Pubdate: Fri, 23 Feb 2001
Source: Daily Telegraph (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 News Limited
Contact:  2 Holt Street, Surry Hills, NSW, 2010
Fax: (02) 9288-2300
Website: Author: Bill Stronach


It verges on the immoral that the United Nations International 
Narcotics Control Board should urge Australia to focus on long-term 
strategies of reducing illicit drug supply and demand at the expense 
of saving lives today (``UN hits heroin room,'' Daily Telegraph, 
February 21).

Any responsible, comprehensive policy to manage drug misuse includes 
supply-reduction, demand-reduction and harm-reduction strategies. 
Australia has an ongoing commitment to these three strands, although 
sometimes the allocation of funds is less than balanced.

The UN report states the obvious -- harm-reduction strategies such as 
needle and syringe exchanges, or supervised injecting facilities, or 
prescribed heroin, will not reduce drug use immediately for those who 
are heavily dependent. That is not the aim. But these sorts of 
strategies will, and do, keep people alive and this offers the hope 
of future treatment and support.

Also, harm-reduction strategies serve the public good by making 
everyone's community safer -- fewer discarded needles, less public 
nuisance, less crime. These are worthy goals.

To suggest that the harm-reduction agenda dominates Australian drug 
policy at the expense of other strategies is nonsensical. But it is 
one vital component of a policy that has had considerable relative 
success over the years. The evidence is compelling that those 
countries that do not have a comprehensive drug strategy, or are 
almost totally reliant on one aspect such as law enforcement, do not 
have success in addressing the individual and community harms from 

Bill Stronach,
Chief Executive,
Australian Drug Foundation
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