John Harris

Journalist & Author

I was relaxed about Britain’s drug culture revolution – but not any more | John Harris

With deaths at record levels, calls for legalisation feel simplistic. But we must do more to make drugs such as ecstasy safe

Thirty years ago this November, a DJ called Danny Rampling co-founded a club night in Southwark, London, that he called Shoom. Essentially, he was trying to capture what he had experienced that summer on the Balearic island of Ibiza: a celebratory subculture built around so-called house music, and the drug methylenedioxymethamphetamine (or MDMA), otherwise known as ecstasy, whose euphoric rush inspired Shoom’s name.

So began the revolutionising of British popular culture, and the decisive passage of an array of illicit drugs from the cultural fringes to the mainstream. The saga is long and complicated, but it reached an unlikely kind of denouement this week, when that well-known raver the Duke Of Cambridge paid a visit to a treatment centre near London’s Liverpool Street station, and asked a group of recovering addicts the kind of “massive question” guaranteed to instantly crash-land in the headlines. “There’s obviously a lot of pressure growing in areas about legalising drugs and things like that,” he said. “What are your individual opinions on that?”

Related: Acid house and the dawn of a rave new world

Related: ‘A lost freedom’: When new age travellers found acid house – in pictures

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