I READ with great sadness of the death of six young people following ingestion of toxic stimulants ("Alert over lethal fake ecstasy pills after six people die", The Herald, July 6).

My sadness is however matched by my anger at the cowardly politicians who persist in refusing to engage with the arguments in favour of a legal regulated drug market.

MDMA – the drug these young people presumably thought they were taking – is not in itself particularly dangerous and regularly brings pleasure to many young people around the country. If MDMA were available from legal vendors with strict regulations on content, purity and the provision of harm reduction advice, then I am in no doubt that the six families concerned would not be mourning loved ones right now.

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I commend Police Scotland and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for their robust advice to festival-goers in advance of T in the Park. Their harm reduction message may save lives, but the fact remains that the policy of prohibition will persist in placing the manufacture and sale of illegal drugs in the hands of immoral criminal profiteers. Until prohibition of such drugs is repealed and replaced by a sensible system of strict controls and regulation, young Scots will persist in consuming all manner of toxic, life-threatening substances in the innocent pursuit of pleasure.

The Home Office keeps trotting out the same message that "drugs are illegal because they are harmful". Events in the west of Scotland in the past month clearly demonstrate that they have that message back to front. Drugs are made more harmful by the fact they are illegal, and politicians urgently need to find a sensible way to end that situation. If they do not, then many more young people will die as a result.

Ewan Hoyle,

Convenor of Glasgow South Liberal Democrats,

114 Durward Avenue,

Glasgow.

THE tragedy of more young people dying from illicit drug use in the last few weeks is unlikely to reduce until many more people, and especially parents, are aware of the facts of life about drug use in our society.

Parents and grandparents' experience of drugs, legal or otherwise, is well out of date, and is likely to have been limited to fewer than 25 substances, perhaps including tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, speed, ecstasy, acid, heroin, cocaine or magic mushrooms. Many parents will think they know quite a lot about these substances and may have used these drugs with little permanent harm.

Sadly, things have changed radically in the last decade with the introduction of hundreds of new and unknown substances, including those so-called "legal highs" sold on the internet and by dealers and supplied by international criminals happy to profit from the ignorance of our young people. The attempts by governments to curb this trade is fraught with difficulty because as soon as one substance is banned the criminals replace it with a slightly different formula of chemicals, days later, to stay ahead of the law.

It is very difficult to convince young people that all drugs carry risks; life for them is about having fun and taking risks. The alcohol and tobacco industries have built their massive profits on exploiting the ignorance of us all. The result has been more than 13,000 deaths a year from smoking and 1300 from alcohol. Public education, backed by legal controls such as the ban on smoking in public places and new efforts to reduce alcohol consumption are starting to have an effect. However, educating children, young people and adults about the multitude of illicit drugs is proving to be very much more difficult to do.

A good starting point would be if many more adults and especially parents were better informed about the facts of all drug misuse. This would help them to have sensible discussion with their children and teenagers.

Knowing the difference between fact and myth is essential. For example, too many people believe that cannabis is harmless. Many believe the myth that smoking calms you down. Others believe heroin is the drug that kills most young people – when it is more likely to be alcohol or a cocktail of several drugs. The myth that if you know a good dealer, you can buy safe drugs is exposed every time another spate of ecstasy deaths occurs. There are dozens of such myths about drugs that misinform us all.

Ignorance is breeding ignorance. Knowledge is power. Parents can do more than they think to protect their children and young people by finding out all they can about what drugs are in common use today and how dangerous they really are.

Max Cruickshank,

13 Iona Ridge,

Hamilton.