UK Parents Call For Safety and Sanity in Drug Debate

by Calum Armstrong

The Mail on Sunday published a powerful story over the weekend, concerning a bereaved family who have added their voices to those calling for drug law reform in the UK.

Jacques and Torin Lakeman (20 and 19) died in 2014 after taking MDMA and amphetamines purchased from an unregulated online market. Their father, Ray hopes that his plea for a drug policy that protects young people will be heard – lest these tragic events repeat themselves:

Now Ray, a retired primary school teacher, has taken a dramatic step: he has backed Anyone’s Child, a group of similarly bereaved parents campaigning to avoid such tragedies – by legalising and regulating drugs.

‘I don’t want others to suffer from the pain and memories,’ said Ray, 66. ‘Children need protection but the law is not stopping them taking drugs, so we need a safer approach.’

His step is brave, if controversial. But he would never have considered campaigning for this cause until those fateful events that ripped apart his family almost two years ago.

Watch Ray’s story here:

For Anne-Marie Cockburn, the story is all too familiar – her 15-year-old daughter Martha died from an overdose of MDMA in 2013. Speaking to VolteFace, Cockburn stressed the need for a drug policy that protects young people and children:

All young people have easy access to dangerous drugs, therefore they need easy access to good information.

I believe that my daughter would still be alive today had she taken something that was legally regulated – as it would be labelled with a list of ingredients & recommended dosage information. Martha wanted to get high, she didn’t want to die.

No responsible parent wants to think of their child taking drugs, but I’d rather deal with the ramifications of a high teenager, than a dead one.

Anyone's Child / Transform (Photo by Tracy Howl)

Anyone’s Child / Transform (Photo by Tracy Howl)

The Lakeman and Cockburn families are not alone in losing children at the hands of unregulated substances.

Easy access to the ‘dark net’ means that young people can order drugs from the comfort of their own bedroom. While parents may imagine that existing drug policy keeps kids away from dodgy dealers, the realities of the ever-evolving, unregulated market are as disconcerting as ever, if not more so. Those transactions formerly confined to back-alleys and secluded spots outside the school gates are now far more likely to take place on Amazon-esque online drug retailers.

[READ] Anyone’s Child: Heartbreaking Stories & Hope for the Future

Though increased internet access predicates more availability to information, the continued absence of standardised safeguarding messaging around drugs means that parents cannot rest easy around their children’s consumption habits. There is thus no way of ascertaining whether or not young people are purchasing substances safe for use. Until that time comes, and safer measures are set in place, families will continue to lose loved ones under similarly avoidable circumstances.

Ray Lakeman has joined Anne-Marie on the Anyone’s Child campaign. Their next event – ‘Drugs Can Be Dangerous But Does Banning Them Cause More Harm Than Good?’ – takes place in Oxford on July 5th. You can buy a ticket here.

Words by Calum Armstrong tweets @vf_calum

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