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Drugs and the Celtic dysfunction Scotland and Ireland have an unusual problem with heroin. What is the cause?

A discarded needle inn Glasgow. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A discarded needle inn Glasgow. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images


December 29, 2020   8 mins

Josef Stalin famously commented that a single death is a tragedy, but one million is a statistic. It was an acute perception — put to most appalling use by Stalin himself — of the way that both individuals and the wider media process news of death. The minutiae of one person’s fate can move strangers to tears, but a distant story of misery told only in large numbers is often easily brushed aside.

The way in which the wider United Kingdom metabolised the recent story of Scotland’s drugs deaths is a case in point. It emerged earlier this month that the country’s drug-related death toll is now 3.5 times that of England and Wales, and leads Europe by a shocking degree; in 2019 there were 1,264 drug-related deaths in the country of 5 million, roughly seven out of ten of whom were male.

The findings have proved a political scandal in Scotland, taking up numerous column inches and leading to the resignation of Joe Fitzpatrick, the SNP minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing. In the rest of the UK the story has briefly touched the news agenda before melting away. It is admittedly a period of unusually feverish political drama, with a new strain of Covid-19 on the rampage and a Brexit deal in the balance until Christmas, but I don’t think that in other circumstances things would be any different. They never are. On my Twitter timeline, Scottish drug deaths — rather like the victims of Northern Irish paramilitary shootings and beatings — scarcely surface at all as a topic of serious concern among members of the London media and professional classes. Nor have they done so for many years.

There are a number of reasons for this, I think. One is that England has become used over the years to the insidious idea that what might be dubbed “Celtic dysfunction” is an immutable fact of life, a bit like the rain. This dysfunction, it is thought, is most often expressed through violence, abuse of alcohol or drugs, although occasionally it snakes into eloquence. At times it may become a topic of heightened cultural interest, as with Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting or Douglas Stuart’s recent Booker Prize winner Shuggie Bain, but that rarely translates into any sense of political urgency. When Scotland movingly or humorously dramatises its pain, the results are praised and savoured, but little sustained effort is made to alleviate the reality.

Along with devolution, another question has arisen: who owns this reality? In Westminster the attitude is that Scotland does, particularly with the SNP in charge: if they want to claim Scotland, the thinking goes, they can take responsibility for its human misery as well. But the truth is that neither Holyrood nor Westminster owns it fully: an effective drugs policy appears to have fallen down a gap in approaches between the two administrations. Where the British Government treats drug abuse primarily as a criminal justice matter, the Scottish Government increasingly regards it as a health emergency, leading to the Home Office blocking proposals for a “safe consumption” facility in Glasgow.

For drug users, the two opposing policies seem to represent either punishment or what might be called despair management. It may be that neither offers a satisfactory outcome. The Orwell prize-winning Scottish writer Darren McGarvey — who himself overcame addiction to drink and drugs — has eloquently argued that the punitive approach does not work and that a form of decriminalisation would give the authorities more policy options. But he also says that the SNP’s “harm reduction” model is itself flawed, and will lead to continued deaths: the SNP has actually cut drugs services and reduced spending on rehabilitation facilities, which are most likely to offer addicts a decisive path out of addiction.

There are no easy solutions, since many potential elements may feed into a drugs crisis: family dysfunction, economic deprivation, the easy availability of drugs, the fragmentation of community, a history of criminal offending, a spiral of shame and the individual’s sense of his or her own loss of meaning in the world.

A large amount of what holds true for Scotland also seems to be reflected in my birthplace of Northern Ireland, which itself has sharply escalating numbers of drug-related deaths. As in Scotland, the greater proportion of such deaths are among men, and many involve the mixing of a number of different substances. Those living in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland — with their additional history of Troubles-related losses — are five times as likely to die a drug-related death as those in wealthier parts, and around 70% of those deaths will be among men. A separate but linked phenomenon is the relatively high rate of suicide in both places (although some of Northern Ireland’s suicides have recently been recategorised as accidental drugs deaths). The group most vulnerable to suicide across the board in the UK is that of middle-aged men.

Is there any truth in the notion that a predisposition to drink, drugs or even despair is a notable streak of the communal psyche of Scotland or Northern Ireland in a way that is less pronounced elsewhere? To say so is to run the risk of overlooking societal factors, or romanticising sadness. Some of the characteristics that seem innate may in fact be cultural and historical. Both Glasgow and Belfast, for example, once had heavy industries — in particular ship-building — that provided stable employment, rewarded engineering skills, and to some extent defined masculine meaning. When such industries melted away, they left a hole in working-class communities which nothing in successive generations has adequately filled. Women, too, have had to navigate the wider consequences of this loss, not least its damaging effects on the men around them.

The prevailing religious culture in both places, too, put a particularly strong emphasis on personal responsibility and hard work — both important values, but if one then repeatedly lapses from them, the internalised sense of shame is especially acute. The drug addict is often presented as someone who is essentially feckless, irresponsible and selfish. Yet it might be truer to say that while addiction makes addicts behave in a selfish way, the spur to the addiction is often deeply rooted in feeling too much rather than too little: the shameful sense in moments of lucidity of being worthless and unlovable, and of having routinely disappointed friends and family in a manner that now seems irrecoverable. The pain demands a quickly palliative measure, which when it wears off is likely to intensify the source of pain.

I spent some time a couple of years ago interviewing male teenaged victims of post-ceasefire paramilitary shootings and beatings in Belfast, attacks in which they had almost died and from which they were permanently scarred. Some had been targeted by the local “hard men” for their alleged involvement in petty crime, including small-time involvement with drugs. They were now almost certainly self-medicating more often to dull their anxieties, not least in constant anticipation of their attackers returning.

They displayed a remarkable lack of self-pity, in part because it was a pointless emotion, since there was and is very little coherent political will or strategy to help them rebuild their lives. Aside from a few brave community workers and academics who regularly speak up on their behalf, and their own families, there is almost no meaningful wider support shown to them. In the vast majority of cases they are too intimidated to consider giving evidence against their attackers in a public prosecution.

One spoke of a friend who had taken his own life after an attack of unimaginable brutality. Another told me he was fine now, and then casually mentioned that he had tried to kill himself on the night of his own engagement party. These youths were trapped within layers of indifference, both local and national, and immobilised in policy failure. I imagine that, albeit for less immediately brutal reasons, much the same sense of being officially considered either a non-person or a public nuisance applies to many of those who lose their lives to drugs in Scotland. The prevailing narrative around them is not one of empathy or outrage but ennui.

