JOHN SMITH of Shildon commends the efficacy of the criminal justice system in countering the drug trade and the criminality which attends it (HAS, Sept 30).

But legislation can be seen to have created the foundations for the current drug underworld in the UK.

Until the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, most drugs were legally obtainable in the UK and there were around 900 registered heroin users, with most of them in gainful employment.

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The subsequent criminalisation of drug use has led to a spiralling catch 22 situation where the black market has led to high prices and profits, attendant criminal activity by gangs and the adulteration of many drugs.

This has ended up with the addict having to commit larceny in order to feed their habit.

Most sensible people recognise that this legal battle against drug use is a waste of resources, but those who can influence the situation are afraid to say so because of hostile media reaction, particularly from the tabloid press.

VJ Connor, Bishop Auckland