We are delighted to announce that Vicky Unwin has joined Transform as a trustee. Vicky is a highly experienced media advisor, writer and fundraiser who brings a wealth of experience to our team. Vicky became a prominent campaigner on drug issues following the death of her daughter in 2011. Following this tragedy, Vicky became a regular media commentator and activist calling for better drugs education.
Here, Vicky tells us more about how she came to join our campaign
Many people may be puzzled that I am joining a charity that seeks to legally regulate drugs when my own daughter died as a result of them. Actually, it makes perfect sense.
When Louise drowned in her bath after taking ketamine, aged only 21, my immediate reaction was to raise awareness of the harms that drugs could do. I sat on countless breakfast sofas, spoke on Woman’s Hour and other radio programmes, wrote extensively in the national press, lobbied ministers and presented to parliamentary subcommittees about the dangers of club drugs and legal highs. I visited schools to talk to teenagers and joined the Angelus Foundation in order to educate both young people and parents about the issue.
During this period, I worked with professionals at the forefront of drug education and harm prevention. From the start I felt that banning or reclassifying is futile. It simply puts the power into the hands of the criminal gangs who run the drugs trade. Angelus went on to advise the government on the Psychoactive Substances Bill, which closed the head shops but drove the trade underground. While that may have reduced access in some areas it certainly has not solved the problem. I believe drug education remains the most effective method of harm prevention, but that this is not possible while the stigma and threat caused by our current drug laws hangs over our discussions of drug risks.
In joining Transform, the biggest question for me was around the memories that such involvement is bound to bring back. It was the reason that I left Angelus after a short period: I couldn’t face endlessly repeating my story for the benefit of media who too often seemed to take vicarious pleasure in other people’s pain.
Now, eight years on, I feel that I am strong enough to compartmentalise my grief and to channel it, together with my knowledge and experience, into helping regulate the drug trade that took my daughter’s life. It is the only way that people can make informed and safe choices about their behaviour, and the only way we can truly get drugs under control.