The by-products of stress and tension are not always wholly negative, provided there is at least some place in society where one seems to matter. Some of the wittiest people I have known — both men and women — have had extremely difficult childhoods. Their self-preservation demanded an enhanced attentiveness to the world, including the ability to closely  observe the innately unreliable adults and situations around them. Humour became a way both of detaching from emotional hurt and translating it into a usable currency: the dark, quick wit that so often characterises working-class Belfast and Glaswegian banter frequently has its origins in discomfort of some sort, whether outside the family or within it. The Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly, for example, was only four years old when his mother abandoned him and his beloved older sister Flo to the erratically cruel care of paternal aunts and his father’s physical and sexual abuse.

As an adult, talking about the abuse, Connolly revealed an extraordinary ability to sift and separate elements in his father’s character: “I love his memory now, as much as I loved him when he was alive. It was disloyal of him to do that to me, but there were other aspects of him that were great.” This heightened alertness to the agonising complications of others — the perpetually shifting, layered quality of the world — can be a great asset to a comedian or writer. But early betrayals also create an abiding reservoir of pain, into which people can pour drink or drugs or eventually their whole selves.

Connolly recognised this about himself in time to give up alcohol and cocaine, while holding on to the humour like a life-raft. Others don’t. One certainly would not wish the darker aspects of Billy Connolly’s childhood on anyone, but the question remains: would he have been the same electric stage presence had he grown up in a gently nurturing, stable middle-class family in Surrey?

Probably not. Yet the fact that dysfunction can give rise to compelling humour or art should not be a reason for a complacent failure to address it in policy terms. For every Billy Connolly or Douglas Stuart — who manage by means of resilience, talent, hard work and luck to alchemise their early adversity — there are numerous others who will be entirely crushed by it.

Another factor, I think, now mitigates against effective action on both drug-related deaths and suicides in Scotland in particular, and the wider UK in general, even as the statistics climb. It is the current style of political discourse, especially in sections of the Left, which accords moral status to victimhood while becoming increasingly selective about who is granted that status. If the wrong “category members” knock on the door, they’ll often find that the empathy police have quietly closed the club.

At present, public discussion of disadvantage often emphasises necessary questions of race and gender while simultaneously underplaying those of class, familial care, education and poverty. This is partly because the online public conversation around disadvantage — like many public conversations — is often dominated by the middle and upper-middle classes, a large proportion of whom have little personal experience of poverty or class discrimination, for example, and tend to minimise the importance of these factors in determining life chances. The most disadvantaged people in society often aren’t making their voices heard in the argument at all: they’re too busy struggling, and sometimes failing, to get by.

In much of academic and social media discourse, “white men” are routinely glued to the top of the privilege tree — somewhat illogically, since without further qualification the category can encompass both a homeless, unemployed person and Jeff Bezos. As an automatic shorthand for privilege, however, it doesn’t really work, especially once geography and socio-economic class are factored in. It will certainly include a notably high proportion of those in both the drug-related deaths and suicide statistics: seven out of ten drug-related deaths in Scotland are among men (including all races, of course, but at the last census Scotland was 96% white.)

Despite much cultural discussion of race, the prevailing policy direction is doing very little to help less well-off black and Asian men across the UK either. Those social problems which are male-dominated (although of course they affect women as well) are also those to which society is increasingly unsympathetic. Budgets for drug and alcohol treatment programmes have been widely cut in recent years.

Men in the UK have roughly three times the suicide rate of women. According to the Samaritans, men who are less well-off (defined as a household income of less than ÂŁ17,500 a year) are up to ten times more likely to take their own lives than those who are better-off. We need to talk about this, just as we acknowledge that women are disproportionately victims of domestic violence.

These are grim statistics of a brutal epidemic of self-destruction and loss, and it is striking how little they feature in the broader national conversation. Devolved responsibilities, shame around deprivation and addiction, institutional indifference and the oddly skewed prism through which once-progressive movements now view privilege and victimhood, have combined to make male despair increasingly invisible, even as it mounts: somebody else’s problem, and nobody’s problem at all.

 


Jenny McCartney is a journalist, commentator and author of the novel The Ghost Factory.

mccartney_jenny

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7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago

I have lived with the down and out, been one, and so have some understanding. The best rule is ‘Idle hands are the devil’s workshop’. People, but especially young men, are genetically made to work hard. Without work to burn off a young man’s energies he will turn to anti social, or self destructive ways. To rest, and rest is one of life’s most important things, well to rest you have had to burnt off physical and mental energy and you also need some feeling of having done something. A man in prison cannot rest, that regenerative thing, because he has not had his energy used, and that is hell, he can sleep, but not rest without work.

Restless energy un-channeled, and feeling your effort is just wasted, then you cannot really rest and recoup, you just keep smouldering, and that drives to crazy or depression, and bad ways.

I hold this covid lockdown to have been a great evil as poor students rarely catch up from missed school. Then the loss of unskilled starter jobs. If young people cannot get work after school it sets them way back. They miss the training of working, just learning how to hold a job, and to move up the skill levels, and it sets them off on idleness which is mentally very bad for young men.

Making the least employable unemployable will destroy more lives, lives of them and those tied to them, than lockdown will have saved. Entire lives wrecked, and society dragged down as well. The bright and educated can handle idleness much better, but even them, not really.

Paul
Paul
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Yet the deaths from alcohol and drug abuse in Scotland shows it is the 25-54 year olds who are dying. The youth fare much better. I could not believe that the report I just read came from 2020 – it reads more like a snapshot of Detroit or Chicago at their worst. Really scary stuff considering Wee Crankie speaks like Scotland as some paragon of virtue in an SNP Nirvana.

https://www.audit-scotland….

David J
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul

Then again, crankie wants to give away Scottish fishing all over again.
So her leadership is hardly logical.

Anne Humphreys
Anne Humphreys
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

I agree, especially with the first tow paragraphs. There is a general lack of appreciation of the importance purposeful physical labour today. And young men particularly need this. This is quite clear to me from having brought up two sons.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

I am old enough to have witnessed the same thing over several generations. I agree with all 4 paragraphs

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Exceedingly well said.

jcurwin
jcurwin
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Well said. And I would add the solution to addiction once it has taken over a life is not “harm reduction” as the “progressive” side of the political spectrum seems to think, but actual treatment aimed at actual recovery–and then a return to being a productive citizen.

