Kevin died of a heroin overdose just after his 32nd birthday. He was found locked in a toilet in Marks & Spencer, in Carmarthen, where he had suffered cardiac arrest following intravenous use. Despite attempts to save him, his brain had suffered fatal damage and a day later, his family (parents and four siblings) made the decision that life support should not be continued. Kevin’s mum is part of a growing international network of families and friends who have chosen to join the Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control network – calling for a change to our failed drug laws.
In 2021, there were 4,517 deaths related to illegal drugs. The highest level since records began. Many of these deaths were caused by factors such as people consuming unregulated substances of unknown strength and purity, insufficient drug education and a lack of access to support services. Many of these deaths were preventable and avoidable.
Anyone’s Child is a campaign of the charity and think-tank Transform Drug Policy Foundation. We are a network of families who have suffered some of the most negative consequences of drug prohibition. Many have lost loved ones to accidental overdose deaths, others have been exploited by organised crime groups involved in the illegal drugs trade, and many more struggle in a criminal justice system not designed to help those in pain or suffering from trauma.
The families involved draw on their lived experience to inform the wider public of the true human cost of the ‘drug war’ and to put pressure on politicians to reform the UK’s drug laws. We share stories of our loved ones to highlight the humans behind the statistics, their successes and challenges, strengths and failures, to evoke empathy and challenge the stigma around this issue, to demonstrate that drug use could happen to anyone. Anyone’s Child is based in the UK, but we also work with families in Canada, Kenya, Mexico and Belgium, who are running similar campaigns under the Anyone’s Child brand, to reform drug laws in their jurisdictions. In the UK we are supported by a wider activist network of people who are outraged by the UK’s drug policy and driven to help bring about change. There are local groups in Yorkshire and Bristol who meet regularly for training workshops and to discuss local issues.
We believe that prohibition is putting young and vulnerable people at danger and that regulation would help to keep them safer from the harms of prohibition. We are calling for the legal control and regulation of the drugs market to reduce the risks they pose. The group recognises that drugs are currently 100% manufactured and distributed by organised crime groups- there is no minimum age, quality standards or duty of care. Instead our vision is that the control of drugs would instead be the responsibility of medical professionals such as doctors and pharmacists.
For more details around our vision of a post prohibition world, check out: After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation.
The families’ relentless campaigning is actively challenging the stigma that exists around drug use and enabling conversations to start all over the country around a subject that has been taboo for too long.
So what can you do?
Firstly, if you’d like to find out more about our work and hear from some of the local families involved in the campaign please join us in Aberdare on the 26th January Cynon Valley: Take Drugs Seriously on Thursday 26th January 2023 at 18:30. To view the list of speakers and book your free tickets, click here.
Secondly, do you agree that our drug laws need to change? Please write to your MP. We need to keep up the pressure on our politicians so that we can reach a tipping point. This is the most powerful thing you can do to help reform drug policy. To do so, you can arrange to meet your MP to ask what they intend to do about our failed drug laws. Regardless of whether you voted for them or not, it’s their job to represent and listen to all their constituents – they work for you! You are welcome to use our template guide for more information: Email Your MP – Anyone’s Child (anyoneschild.org).
Each year we lobby MPs in the UK. We share our experiences and tell the stories of our loved ones to remember and dignify them, and we call on those in power to do something about it. You can watch our visit to Parliament, in 2022, above.
“My life ended when I lost my two sons Torin and Jacques so unexpectedly in one night. I never wanted to join a group like Anyone’s Child – but having lost everything, I feel that it’s all I can do now – to try and stop others from having to go through what I’ve been through – and for me that means campaigning for the legal control and regulation of drugs.” Ray.
Jane Slater is Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Transform Drug Policy Foundation. She founded and now leads the Anyone’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control campaign. Twitter: @anyoneschild