Pubdate: Mon, 27 Mar 2000
Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Copyright: News Limited 2000
Author: Greg Miskie


I HAVE read with interest several articles over the past months in
relation to the "drug problem".

Unfortunately, each tends to reinforce moralistic rather than
realistic views, resulting in the perpetuation of myths and
stereotypes of drug use in our society.

No one would argue that any one drug addiction is individually worse
than another, it is more a question of social perspective.

The reality is that the drugs which cause the most health, social and
economic problems are alcohol, tobacco, legal pharmaceuticals and
illegal drugs in that order.

For example, the cost of alcohol-related disease (non-trauma related)
is $100 million a year. Tobacco related, $1 billion.

Annually, 18,000 deaths are attributed to tobacco, 3600 to alcohol and
780 to illicit drugs.  Hospital admissions reflect the bias with
140,000, 88,000 and 8500 admissions respectively.

None of these figures includes the social costs of family breakdown,
litigation, compensation, anti-social behavior, policing, the
judiciary, absenteeism, industrial accidents, road crashes, or the
cost of rehabilitation and retraining, sickness benefits and the like.

In fact, it is not the drugs themselves that cause problems. They have
no power.  Rather it is factors surrounding their use -- the personal
and social determinants along with ignorance of these issues.

In short, it is a people problem not a drug problem.

That illicit drug use is relatively rare, generally confined to
specific groups and is not directly observed by most Australians
allows stereotypical reinforcernent via the media and the persistence
of erroneous assumptions of drug use in general.

It is little wonder the problem won't go away.

Greg Miskie,