Steve Craddock
Steve Craddock
3 years ago

In my opinion, and from what I have read, the use of the phrase “white privilege” is a racist term. Any attempt to justify the term by imposing further subdivisions is trying to mitigate the inherent racism by the application of facile exceptions. Equally the use of feminism as a justification for policy is discriminatory in the true sense of the discrimination act but our justice and parliamentary systems are so corrupt they cannot see the doom shaded path we are walking. We cannot continue to tolerate one half of our society shouting out that the other is worthless or suggesting or even worse legislating against them due to some historic anguish or engineered outrage without some form of backlash or consequence. I fear for the feckless and vain society we are leaving to our sons and daughters where even the most crucial role of parenthood and all its encumbent responsibilities is treated as little more than a fashion accessory similar to having a handbag dog or cool trainers; to be discarded when they are no longer in fashion or the owner gets bored.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Craddock

What I always wonder at White Privilege is who made all the science, political advances, rule of law, social programs, universal education, universities, industry, medicine, art, literature, and so on. It is not cultural appropriation for White men to be using all these benefits which make life worth living. You have a problem with White men, show us what you have.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

Neither ‘social programmes’ (the English language form) nor universal education are ‘benefits’.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Social programs include many things of dubious benefit, but universal education surely benefits us all. Could a developed country survive without it?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

It certainly can’t survive with it. ‘Universal education’ is just another name for Govt.-directed propaganda. Real education, even of the highest academic, most abstruse type is SUBVERSIVE, indvidual, by nature.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago

I was apprehensive about reading this, having been brought up in the east end of Glasgow, with addiction in my immediate family, I am always wary when journalists opine on this subject. However when I read

“Yet it might be truer to say that while addiction makes addicts behave in a selfish way, the spur to the addiction is often deeply rooted in feeling too much rather than too little”

I knew she really does understand the horrible complexities faced by those struggling addiction and poverty.

I can also say, now that I have my feet in two worlds, growing up in working class east end, and now living in a more affluent area where my neighbours send their children to private school and have dinner parties (people do eat olives)!! I can whole heartedly agree that the middle classes simply do not understand or appreciate the obstacles facing those being brought up with addiction. The chaos in such families pervades all aspects of a child’s life, how we can then expect these children to become responsible members of society shows, in my opinion, a complete lack of understanding and empathy.

Darren McGarveys book Poverty Safari is a good starting place for anyone wishing to get a window into this world.. how we get those who are trapped inside to climb out is sadly beyond me
🙁

Phil Bolton
Phil Bolton
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

The problem is summed up in your last sentence and indeed in this excellent article. We don’t know. There is no definitive answer to societies ails many of which are rooted in disruptive, abusive and damaging family upbringing. How do you break this cycle if the damage was done 20 years earlier and only manifests itself in adult life and when this person may themselves become a parent ?

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
3 years ago

This article has alluded to one of the key issues in our society.
Unemployed white socio D & E men are one of the most deprived sections of our community and also the most ignored. Their reason for living has been undermined by society over the last 50 years and it is no wonder they have the highest suicide rate and propensity for alcohol and drugs.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Carr

In the last few years, their status seems to be moving from “ignored” to “vilified”.

One of the few lights on the horizon is the deprivation review being undertaken by the government at the moment.

I see no signs that they are going to give in to the woke white-privilege sh*te that exacerbates this problem.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

“the woke white-privilege sh*te that exacerbates this problem.”

Exactly.

Dodgy Geezer
Dodgy Geezer
3 years ago

This article offers no answers. But it is a tour de force for all that, because it offers a unique and balanced perspective into a problem which is critical for present day society.

Excessive drug use in the Celtic hinterlands is not a singular problem. It is the canary down the mine for ALL present day society. We are experiencing social alienation and fragmentation in all parts of our culture, and the continual political lies drive this disintegration further and faster. Simply recognising that we need to work together and make use of everyone in society rather than rejecting outsiders is surely the key to recovery…?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Dodgy Geezer

Interesting you use the phrase ‘Celtic’ hinterlands to describe ‘Scotland’. If this means anything it means the non-Protestant parts of Scotland. Protestantism, as can readily seen from the surnames involved (e.g. my real one, which is English in origin as shown by its components) is not ‘Celtic’. Up until the mid-50s Scotland was still largely a country with a basically English lowland culture (Old Labour, Tories, even old Liberals e.g. Jo Grimond, David Steel). It isn’t, now.

Colin Macdonald
Colin Macdonald
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Celtic is a pretty meaningless term,reinvented two hundred years ago, in any case the least Catholic part of Scotland is way north of the “English” lowlands, eg Lewis, Sutherland, Wester Ross. The Highland Lowland line is less of a divide than you might think, there’s certainly a linguistic divide, but when you cross it from Forres to Nairn you find the same solid Victorian architecture, the plumbing still works and you don’t feel as if you’ve entered a Gypsy encampment. The real divides are geographical, there’s a real difference when you go from the Eastern Highlands to the Western Highlands, similarly “Celtic” but I’ve seen an almost racist attitude of the East Coasters towards yokels on the West Coast.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
3 years ago

Take care, Jenny, whoever decided to make the Suzanne Moore article one of the ‘Best of 2020’ might report you to the Prevent programme for daring to challenge the idea of ‘toxic masculinity’ and ‘white privilege’.

neilyboy.forsythe
neilyboy.forsythe
3 years ago

Saint Nicola of Covid and her administration are clearly far too caring to be responsible for bad things. They tell us how much they care regularly, so even considering their culpability is utter madness.
Surely there must be a way we can pin this on the heartless Tory Westminster government? We need to keep looking!

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I believe the deployment of the famous Stalin quote here to be lazy and inappropriate. He was referring to the deliberate elimination of millions of people. Not even I would accuse the SNP of that. That aside, I must have read more or less the same article on this subject a hundred times, although it does at least get around to the fact of the neglect and demonisation of white men.

