a childhood bully or a controlling partner. Now imagine that you are locked in a room with this individual for all eternity and that they are continuously attacking you for your every error of judgement, no matter how small. What would you do to escape from that room? Then, once you had escaped, what would you do to avoid having to go back in there? Anyone wishing to understand the true nature of addiction must first understand that addicts are not bad, or weak, or dirty. They are often desperate human beings attempting to escape a reality which they have been ill equipped to deal with.
The 'drugs are bad' debate is a childish attempt to hide from the monster in the closet. It's time that we opened it up and had a good look in there. Legal highs are here to stay. No matter how the government legislates there will always be loopholes allowing the developers to create different and ultimately, more potent, chemical cocktails, which people across the country will buy in droves. People will always buy illegal drugs, whether to self-medicate, or for recreational purposes, playing Russian roulette with their physical and mental health.
If we lived in a sane world all of these groups would have access to safe, tested drugs and balanced information, facilitating rational and informed choices. If we lived in a sane world, we would use the resources currently spent upon targeting criminal groups who traffic drugs to further other, more nefarious goals, by cutting off their main source of control and income by providing these drugs in a safe environment, helping the vulnerable to overcome their addictions with appropriate support.
Sadly, we do not live in a sane world. We live in a world where reason, sense and pragmatism are substituted for fear, denial and rhetoric. It's time to grow up and to examine this issue in the cold, hard light of reality. If society is to be judged upon how it treats the most vulnerable of citizens, it is clear that we are currently failing people in a truly spectacular fashion.