The true costs of drug use are significant and far reaching, from child exploitation and other criminality, to health and environmental. We understand that most people don’t see the awful things we see so it’s our duty to shine a light on these costs.

Not everyone who uses drugs knows the reality of how they are produced and supplied. We are providing the facts so you can make informed choices for yourself.

There is no typical drug user; users can include manual workers as well as young couples, secure families and older couples in the suburbs. However, not everyone is using drugs; around 1 in 25 (3.7%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a Class A drug in the last year, which equates to around 1.3 million people according to Home Office data from 2018-19.

There are currently a number of active organised crime groups involved in the supply of drugs in Thames Valley. This means there is a demand which must be supplied via a network of organised crime groups. In recent years, awareness of county drugs lines has grown due to media interest. This type of organised crime is a breeding ground for wider criminality, including the exploitation of children.

Child exploitation involves situations and relationships where young people receive items such as food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gifts or money as a result of them completing a task, often of a criminal nature, on behalf of another person or group.

The child involved may not always realise that the tasks they were given are linked to or include the movement of drugs.

Children as young as seven are being groomed into the world of drugs in the UK. They are forced to move drugs, sometimes inside their own bodies across counties and beyond. In doing so, they face violence, intimidation, risks to their health and life. These are the true costs of drug use.

Through our work with local support services, we know of hundreds of children who are, could be, or have been, at risk of exploitation, who are being supported by council teams across social care, early help and youth justice in the Thames Valley.

If you need help and advice in relation to a child or person you suspect is being exploited, you can visit the following support services:

If you come across anyone you believe could be a victim of child drug exploitation or a person or property which raises suspicion, call 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

If you believe a person is at immediate risk of harm always dial 999.

Every day our officers are tackling organised crime and safeguarding vulnerable children together with our partners but there is no one solution to tackling the issues around drug use and supply. We can all contribute and help keep our communities safer so we are asking you to help us.

Many of us may know someone who uses drugs, or perhaps suspect it. Do you think they would continue if they knew the impact of taking this drug on themselves and others?

This campaign sets out to provide the information and to encourage conversation.

Ultimately, we would like to reduce the number of people using drugs illegally, to hit the market that organised crime groups are relying on to run their business, and drive them out of our communities. You can help us do this by sharing what we know about the true costs of drug use and helping people make informed choices.

Over the coming weeks and months we will be talking a lot about the true costs of illegal drug use focusing on child exploitation, and we need you to help us by getting involved in the conversation whether that’s at home, amongst friends or at work.

Conversations around drug use are often focused on discussions about legalisation and decriminalisation.

Legalisation is an approach that is determined by Government and is outside of the powers of local police forces.

The fact remains that illegal drug use enables criminal activity through its supply so it carries a direct and immediate threat to our communities. Our campaign sets out to make these true costs clear with the aim of reducing illegal drug use in the Thames Valley and subsequently the demand for its supply and the criminality that it brings.

We understand that there are things that feel uncomfortable to talk about, but ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. In fact, not talking about ‘taboo subjects’, enables the things that we’re uncomfortable about to carry on unchecked.

We see this campaign as a way to break that silence. Whether you agree with us or not, talk about what we’re doing to start that conversation. Just raising awareness of the true costs could be enough to challenge the decision making around you. You may never even know that you’ve made a difference. But you might have.

If you’re struggling to start a conversation on the impacts of casual drug use, here are some suggestions:

  • There is a lot of media coverage around the impacts of casual drug use. Try using news stories as a way to get the conversation started.
  • Try talking about some of our social media posts on the impacts of casual drug use. You can find these by searching for #TrueCosts
  • Have you seen Channel 4’s documentary, ‘Britain’s Child Drug Runners’? This programme gives a detailed insight into the impacts on children of the demand for drugs that are supplied via county drugs lines. You could watch the programme with your family or friends and talk about the issues raised.

Thames Valley Police hosted a True Costs online Q&A Engage session on Thursday 6 February 2020.

You can still view the conversation on the TVP Engage website.

The session provided an opportunity to ask any questions about the impacts of casual drug use in the Thames Valley area and what you can do to help. Questions were answered by our officers and partner agencies on the night.

Topics covered included how to tackle the issues and misconception of drugs with children and how drug use is linked to organised crimes such as fraud.