I don’t know where I stand on ‘the resignation of Joe Fitzpatrick, the SNP minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing’. It’s an impossible job and whoever fills the role is doomed to fail. I note that the SNP MP who travelled back to Scotland on a train, having tested positive for Covid, has not yet resigned.

A related and interesting statistic just gleaned from last night’s Tucker Carlson show: 171 deaths from Covid in San Francisco this year (many of them, probably, not really Covid deaths), but almost 700 deaths from drug overdoses in the same city this year.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Call me cynical but I believe Joe Fitzpatrick was made to fall on his sword… Let’s Nicola continue to claim how much she cares…

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

If you really were to fall on your sword in Scotland today your death would almost certainly be ascribed to Covid.

Andy Nimmo
Andy Nimmo
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

As a Scottish Independence Supporter for 41 years ( I have always believed in Confederalism the UK should be restructured along the Nordic Alliance or Benelux models) I’ve now reached breaking point with Nicola Sturgeon and her feminist ultra Twitter Army.
You can bet that if Joe Fitzpatrick had been female or coloured he wouldn’t have been forced to resign.

Cassian Young
Cassian Young
3 years ago

The weather is the causative factor here.

Northern Ireland and Scotland are two of the darkest inhabited places in the world in terms of yearly hours of sunshine. The absence of snow in winter amplifies this problem.

(Strangely the darkest of the dark are Derry and Skye, which are also the happiest places in the UK. Presumably because everyone affected by depression has left.)

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

So why doesn’t it affect those who are left? Either this is a proven physical cause or it isn’t.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

I had not thought of it this way before but I was in Scotland one December an was surprised how much shorter the day was compared to northern England.

I an not sure that Scotland and Northern Ireland are two of the darkest inhabited places in the world in terms of yearly hours of sunshine, but it does not mean it is not a factor. I had a Norwegian relative through marriage according to whom spirits were banned for a time and then made difficult and expensive to buy because the there was a serious problem with people drinking to excess during the long winters.The result was that many homes had their own stills and you could buy whiskey, vodka and gin essence at supermarkets to flavour it. For the record relative concerned died of drink related causes.

For much the same reason Greenland held a referendum in 1978 that resulted in the severe restriction in alcohol sales and the prohibition of home brewing. Similarly there is the well known Russian problem with alcohol.

As to the below comments the problem is as likely to be Nordic as Celtic

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

And Slavic and Inuit.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago

“Is there any truth in the notion that a predisposition to drink, drugs or even despair is a notable streak of the communal psyche of Scotland or Northern Ireland in a way that is less pronounced elsewhere?”

I’m also from Northern Ireland & have lived in England many years. I’d say there are definitely cultural & psychological differences between the English and the Celtic fringe, on average. I wouldn’t characterise it as Celtic deviance from an English norm. The English are a bit more like their German cousins; the Celts are a bit more like the Russians, say.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

You are close to the elephant in the room.
I am from Scotland & have lived in Scotland for many years. I’d say there are definitely cutural & psychological differences between the Scottish and the Celtic fringe, on average.
Patronymics are a big clue.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

This aspect of ‘culture’ is never mentioned nowadays. I have struggled for years to get people to take religious background seriously as a contributor to ‘political’ belief (e.g. Brexit/Remain), but have generally got nowhere. To one person it was obviously ‘nutty’, whereas religious background (NOTE: not current expressed beliefs) is obviously the biggest contributor to what any one person thinks, to me.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

It still plays out in large swathes of working class areas of Glasgow.. what football team you support, what school you send your children to, what pubs you go to and of course your politics. During indy ref Catholic priests were telling their congregation to vote for indy whilst in other areas they were hanging union jack’s on every lamp post.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Please forgive me, I see you are a Scot, so will be very aware of the sectarianism of Glasgow.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Religious background is a false positive. Every culture has a religion: when cultures clash, it’s easy to conclude that religion might be the cause. Look deeper.

juliabaytree
juliabaytree
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

You have a point. “Catholic guilt” in a convert to atheism, for instance.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
3 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

Mr. Black–
It would be enlightening to read a comparison of the addiction problems in Scotland and North Ireland with the opioid addiction problems here in the States. The problems are most severe in the Appalachian regions that had been populated by Scots/Irish and have kept their cultural and psychological differences. The economic effects of the losses of certain kinds of jobs are also similar.
Reading this article made me double-check to make sure Ms. McCartney was not writing about West Virginia, Kentucky, southern Ohio, and other Appalachian areas.
A collaboration between Ms. McCartney and the U.S. author J.D. Vance ( Hillbilly Elegy) would be interesting.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

I’ve spent time in Tennessee & the US South (married a Tennessean). Northern Irish Protestant culture still has many similarities with the US Scots-Irish, though there are big differences too.

nenegaffney
nenegaffney
3 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

I am from Kentucky and was, for most of a 30-yr career, a substance abuse counselor all over the world. Blaming Appalachian poverty, despair and addiction problems on the Celtic “Scots-Irish” DNA of the region’s inhabitants has a centuries-long history. In the US we distain discussions about class, but it is the upper-middle classes who make policy. Criminalization of use, making familial care sacrosanct, whether or not it is dysfunctional, loss of meaningful work . . . I could go on and on. The point is, even the “victims” often buy into the myth of the melancholy Celt and meaningful policy is dismissed.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Black

I think the Scots and Ulster-Scots are sufficiently mixed up that Saxon/Anglo vs Celtic patronymics probably won’t tell you very much. There are some differences between Ulster Scots and southern Irish.

Kay Angell
Kay Angell
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

I share your views in this area. In addition to the societal and economic conditions suffered by the celtic population in question, should we also be looking at the specifics of their DNA? They share many characteristics with other northern races in Scandinavia, the Baltic states, etc, such as blue eyes, pale skin and these races too have notable problems with alcohol addiction. From personal observation, I would say that many Scots and Irish do process alcohol differently: they often seem to be able to metabolise larger quantities without feeling any ill effects (this is euphemistically known as holding their drink well!) and means they can consume larger quantities than other people. Without ill effects to put their brakes on, does their increased consumption of alcohol lead to greater addiction? Also is there anything in their DNA which makes them predisposed to addictive behaviour? It is known that many Asians are unable to process alcohol well and I believe there is a much lower incidence of alcoholism in those countries. There is so much more learn on this subject and some intensive studies could be useful.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago
Reply to  Kay Angell

I think it’s pretty well known that populations that have been drinking alcohol the longest deal with it best; so for Western Europe Mediterranean > Germanic > Celtic.

