Pubdate: Wed, 23 Aug 2000
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Copyright: 2000 Canberra Times
Author: Alex Wodak


MR COL PARRETT is correct up to a point when he reminds us that Australia's
official national drug policy is harm minimisation ("Drugs: the emphasis
should be changed", Letters, 18 August), but following the money trail can
be as informative about a country's real drug policy as it can about the
identity of drug traffickers. According to the World Drug Report (p.256)
published by the United Nations International Drug Control Program in 1997,
Commonwealth and state governments in Australia allocated 84 per cent of
expenditure in response to illicit drugs to law enforcement in 1992 while 6
per cent went to drug treatment and 10 per cent to prevention and research.
If the community now agrees that current measures are not working, then it
is reasonable to assume that doing more of the same will not be the answer.
Under current policy street drugs are getting cheaper, more concentrated and
more available.

Judging by a range of indicators, the number of people injecting drugs has
been increasing dramatically in recent years while most government
expenditure on illicit drugs has been allocated to attempted supply control.

Under current policy, the number of deaths from drug overdose have increased
in Australia from 6 in 1964 to 737 in 1998. It is regrettable that opponents
of an injecting-room trial continue to foster fears that these facilities
will increase the number of injecting drug users. Where is the evidence to
support their claims?

In the Netherlands, where there have been injecting rooms for over a decade,
the number of persons injecting drugs has been declining.

Director, Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst, NSW
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