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  • Writer's pictureKaigan

The many victims of drug addiction

 

Chelsea Cameron wrote an open letter to her drug-addicted parents in 2017 thanking them for not being there to support her in many of her achievements, as it taught her to be independent and that life isn’t always fair. Many people who knew Chelsea couldn’t believe that she was the child of drug-addicts with one telling her that she didn’t look like a drug addict’s daughter. Chelsea told me during our conversation,


“What does a drug addict’s daughter look like? What am I supposed to look like because of someone else’s choices?”

Chelsea’s dad spent time in prison and she never felt that prison helped him but she has seen people, in her work capacity, come out of prison with nowhere to go and no benefits organised to help them. She has also seen people who try drugs for the first time while in prison.


Drugs in prison aren’t a new issue. Many prisoners take drugs in order to pass the painfully long time they often spend locked up in their cells. While other drugs are also used, New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) like spice are popular in prison because it’s very difficult to detect but it can have lethal consequences, and not just for the person taking it. When a prisoner smokes spice, prison officers can be exposed to this. Two studies conducted in England found that prison officers are routinely exposed to spice. They can experience a myriad of symptoms, including hospitalisation. One officer in Scotland, at the beginning of this year, was awarded a payout after being hospitalised and left with long-term health problems as a result of exposure. Another officer, who I interviewed in the podcast, said she believed she had six fingers after being exposed to spice. You can listen to our conversation here. Another podcast guest who is a former prison officer shares how one prisoner had drug-induced psychosis after using spice. The prisoner no longer recognised her, despite the fact they had had regular interactions prior to this. When he did see her, he thought she was Pegasus the flying horse. He had to be moved to the healthcare unit and took the inside of his mattress out so he could wear the mattress like a sandwich board. You can listen to our conversation here.

 

Aligned with what Chelsea mentioned previously, the Scottish Prisoner Survey conducted in 2019 found that one in ten prisoners surveyed said they only began taking drugs while in prison. Prisoners found with drugs in Scottish prisons has also risen by more than 1000% in the last ten years. The consequences of drug-taking don’t stop at the gate. I asked Chelsea what impact this can have on prisoners once they are released,


“The purity of the drugs, what you had out on the street might have been different from what you were getting from someone in prison and then when you do get out you might be in a different community so what they’re giving out might be different. There are many, many factors.”

Chelsea is passionate about challenging the stigma around addiction, not just for the person who has the addiction but also their loved ones who are often stigmatised too. She feels the media has a big part to play in how people view addiction. She feels they can be very demoralising while the government asks people to be more understanding of drug addiction, creating a contrast. Chelsea hopes that as a society we can have more understanding about how people got to a place of addiction and how we can support them. She goes on to say that she has never heard anybody who has a drug addiction say that their life is amazing. Chelsea strongly feels that drug addiction is not a choice and nobody wants to be addicted to drugs.

 

You can listen to our full conversation here.

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