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Australia: PUB LTE: Drug War Is Lost, So Let’s Help The Wounded

Media Awareness ProjectSource: Sydney Morning Herald

Pubdate: Tue, 20 Jun 2000

Australia: PUB LTE: Drug War Is Lost, So Let’s Help The Wounded

Author: Paul Edwards

DRUG WAR IS LOST, SO LET’S HELP THE WOUNDEDAs a former drug education officer during the 1970s, it is depressing to see the same old arguments against harm minimisation rehearsed again and again. The war against drugs was lost by the 1970s and it is lost now. The enemy is well within the gates of our society and has settled down and become a “local”.

Drug addicts are not criminals per se, they are victims, and their criminality flows from being a victim. Illegality keeps the price of illegal drugs high and, therefore, forces addicts into crime to feed their habit. Illegality keeps the trade highly profitable. Illegality also encourages addicts to delay seeking help.

Prevention, harm minimisation and treatment are complementary approaches to the problem. Injecting rooms are merely the lifeboats into which addicts can be pulled so that their lives can be saved. Offers of effective help should be the next step.

By definition, addicts need their drug. Supply an addict with their drug of choice, legally and under strict control, and you immediately break the nexus between addiction and criminality. Once an addict has his/her need for a drug met, then he/she is available to consider a range of options for recovery including the decision to stay on a drug of addiction if he/she cannot succeed in becoming drug free.

The most successful drug maintenance program I have come across was a small, rural heroin maintenance program run by a very sane and humane British GP. He was supporting 18 addicts, all of whom were stable and crime-free. The Home Office finally closed the program.

The GP’s epitaph for it was that all of his patients would be dead in 12 months. All but two of them were.

Paul Edwards, Balgowlah Heights.

MAP posted-by: Allan Wilkinson