Drug Wars by Neil Woods

I wanted to read this book, Drug Wars by Neil Woods and J S Rafaeli, for a while. I attended a lecture with Woods a couple of years ago, but I had no cash with me, so I couldn’t purchase the book after the lecture. So, I’ve borrowed it from the library and read it. The book has the subtitle The terrifying inside story of Britain’s drug trade.

The reason why I decided to attend the lecture was because I am opposed to prohibition. It doesn’t work. It didn’t work in 1930s US, it didn’t work in communist Romania, and it doesn’t work when it comes to drugs in… well… any country in the world. I said prohibition didn’t work in communist Romania because I, as a child, had oranges and bananas, bottles of Pepsi, a posh pink pencil box, chocolate, marzipan fruits, all bought on the black market or smuggled in by family friends. Pepsi, cute pencil boxes, and marzipan fruits were against communist values, western bourgeois indulgences. If people were bribing customs officers and risking fines or even jail just so they could bring some presents for children, it is not hard to imagine what people are willing to do for alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

Drug Wars by Neil Woods

Now, let’s get back to the book: ‘An observation van is running surveillance on a high-level Bradford gangster. Suddenly the van is surrounded by men in balaclavas and tied shut. Out comes the can of petrol. It is set alight and the two cops inside barely escape with their lives. This incident is never reported. The gangsters clearly have informants inside the police and alerting the public would undermine the force. Everyone shrugs it off – with so much money in the drugs game, corruption is part and parcel of the whole deal’

Woods and Rafaeli talk about the British System and the aftermath of changing that. The book is filled with accounts given by drug addicts and police officers. I found the book fascinating and I would like to read the first one, which is an account of Woods’ experience as an undercover cop.

The writing style wasn’t exactly to my taste and there are some exaggerations, but the topic is so important that I ignored these. I think this should be read by people in UK and US too, as US played a huge role in letting go of the British System and going towards a “just say no” approach, which, obviously, failed.

Drug Wars by Neil Woods

Details about the picture: other things that are addictive – coffee, alcohol, sugar, computer games – but legal
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Penguin Random House
Year it was published:
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): Politics
Pages: 316

About the author: Neil Woods was an undercover police officer, for 14 years, between 1993-2007. He infiltrated drug gangs by befriending and gaining the trust of violent criminals in Britain. Now Woods is on the board of LEAP (Law Enforcement Action Partnership) in the US and is the Chair of LEAP in the UK. LEAP is an organisation made up exclusively of law enforcement professionals, past and present, who campaign for drug law reforms.
J S Rafaeli is a writer and musician, from London.
Books by them are: Good Cop, Bad War and Drug Wars.
Website & Social Media Links: –

3 thoughts on “Drug Wars by Neil Woods”

  • I remember the black markets in Russia as well, and the partial alcohol prohibition during Gorbachev’s times. Agree that the prohibition doesn’t work, but with drugs I am not in favour of legalising (my husband shares your views). I don’t think I would read this book, as I have been reading some of the research reports/articles on the subject. It’s difficult to find the right balance. Not sure that the legalising drugs in some European countries works that well either, they have lots of problems with that as well.

  • I’m not sure this interests me enough to want to read it, but I’ll totally agree with the fact that prohibition doesn’t work. People are going to get what they want, one way or another. It’s one reason so many in this country want to legalize marijuana…. make it legal and tax it like tobacco. As it is now, I struggle with the whole issue of Federal laws being in contradiction of State laws in so many places. It needs to be consistent. It’s a topic I could probably voice a lot of opinion about, but will spare you. 😉
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    • I agree with you. Marijuana should be legal and taxed like tobacco, the stronger versions on prescription. Not only it would generate an income, it would also save lots of money in policing this. Furthermore, it would create a safer country, with less crime, including heroine addicts committing burglaries to fund their addiction, which can affect any one of us (as victims of burglaries I mean).
      The situation in US is complicated with both Federal and State laws, and I can’t say I know a lot about it, so do voice a lot of opinion if you want to. 🙂

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