Sam Young

Naked Politics Blogger

Louella Fletcher-Michie sadly passed away at the Bestival music festival after a bad trip on drugs, believed to be 2C-P. The drug is a hallucinogenic which has claimed the twenty-four-year-old girl as its’ first known victim in the UK. Her boyfriend Ceon Broughton, is currently on trial accused of manslaughter and of supplying Louella with the drug. As well as being a tragedy, the death has inevitably reignited the age-old debate surrounding the drug use of young people in society.

Louella and her boyfriend (image from The Mirror)

Young people taking drugs is not a new phenomenon. It has long been ingrained within our culture and in particular within the music of each generation. Hippy culture of the 1960’s brought acid and marijuana to a generation of teenagers just like the rave scene would do the same with ecstasy almost 30 years later. Louella’s death at Bestival proves that the intrinsic link between music and drug use is very much alive and well today. It would be naïve however, to think that the ‘scene’ has not evolved in the 21st century.

(image from Buzzfeed)

The most obvious development is that the modern world is dominated by technology compared to the generations gone by. Every young person has a smartphone and is on social media, so drugs are now much easier to come by. This means that young people appear to be surrounded by drugs and almost instantaneously connected to its supply.

This does not, however, provide an excuse for those who take drugs as it is ultimately their decision to take them but I feel it does go some way to explaining why drug usage has become more common in young people.

Social media has also inevitably had an impact. Twitter, for example, is often plagued with videos of professional footballers doing balloons of ‘hippy crack’ or ‘laughing gas’. In December 2018, the Arsenal team were exposed for having had a hippy crack party in a London nightclub just days before the season started. These players are supposed to be role models and so this will obviously have an effect on young people today.

Young people are the biggest users of social media and are the most impressionable cohort of people on the platform. This normalisation of drug use on social media has warped young people into thinking it is socially acceptable and has made the consequences seem irrelevant.

The link between music and drug use has continued. There are two main strands to this 2019 ‘scene’. The first is the evolution of techno and house music in today’s society. These techno events are often all-night raves. This, similar to the 90’s raves, is fuelled by drug use.

image from CoolChaser

Ecstasy is still incredibly common at these events but it is the emergence of ketamine in recent years that has taken the scene by storm. It is traditionally a horse tranquiliser which has recently been adopted as a popular hallucinogenic dissociative. At Bestival there was a stage dedicated to this genre of music and so it is probably unsurprising that there were these types of drugs taken by the festival goers.

Music festival Bestival (image from The Dorset Echo)

The’s also a link between UK grime / rap music and drug supply. Many UK artists openly rap about dealing drugs and about how rich it has made them. Louella’s boyfriend who is currently standing trial for supplying her with the drug is a musician. This again goes to show how today’s culture has normalised drug to a point where people are dying.

Louella was not a regular drug taker and those who know her have claimed she only ‘dabbled’ with them at festivals. Drugs, however, do not discriminate and have caused a healthy 24-year-old to die. This should bring home to people the very real danger of taking illegal drugs. Because these drugs are illegal, they are not regulated and so often contain an unsafe dosage which can lead to death. Everyone thinks that it won’t happen to them or their friends but the reality is that whenever you take a pill or sniff a line you are playing Russian Roulette with your life.

There are also serious criminal penalties for taking drugs. Even just possession of a Class A can lead to seven years imprisonment. This means that getting caught with drugs- even just one pill can have life changing consequences for you and your family. If you are found guilty of possession with intent to supply, then you are looking at up to life in prison.

Now, clearly the vast majority of young people are not drug dealers, but you can be charged with intent to supply if you just hold drugs for a friend or carry them into an event for them- something a lot of people don’t know.  

Ultimately, young people will continue to take drugs regardless of what I write in this article. Experimentation is part of growing up, but experimenting with drugs could end up with you dead or in prison and so the risk seems to outweigh the reward.

image from The Times

It may just be a ‘phase’ but if that phase leaves you with a criminal record then it is with you forever. The attitude of young people won’t, however, change simply with the police or parents coming down hard on them. Young people naturally rebel against authority and so in order to change the attitude of people there needs to be a new approach.

The introduction of drug testing kits at festivals has gone a long way to making sure young people are safely taking drugs. If you find out a tablet contains an unsafe quantity of a drug then you are much less likely to take it. This may go some way to solving the unsafe element of drug taking that I have spoken about but doesn’t do much when it comes to the criminal penalties issue.

In this regard, I think the police’s approach needs to be more nuanced. People know that taking drugs is illegal but they continue to do it anyway. A better approach is the police educating people on the the law- this is more likely to dissuade the casual drug taker from getting involved and should hopefully, bring drug usage amongst young people down.

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Last Update: February 19, 2019