Substance Abuse – Tackling the Real Problems of Selly Oak


As a Birmingham resident for almost two years now, I can’t help but find that not enough is done to tackle recreational drug use in the city. Although the problem exists in Edgbaston as well as a number of other areas of Birmingham, I am going to talk mainly about Selly Oak, where I currently reside and where a large number of our students live. It is an issue that, I find, has often been overlooked and swept under the carpet rather than being prioritised. For all the highs that can be offered with these substances, there is potential for serious, long-term, negative impacts on your health. In Selly Oak, illegal, recreational drug use is discreet, but widespread. Access to drugs is unbelievably easy and not enough is done to tackle this in our community.

Cannabis use, in particular is quite popular with a lot of students of Edgbaston and Selly Oak, as well as some permanent residents of Selly Oak. But other drugs such as cocaine, ketamine, MCAT, and MDMA are also just a phone-call away. And if that number is engaged? Well there’s about ten other numbers you can try. I guess this blog-post is really a call-to-action for local MPs Steve McCabe and Gisela Stuart, as well as local Councillors, the West Midlands Police, and the University of Birmingham Guild of Students to work together and seriously tackle the issue. Matters such as recycling, burglary, and even poor broadband service are generally prioritised in Selly Oak, and understandably so, but why not drugs?

The negative ramifications that drug use can cause are serious and sometimes irreversible. Whether that be damages to your mental health, your physical health, or even just the increased likelihood of bad things happening when you’re intoxicated, in the long term, substance abuse just isn’t worth it. And financially, take it from an economist, none of this stuff is actually worth the prices that they are sold at; the reason they are priced so high is because they are illegal. The money would be better spent on clothes, books, or even food rather than blindly investing money with questionable characters. A lot of extremist groups and terrorist groups are known to be funded by narcotic drugs trade – another reason right there to tackle the issue.

A lot of people take drugs though in Selly Oak, even people you wouldn’t normally suspect, and it is a very tough problem to tackle, of course it is. However, I am only going to suggest one method for these community powers-at-be to use, and that is to educate students about the negative effects of drugs. In my view, education is often a remedy to a lot of the world’s problems and I think education in this situation could do a great deal of good. Ideally, I would like there to be termly anti-drugs campaign weeks at the University as well as public information campaigns in Selly Oak. A lot of people won’t pay attention, sure, that is to be expected, but even if one or two people are turned away from substance abuse, it would be worth it. As it is now, there simply isn’t enough being done.

This isn’t an exaggeration or an over-dramatisation of the issue, it’s real and it’s happening. I want to make it clear, however, that this isn’t any kind of moral judgement on my behalf, no one is perfect, and I am certainly no angel myself. It is a serious issue in Selly Oak though, and I am positive that the problem is replicated in other areas of Birmingham. In schools, children are educated about these sorts of issues, and rightly so, but at University, where students are most exposed to the problem, there is next to nothing in terms of education and campaigning. Substance abuse can have short-term, medium-term, and long-term negative effects on individuals, and I guess I hope that the local council hopefuls, our Parliament representatives, and our upcoming Guild of Students Officer Team prioritise this issue in the coming years. Even if helps just one person.

By Areeq Chowdhury, Secretary-elect.
@AreeqChowdhury

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9 comments on “Substance Abuse – Tackling the Real Problems of Selly Oak

  1. jaldmn says:

    I wonder if the author has done any research prior to writing this article? If he had, he may be more likely to see that the real drug problem in Selly Oak lies not in the (currently) banned substances, but alcohol and tobacco.

    I’d be interested for the sources of this article to be published as you’ve made some fairly bold assertions; for instance, that ” A lot of extremist groups and terrorist groups are known to be funded by narcotic drugs trade”.

    The implication of the article is that drug usage is occuring in a significant minority / majority of students. I wonder if the author has done any research into actual drug use?

    To tackle the last point, this article is an overdramatisation of the issue. At least, it is until you can back up your points with actual evidence rather than facts which, unless referenced, seem to have been plucked from the ether!

    I’ll refer you to this excellent article for further reading: http://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/opus1714/Estimating_drug_harms.pdf

    I’d direct you in particular to Table 5 and Figure 3. I hope they will prove insightful.

  2. Ben Aylott says:

    I agree with jaldmn, whilst the drugs you have mentioned are harmful to both the individual and society, it makes far more sense to tackle the legal alcohol abuse going on in Selly Oak first. It is a significantly better use of council and government resources. Alcohol abuse places a huge burden on the NHS and blights communities.