Growing up in Northern Ireland with lots of southern Irish students, then moving to southern England for University, what the Southern English saw as alcohol-fuelled student disorder seemed incredibly sedate by Irish standards!

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago

Nice to see a proper, in-depth piece of journalism on this subject, and one which is not afraid to question whether the demise of religious sentiment in the west has anything to do with this. It certainly does, but there’s one aspect I recommend people think deeply about. The Scottish Government actually has a minister for “Wellbeing”? Seriously? I know this kind of thing isn’t unique to Holyrood, but really, what does it say about the prevailing political and social philosophy that it is assumed such an office is either a necessary or a good thing? To me, it is just one more intrusion into the private realm of the citizens, one more squeeze on personal liberty, just another bit of private space taken away. Does it occur that maybe that factors into someone’s decision to blank it all out with drugs?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

” the demise of religious sentiment in the west”

There has been no such demise. What has declined is its institutional expression. The sentiments remain the same. I knew before I checked Wkipedia that Andy Burnham for instance was brought up a Roman Catholic. As his surname gives no clue (unlike say O’Donnell or McCafferty), how was I able to do this?

The consequence of ‘atheism’ is not a loss of religious sentiment, merely the disappearance of everyday practices and ritual. The emotional disposition of religious belief survives intact.

jcurwin
jcurwin
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

And unfortunately this emotional disposition of religious belief often gets channelled into terrible things, like ideological possession.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

Yes, the idea of the Scottish government having a minister for ‘wellbeing’ struck me as being an absurdity, but everything these people do is absurd so it’s no great surprise. It is especially amusing when you consider that, apparently, fatality rates are three time greater in Scottish jails than in English jails. Moreover, were you to express this fact in Scotland – even in your own home – you would probably be locked up under the terms of the upcoming hate speech laws. The idea of anyone enjoying any form of ‘wellbeing’ in present day Scotland is just a sick joke.

Teo
Teo
3 years ago

The figures have been high since the nineteen eighties, a political inconvenience the deaths only to be immortalised in sardonic pulp fiction, characterised casualties in the culture war of white privilege. The brutal reality below the surface the shamanism is materialising a narco-state in Scotland.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Teo

Since all of Irvine Welsh’s ‘victims’ were white (he himself having gone to the same fee-paying, middle-class largely white Primary School as myself at one point) in what we way is this a war by, or against, ‘white privilege’ (‘of’ has two opposing possibilities inherent in it)?

erylbalazs
erylbalazs
3 years ago

useful discussion in article and comments. be good to see more ethnographic data -and profile the other substances of addiction similarly including cocaine, alcohol etc before we jump to too many conclusions as to solutions/ causes. Working in substance misuse a few years ago the profile was the same in terms of while male heroin users being over represented in rehab units. drug of choice is interesting to examine in conjunction with socio-economic and familial factors. I also came across middle class white males who died from heroin overdoes – often after rehab which is when the body is most vulnerable. I agree it is a neglected issue and signifies potentially a lack of care for a whole cohort of people and this could apply to many issues not only heroin addiction. One of the weaknesses over many years to improve the situation may be the lack of a more systemic approach which tackles all the potential causes. I did find the people who work in this area to be incredibly dedicated and insightful but often finding many barriers to helping their ‘customers’ which I presume are even more these days than previously.
On the question of work and ‘idleness’ quite complicated nowadays – what is work/ ‘a paid job’? Don’t disagree that young people need a focus and task which historically was found in jobs but these type of jobs are no longer available in the same way. Perhaps that would be the most valuable place to start finding solutions?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  erylbalazs

I suppose that believing that people WANT to take heroin because they LIKE doing so is an idea too far?

Andy Tuke
Andy Tuke
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Very true, the supposed war against drugs is never going to achieve anything until people accept the basic premise that people take drugs because its fun. I spent my 20s in the early nineties regularly taking ecstasy and amphetamines and having a great time, as did a huge number of people like me. The message that all drugs lead to heroin was patent nonsense so we ignored it.
Now I’m in my 50s with kids of my own i have very different ideas but I would rather have an honest conversation with them than show them trainspotting and tell them that if they smoke 1 joint that will be them 6 months later

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Tuke

This is true, but the problem comes when kids start to use drugs to self medicate or blank out life around them

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Tuke

Never mind the Gateway Argument, cannabis is a highly addictive drug which does a great deal of damage on its own.

erylbalazs
erylbalazs
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

of course – there is always the wider context of drug taking in our society and why we do it from caffeine to cocaine – therein lies the complication of providing help / prevention. What has happened to services over the last few years is that this sentiment has been used to ration the help available – i.e. if you don’t jump through many many hoops you must want to be addicted. what I found in the end was that some people experiment/ use and it doesn’t wreck their life and for others it just does as they become addicted. I came t the conclusion after many years it is a combination of body chemistry, personality and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

There is interesting research being done now which suggests dopamine does not cause pleasure at all but rather wanting.. i.e. we intensely want what we know is bad for us.
This makes perfect sense to me…

Berridge lab, Neuroscience of liking and wanting

Paul
Paul
3 years ago
Reply to  erylbalazs

I tried getting this through earlier. Makes for fascinating but terribly sad reading
https://www dot audit-scotland. dot gov dot uk/uploads/docs/report/2019/briefing_190521_drugs_alcohol.pdf
Replace the dots with …..

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

“communal psyche of Scotland”

There is no such thing. What there are ‘ are two religious traditions, which are to some degree antithetical, even antipathetic in some cases, to each other. It would be helpful to know all the facts of the background of all of those people who have died.

The fact that Northern Ireland is also affected badly indicates to me the possibility of an element of religious difference and cultural divergence.

andrewjmm
andrewjmm
3 years ago

Jenny as a Celt but one that lives in Wales you know the other Celtic country that is so often excluded what a pity that you speak of Scotland and Ireland but have not a single thing to say about Wales!

Is it lazy journalism or are we free of the issues you mention – I don’t think so.

Michael Burnett
Michael Burnett
3 years ago

And this why I like Unherd – a great nuanced article. As a Londoner now working in the North of England as a teacher in a socially deprived area you have (and all the people who have made comments) made me think deeply. Thank you.

ralph bell
ralph bell
3 years ago

A shocking and powerful article, where these arguments have been falling on deaf ears for far too long, mainly perhaps because these issues rarely affect people in positions of power.

