Drug Wars, by Neil Woods & J S Rafaeli

Drug Wars, reviewed in this edition of Shelf Indulgence, is co-written by former police officer Neil Woods and journalist J S Rafaeli. Between 1993 and 2007 Woods was among the first to infiltrate drug gangs, working undercover, befriending and gaining the trust of some of the most violent, unpredictable criminals in Britain. ​

But after years on the streets spending time with the vulnerable users at the bottom of the chain, he began to question the war for which he was risking both his life and sanity. Tracing its beginnings from the nineteen-sixties to the present day, he uses gripping first-hand accounts and moving case studies from those on both sides.

​Although I was initially sceptical, Woods’s thoughtful, thorough and persuasive thesis made me rethink my position on the so-called ‘War on Drugs’. In Chapter 6 ‘Epidemics’ he sheds light on the explosion of numbers of UK heroin addicts from 1,049 in 1971 to 150,000 in the mid-eighties. Shockingly, Wirral, where I now live, was particularly badly afflicted. What caused this sudden epidemic? Woods argues that it had much more to do with international politicking than the supposed moral weakness of those addicted. A grim but revealing must-read.

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