Pubdate: Thu, 18 Feb 1999
Source: Illawarra Mercury (Australia)
Copyright: Illawarra Newspapers
Page: 14
Author: Rob Goodfellow


There is a ground swell in the community that is clearly saying
something must be done about the drug problem.

Unfortunately opinion is divided between what is called the "tough
love/war on drugs" approach and the "harm minimisation theory". The
extraordinary thing is that these positions are not mutually exclusive.

The first step however has to be an end to prohibition. We must start
looking at drug abuse, like alcoholism, as a public health issue and
not a crime.

The criminalisation of heroin has created a multi-billion dollar black
market that has a corrupting and spoiling effect on everyone it
touches. For this reason it is estimated that up to 80 per cent of
total crime is drug related.

The great irony is that heroin is extremely inexpensive to

It is the present lack of a realistic solution that is costing us all
- - in crime, in an overburdened justice system, in policing resources
stretched to the limit, and in health catastrophes such as hepatitis

And what is even more ironic is that every time laws are strengthened
the street price of heroin goes up.

For dealers it is a simple case of the greater the risk the greater
the return.

Part of the solution is that heroin must be made available free of
charge through very carefully controlled public health facilities.

Demand would disappear. Addicts would then be compelled, as part of
the scheme, to take part in programs that seek to address the real
causes of drug abuse - sexual, physical and emotional abuse,
unemployment, low self-esteem, hopelessness, the absence of role
models, as well as underdeveloped or absent living and coping skills -
particularly among young adults.

And to satisfy the "war on drugs" lobby, any illicit use or
trafficking of drugs of addiction outside regulated centres would
attract the most severe penalties imaginable.

There is so much to gain in taking this two-sided approach.

Fundamental drug policy reform is one of those chances to change the
world - practically overnight.

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MAP posted-by: Derek Rea