Sean L
Sean L
3 years ago

The Rausing Belgravia crackheads were billionaires.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

If anyone is looking to the political Left to feel compassion in this matter and show it in action, I think they will have a long and dispiriting wait on their hands.

Nowadays the Left is almost entirely not in the business of caring about human beings and what happens to them.

Its agenda is made up of other priorities:

* Mass Immigration – so as to achieve a new electoral demography

* Finding all sorts of ways of bullying and coercing people so as to have most members of society cringing, frightened to annoy them, and very ready to do their bidding. Instruments in this endeavour are, for example, Political Correctness used as a mob’s truncheon; ‘Cancelling’ people’s jobs, livelihoods, esteem; Ginning up inflamed campaigns on these scores

* Investing in Victimhood as the only interesting social phenomenon; but again, using that as a power-tool, not out of real concern for anyone who may indeed have been victimised.

Solid attempts at policy to get working-class people real jobs up and down the land has not been thought of by the Labour Party for years. This theme is not even debated by them.

Likewise in France. The Socialists – the political party – are now exclusively a middle-class club concerned with their own esoteric fetishes. Not one person in a manual-labour employ is a member of them.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

The result last December hasn’t come close to be explained by the (for want of a better label…and one that I think does describe what I am aiming to describe) the media/pundit/political class.

To decode that result it a good place to start is to take one part Emily Thornberry’s White Van Man tweet, two parts endless triangulation around minority issues (as the article describes) and two parts a general *Anyone BUT Britain* attitude and you end up with a party and it’s former heartlands that no olonger recognise each other.

And on the part of the North London Supper Club that labour is becoming, they don’t even like their own former heartland voters.

They had a warning in Scotland where the rise of the SNP is as easily explained as the fall of Labour as anything else, but didn’t heed it. Last december was the wake up call Labour need to listen to or after the next election they might look back at last December’s result as the Golden Years.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

Heartily agree.

First of all, you are right to see the media/pundit/political class as one entity: Siamese twins (or even triplets, if you consider pundits a distinct section). They are part of the entirely self-serving and self-referential Ruling Caste of the Occidental world nowadays.

Secondly you are absolutely right to blame the intrinsically lamentable SNP’s rise – and its continued survival in devolved government – on the Labour Party’s track record north of the Border.

Young working-class Scotsmen and women were at the end of their tether decades ago with a party which monopolised power in their country, was sensationally corrupt (esp. in Strathclyde), and did nothing for them. In the Highlands they were dependent on seasonal tourist work and then had to sit looking at the wall for the rest of the year.

Labour took Scotland for granted so much and so long, that its fall from grace in that land is still not fully accomplished.

Both the legacy parties – ‘Conservatives’ (who never conserve anything and are owned by Big Commerce) and Labour (who are, as you brilliantly call them, ‘the North London Supper Club’) – now represent hardly anyone but themselves.

I know that the standard wisdom is that no third, fourth, fifth party can break through and take their place in our electoral system (which I prefer to PR of any kind); but I do feel that a sea-change is coming because most people in a democracy cannot put up indefinitely with a politics which addresses few of their major concerns.

At present a contest between (say) a “Back to the Plantagenets!” party and a party advocating Vegan Nudism would be more relevant or interesting to most people in these islands than what the two utterly 4th-rate crews filling most benches in the House of Commons nowadays offer.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

I was surprised that you included a reference to Billy Connolly in this essay.

Is this not the Billy Connolly who joked so tastelessly about the beheading of Mr Kenneth Bigley by Islamic nutters back in 2004?
Did he not also go on to compound his vulgarity by making a lewd remark about the late Mr Bigley’s Thai wife?

Perhaps he has apologised for such barbarism, but I have not seen or heard of it. When I last checked apparently his ‘ego’ was just too huge to be capable an apology.
Please someone correct me if I’m in error.

Kris Beuret
Kris Beuret
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I remember Barbara Castle being asked about what to do about young men and addiction and the answer was “A steady job and girlfriend”. This still seem apt.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Kris Beuret

These days the Twitter mob would be after her for homo/transphobia. She could be cancelled before you could say ‘In Place Of Strife’.

David Waring
David Waring
3 years ago
Reply to  Kris Beuret

Well socialist parties have given up on attempting any of that.

Alan Healy
Alan Healy
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

So you don’t like his jokes ? What a shame .

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Healy

Nothing wrong with most of his humour.

However if someone was to joke about his wife or children being beheaded by Islamic nutters, I doubt very much he would find it that amusing?

Nor I suspect would you?

Alan Healy
Alan Healy
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

He said what many people were thinking , but were afraid to say . The recognition of that is what made it funny .

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Healy

There is some truth in what you say, however that does not excuse it.
I think it was an unfortunate, spontaneous, Aspergers outburst. Not premeditated but very unfortunate.

He should have apologised, its only three word ‘I am sorry’.

However, the “Big Man” as I believe he is known just couldn’t do that, thus revealing himself as a decidedly “Little Man”.

I also have the suspicion that had poor old Mr Kenneth Bigley hailed from say Govan rather than Liverpool, that tasteless remark would never have been uttered?

Teo
Teo
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Healy

Bravado humour that masks a deep and cruel insecurity in Scottish culture.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Teo

It’s not ‘Scottish’ culture. Connolly and I would find little to agree about, and I am Scottish.

Teo
Teo
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Not Scottish but have met a few, would be interested to know what separates Billy Connolly from Scottish culture?

Alan Healy
Alan Healy
3 years ago
Reply to  Teo

Or “humour” as we used to call it .

john freeman
john freeman
3 years ago

“militates”

David Waring
David Waring
3 years ago

But Commissar Sturgeon says Scotland is a happy peaceful place.

