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Author Topic: Drugs in society: it's a health issue  (Read 1580 times)

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Drugs in society: it's a health issue
« on: September 14, 2015, 08:24:41 PM »
source: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/drugs-in-society-its-a-health-issue-20150911-gjki27.html

Drugs in society: it's a health issue

The war on drugs is a punchy line in the sloganeering arsenal of politicians and law enforcement agencies. Yet it is a meaningless term and a worthless weapon that has been deployed to create an effect of dubious relevance.

Tackling drugs in society should never have been couched as a war. Wars have beginnings and endings, and much like the "war on terror", this one will never have a defeated army or enemy.
 
It is commonly accepted that the term came into general usage after US president Richard Nixon appeared before Congress in 1971. Nixon said drugs were "public enemy No. 1" and that addiction had become a national emergency. He was referring to use among American soldiers in the Vietnam War.
 
The phrase, and the thinking behind it, has carried across oceans and borders. But now a different focus is gaining traction that does not use arrest and jail as the prime drivers of change. As former Victoria Police chief commissioner Ken Lay – who now leads the National Ice Taskforce – said: "For the last 10 years we've been trying to arrest our way out of this and we haven't succeeded so we need to look to other solutions."

It is a sentiment that has been reinforced from numerous sources. The first step is to acknowledge that the most effective way to deal with drug use is to see it from a health perspective and not as a criminal matter.

Drugs, unfortunately, have been hostage to political ambitions in which "get tough on crime" and "law and order" agendas are promoted, ostensibly for the greater good, but in reality, have no long-term benefit. Last Friday, Tom Percy, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association of Western Australia, called on politicians to treat drugs as a "medical issue". Mandatory sentencing was not the answer.

The Sunday Age today reports on the views and work of author and drug reformer Johann Hari.  Hari's book Chasing the Scream examines 100 years of authorities waging war on drugs in society. He also takes aim at how Australia is dealing with the drug ice.

"What Australians have been told about ice is really misleading and wrong and the solutions you are being offered will make the problem worse," he says. "There are places that have tried what your government is doing and all those places saw addiction get worse."

It's simple. Given the problem is a health issue, the continued criminalisation of it is bound to fail. In 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy was unequivocal: the war on drugs had failed, "with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world".

In 2014, it called for decriminalisation and "alternatives to incarceration". Take those two things out of the equation and the malign influence of drug gangs, and the impetus to commit crime will fall away.

Dr Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, in today's report criticises present funding for prevention and treatment.

It was vastly inadequate. Dr Wodak, who is also the former head of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, says "addiction must be treated as a health issue not a criminal matter".

There are nations who  have implemented this idea into a practical strategy. Portugal is held as an exemplar, a point made by Greens senator Richard Di Natale, who went there to see for himself. He told Parliament that Portugal removed criminal penalties for personal use "and it allocated 90 per cent of its anti-drug funding into expanding and improving prevention, treatment, harm reduction and social reintegration programs". The rest went to policing and punishment.

Di Natale, who has worked in drug and alcohol clinics, said that addicts were not helped by "getting caught up in the criminal justice system".

This should be obvious.

[end]
I do not condone or support any illegal activities. All information is for theoretical discussion and wonder.
All activities discussed are considered fictional and hypothetical. Information of all discussion has been derived from online research and in the spirit of personal Freedom.

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