  3. Lou says:

    I don’t think he is saying that alcohol isn’t a problem, just that its a separate problem, and that drugs need a focus of their own. Most students are fine with having the odd night out (even if its a heavy one) but are able to prioritise and control their nights out. Yes, we get hangovers, we throw up, we waste the next day feeling crap. But we aren’t all alcoholics, and most of us are fairly ok drunks. We don’t (generally) end up paranoid, or violent, or hallucinating, or in toxic shock when we stop drinking.
    I dont want to judge totally on my own experiences of drug users, because I know they’ve been the more extreme end (uni drop-out, suicide, and a male friend who physically attacked me, all of whom had coped perfectly fine with alcohol before starting to use drugs) but, having also known plenty of heavy drinkers, alcohol rarely makes you paranoid, or affects your memory long term when not drunk, or affects your sense of reality, in the same way that drugs do. Most people who drink are in control of it (and yes, those who aren’t need help) whereas you start off intending to be in control of drug use, and it just gradually starts controlling you. And its easy to not notice and genuinely believe that you are still in control. Sure, make people aware about alcohol, like we aren’t already, but drugs do need focus. Most people do have this ‘its no worse than alcohol, a little bit wont hurt’ attitude, and that only makes people more likely to try things. I had that attitude until I’d seen the other side realistically. Most campaigns tend to focus on the short term negatives, without the long term consequences. (Having said that, it only took my friend a few months to become a different person).
    I definitely agree that people should be made more aware about the negative effects of drugs, as much as the ‘most people are fine’ aspect, because for the ones that aren’t fine, it’s too late once they’re hooked. I think a video clip of some long term drug users struggling to put a sentence together and unable to stop twitching, a memorial for someone who died of toxic shock trying to quit, or perhaps a photo of the bruises someone paranoid can inflict on a ‘friend’ could make a few people stop and think. And if it saves even a few people surely its worth it? Just preventing one person starting on drugs also saves their family and friends from the pain of watching it, either losing them as the person they know, or losing them altogether. And it saves people around them being saved from all the other side effects. I totally agree drugs should get the same focus as alcohol, and the fact that so many people think alcohol is worse than drugs just backs up (for me) the fact that people need to be made more aware

  4. Afroman says:

    I can’t be bothered to write a serious response to this, but I will say it’s wildly misinformed, narrow-minded and anecdotal.

    Also, it’s a major buzzkill

  5. Moonshine says:

    The reason there is no education on the subject at uni level is because the majority of us will have tried drugs by this stage and discovered all the negative media surrounding them is bulls**t.

    “A lot of extremist groups and terrorist groups are known to be funded by narcotic drugs trade – another reason right there to tackle the issue.” – by making them legal, you take the power away from criminals, they can be controlled, made safer and taxed. Drug culture in this country isn’t going to go away, it’s time for the gov’t to stop being so stubborn and embrace the benefits of legalisation.

  6. Face palm, face palm, face palm. Not a bad article in itself but clearly written from a very naive point of view.

    Starting from the bottom, the most damaging effects of the use of cannabis in selly oak would probably go as far as lining the pockets of other students (primarily) and facilitating the use of the drug in residents houses, with little (or no) backlash on the local community/residents. In terms of the ‘party drugs’ named, it would probably be best to do a bit more research into the physical and emotional effects of these in comparison to alcohol, before writing an article on their short and long term problems. This may be a generalisation, but a club full of drunk students would usually get more violent than one where the majority of circulating drugs are the ones you mentioned.

    Addressing the issue of alcohol abuse, one I’m sure many people reading this would use as a point of contention, the overconsumption of alcohol probably has much larger detrimental effects on the local community. Obviously it’s the main drug of choice for most of us, mainly due to its availability and the lack of social stigma that surrounds it, but ultimately it causes the most destructive behaviour, and its the most irresponsibly consumed (I say that with a pinch of salt). I think the long term effects of it have also been overlooked in this article.

    Just coming back to the point of the general naive perspective behind this article, it seems that its written more out the principle of illegal activity and the mainstream societal zeitgeist that people are expected to adhere to. It kind of feels like an epitomisation of the voice of ‘the man,’ so to speak. I do agree that education is needed, but more an objective education of the positive and negative effects of legal and illegal drugs, not the typical scare tactics and double standards we’ve come to expect.

    As a closing point my recommendation to most people, including the writer, would be to do some proper research into all aspects of drug use, and not to look at the issue though the veil given to you by your parents or government. You may reach the same conclusion, but at least it’ll be one backed up by facts and data rather than the infinitely wise words of the media and business sector.

  7. KH says:

    Lack of statistical data and citations, and heavily reliant on author’s personal anecdotes make this article unpersuasive and unconvincing read.

  8. Jon Robinson says:

    I’m not going to join in attacks on the writing style employed and such – I disagree quite strongly with the position adopted by this article but it’s a reasonable enough defence of that position,

    The thing is though Areeq, I don’t think there is a defence against the “what about alcohol?” line. You can’t possibly justify an anti-drug education campaign when the entire institution is so actively engaged in tacit endorsement of binge drinking: the hypocrisy would be stunning.

    Further, I’m highly unconvinced that the negative effects of both drinking and drug-taking (beyond health detriment to the individual) would be mitigated for solely by reducing that activity. Studies such as this > http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2634499.stm < square perfectly with my anecdotal experience, which is that the kind of people who get drunk/stoned and act like dickheads intend to do so irrespective of their level of intoxication, and in the absence of drugs would no doubt find another faux mitigating factor to justify their idiocy.

  9. Mr Cons Ervative says:

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