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
3 years ago

Perhaps I am not reading it correctly, but the tenor of this article is that drug use/addiction/overdose is a problem to be blamed on – and solved by – politicians. For a much more logical and reasoned approach, City Journal has 2 great articles – “San Francisco’s Deathly Compassion”, and “The Harm in Harm Reduction”. “Seattle is Dying” has a useful take on this as well. After 30 years in Canada of throwing more and more money at the issue, giving free needles, naloxone kits, safe injection sites and now even free drugs, to anyone with a brain it should be obvious that this isn’t working. Of course, proponents predictably fall back on the “but it would be even worse if we weren’t doing it” argument. To me this argument is smashed by the fact that the cities that started earliest into “harm reduction”, and have put the most money and resources into it, have developed the worst homelessness, crime, and overdose death problems. Timelines and other data to me strongly suggest that “harm reduction” were contributory, and not a reaction, to these problems.

Ian French
Ian French
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Milburn

This is a political problem that started in ernest 40 years ago. As in most of the major intentionally de-industrialised areas of the UK not the slightest thought let alone action was given what should replace these industries and employ the bulk who worked in them. The only obvious developments were in those places fortunate in having waterfronts on which to develop overpriced accommodation for people in the professions. The Rust Belts in the US and UK are both experiencing exactly the same problems with long-term demoralisation addiction crime and suicide (though the drugs differ) from the same policies or lack of them.

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago

A friend in Edinburgh once described moving round the city at night in what much have been the 1940s. You had to be careful not to trip over the paralytically drunk people lying on the road or pavement. That’s how the problem expressed itself then.

Alex Sydnes
Alex Sydnes
3 years ago

Don’t people from the Middle East, where alcohol was discovered, drink less? They drink less because the harmful affects of alcohol consumption were weeded out from the general population over the centuries by removing, or seriously reducing, the genes that effect dopamine production. In places like Scandinavia, Scotland and Ireland this process was introduced at a much later date. Ergo, there are more of them.

After all, Middle Easterners today live in poverty and difficult social conditions yet don’t seem to exhibit the same behavior concerning booze. And, I would say, when they migrate to societies that do drink, they don’t.

cft-rlucas
cft-rlucas
3 years ago

Much to be agreed with and when it can be seen how such statistics can be linked to some other northern placed countries with long dark nights, lots of rain, often lack of satisfying jobs and accompanying income, it is not surprising that men, who find it difficult to articulate their fears and dreads concerning their place in society and the world are high on the list of those with mental health concerns that drive them to suicide, accidental or not when linked with addiction.

When we look at the drugs link and compare with parts of London and other large cities, again with men in the majority, it seems to demonstrate quite clearly how a lack of jobs that provide an adequate income, has much to be blamed for, as one of the main causes of making men in particular feel inadequate and unworthy in a world that magnifies this unworthiness in too many areas – not everyone can get into banking, finance, IT and other highly paid jobs, or have Unions that can ensure an average and above salary, whatever qualifications or training as in Transport.

Now the world has turned upside down, we know which jobs should attract a fair and decent income as part of the UN Article 25 specs – we also know money is really no problem and can be conjured up as and when, if not from those unwilling to pay fair taxes or run businesses to support communities, then by QA and perhaps from large land owner’s tax, shown to be feasible as part of a basicincome.org and taxpayersagainspoverty.org.ukm research in the growing support for a basicincome.org.

It is “the online public conversation around disadvantage … ” often dominated by the middle and upper-middle classes, a large proportion of whom have little personal experience of poverty or class discrimination, for example, and tend to minimise the importance of these factors in determining life chances. The most disadvantaged people in society often aren’t making their voices heard in the argument at all: they’re too busy struggling, and sometimes failing, to get by”.
That sentence supplies the clue to providing a different/better future where men and women can regain that lost self worth, perhaps happier being the home maker/provider if the job was given status, accompanied by an income that would allow them to make better choices in life and avoiding mental health issues that cost so much.
Tube and train drivers, some other transport and local government workers had their status recognised and were able to gain a decent wage. What makes one sector worthy but not others? Only those in the position of power and control who as said above, have never had to worry about where the next meal or money for rent was coming from?

Many of our youngsters, with degrees and without, feel much the same and with Covid we will not be surprised as numbers escalate among those made redundant, self worth vanishes and the downward spiral begins. Why are our number of NEETS (mainly male) escalating in all communities? Lack of prospects, training, advice and guidance – support is needed for so many with health concerns, job prospects, education and training pathways – all leading to lack of low esteem – change is needed now to help and not to be seen as welfare, benefits or handouts that make people feel worse.

David Foot
David Foot
3 years ago

The best way to end all this is to go back to before the “drug war” started in 1914, admit it is over and that the war was lost.

Then return law of that time and legalize everything and take it from there with licenses and taxes, fixing what is responsible manufacture and responsible supply via chemists. This is the real way things should have evolved in 1914.

After all who is the State to tell me what I can or can’t consume, there is an even weaker case for the “drug war” than for “lockdown” another interference by the State taken on irrational powers and forcing the infected to live in close quarters with the not infected.

This is a stubborn repetition of the failed exercise in prohibition in the USA which ended creating the most powerful criminal organizations of the time with which even the USA could hardly compete. This crime madness was fixed when alcohol (which is a drug) was regulated and made available again.

I feel very sorry for the victims of drug addiction described here, prison and violence which can come out of the drug trade and the “drug war” which takes so many shapes outside our country and can also affect vulnerable societies and entire countries.

When confronted with wealthy (we made them wealthy) violent groups who manage so much money and power for a third world country, groups which can afford the latest of weaponry and even planes and submarines, confronted with this the order of the third world country just collapses and have to concede.

For the good of everybody concerned, just legalize and regulate all drugs in order to kill off the criminal element which WE are feeding causing untold damage everywhere making true that the path to hell is paved with good intentions

Michael Murray
Michael Murray
3 years ago

Growing up in northern Ireland in the 70’s in an ‘orthodox’ working class community….an omission from the culture of camaraderie is the culture of putting you in your place.. The poverty of expectations is the parent of thousands of young white working class boys and girls destined to f**k all….addiction isn’t an experience so different

Alex Delszsen
Alex Delszsen
3 years ago

Sounds like a job of awareness-raising for Duke and Duchess Spotify-Netflix! Non-ironically, you have correctly identified the shame-spiral. Something like the Scandinavian open-community island prison policies might be helpful here, with real aid to starting back up in communities.

Thanks also for identifying their going back to drugs as a result of trauma from being beaten up by local hard men. Those hard men need some awareness-raising. I am not sure how, but thought must be given to this. Perhaps this article could be read out in pulpits, as even they get their backsides in pews once or twice a year, I am sure.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago

I think it’s a decent article but one thing I don’t agree with is just letting the SNP slip off the hook that over THREE times the drugs deaths of England and Wales puts them on.

Whether or not Safe spaces for drug injections…injection rooms…or any other potential policy may or may not be effective isn’t unimportant but it is almost irrelevant in the sense that the conditions of policy are uniform across the UK.

It is difficult to believe that the situation in other respects is so different in Scotland, and Irving Welsh notwithstanding in this situation, of off the scale excess deaths with drugs involved, that means Glasgow/Clydeside and Dundee.

Newcastle, Sunderland, Teesside, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffiled, and indeed London and Birmingham have all had the same experiences with the old engineering and mass manufacuring, and coal and shipbuilding, all disappearing.

The one variable..at least between England/Wales and Scotland is the SNP.

And the idea that the issue has kept dropping between the cracks of the UK Govt and the SNP govt for the 14 years the SNP have been the govt isn’t tenable.

I think all of the problems mentioned in the article are rightly highlighted , of male redundancy and the toxification of masculinity etc etc.

However the unbelievably huge gulf between Scotland and the rest of the UK is primarily down to the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon and teir obsession with maintaining the frozen conflict that independence has become since 2014.

Across the piece in Scotland too many supposed poliices presented by the SNP are little more than value signaling ticks ironically in view of the article, designed to create a short term hit politically rather than really affect outcomes in the real, long term sense.

Education, Health, even the response to Covid19, have suffered as problems are painted over and ignored, like some slum landlord hiding the mould on the walls, industrial policy is a mess and the SNP Govt spends what little energy it has left on dead ends like pretending to open *embassies* around the world and dystopian extensions of centralisation such as Humza Yousaf’s ill conceived Hate Thought Bill.

The SNP have failed to address this problem and the lack of criticism inside Scotland about it has meant they have shown no interest in adderessing it, and that’s why , bad as the general problem is UK wide Scotland’s is on a scale that makes it the worst in Europe and with comparators in the third world doing better.

One last fact is that the UK trails only Sweden (maybe surprisingly) in the drug deaths(per million) league table. Scotland’s problem is so large that were it at the same level as England/Wales then the UK as a whole with 76 deaths per million would fall below Finland and Ireland both on 72 and possiblybelow Norway on 66.

That is a huge effect given the constant factors, to see arising from just 8% of the population.

For those reasons while I do feel the article is a good one I wouldn’t let the SNP off the hook at all

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
3 years ago

This idea is already hinted at deep in the body of the essay: The best drugs program is an economy that delivers meaningful and adequately remunerative employment to the general population.

The passage in the essay that I have in mind is: “Both Glasgow and Belfast, for example, once had heavy industries ” in particular ship-building ” that provided stable employment, rewarded engineering skills, and to some extent defined masculine meaning. When such industries melted away, they left a hole in working-class communities which nothing in successive generations has adequately filled.”

I would build on the proposition and suggest that drugs programs as they are are nothing more than band-aid solutions. They may address symptoms, but they do not constitute fundamental solutions. But this is our post-industrial economy where we’ve farmed out industry to China, and those left behind procure drugs (like “soma” in a Brave New World) to the edge off of the day-to-day …

Scott Allan
Scott Allan
3 years ago

I was encouraged with the author’s recognition that white poor men have problems but are too often bundled into a group with billionaires like Jeff Bezos.

I am not sure then why the author omits the research on the cause of suicide and substance abuse is “REPEATED SOCIAL DEFEAT”.

It is well documented by many sources. The cause of mostly male fatalities is explained in FAMILY COURT REFORM, SUICIDE, AND “REPEATED SOCIAL DEFEAT” FOR MEN. It is a less complicated paper and easy to understand. A similar but less concise working document exist in Wales.

I expect the reason is that the author does not want to state that 50 years of Femanazi policies has a measurable impact for men. Especially in the lower third of socioeconomic class. 78% of male suicide in Australia is linked to family court and child loss. Governments say they want to address this problem but that of course is only if it does not offend Feminists. An impossible task as they are so easily offended.

Nelson Mandela: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

Offering a pathway out of “REPEATED SOCIAL DEFEAT” for men is the answer but not one the WOKE apex will not shout down, burn down like a good day out with Antifa and BLM. Can’t be seen to save the life of the devil – which is white men, right?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Going alright until reference to ‘the left’. The culture wars magnified in the pages of Unherd and allegedly running wild through academia are largely a creation of ‘the right’. The left still see class, economic and cultural disadvantage and a kinder society as their objective. It’s the left that consistently supports the case for humane support for addiction as opposed to criminalisation, for increased resources for mental health and for a realistic way of viewing human worth in the absence of the historical employment, industrial and Trade Union structures that once provided a sense of community.

Frederick B
Frederick B
3 years ago

Nothing new about this except the chosen substance for self-intoxication. Decades ago I lived in a prosperous south coast holiday town where the homeless drunks who featured so regularly in the local paper’s reports from the magistrates court almost invariably had Scottish or Irish names. This was before the troubles in Northern Ireland and when the shipyards were still functioning.

,

John Riordan
John Riordan
3 years ago

The curious reason it’s so tragic that the budgets have been cut for rehabilitation and safe usage etc is that when you consider the proportion of petty theft, burglary and mugging that is carried out by addicts funding their habit, these programs actually cost less than the social damage that is done by their absence.

I read somewhere once that in certain parts of the UK, 90% of petty theft is carried out by addicts.

a b
a b
3 years ago

This site seems to be the religious right version of Spiked – the same type of obsessions and moral myopia.
If individual freedom & autonomy are anything other than cant it is axiomatic that it includes the right to fail.
“Strength Sufficient to Stand but Free to Fall”.

Ian French
Ian French
3 years ago
Reply to  a b

Should a b fall in the gutter and split their head open, don’t call an ambulance. Leave them there for a few hours to see if they are self-righting and self-healing.

Gordon Black
Gordon Black
3 years ago

https://www dot audit-scotland. dot gov dot uk/uploads/docs/report/2019/briefing_190521_drugs_alcohol.pdf
Thank you Paul for this link which I read. A data table showed a wide range (of drug and alcohol deaths per capita) between each and every county in Scotland.
Anyone who knows every county in Scotland would see an immediate correlation ……