5th Apr 2012

The unwinnable war

FONT SIZE: A+ A-
Drew Patchell

The war on drugs will never be won. Where there is a demand, there will always be someone supplying the product. When a dealer is arrested by the police, it takes a user about 10 minutes on the phone to find another supplier. As a non drug-user I know if I called five names in my phone, I would be able to obtain the phone number of someone who could supply me with drugs, or the phone number of someone who knows a dealer. That is the world we live in today in Australia, as drugs, more than ever, are an accepted part of society.

So what is the answer? Do we decriminalise every available drug for personal use but still ban the sale? Under Portugal's decriminalisation strategy, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs meet with a panel, consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser which works out an appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

How does this help the drug user seeking help? The user is being given a choice, something they have not been given in the past. With any addiction, it takes a lot of strength and effort to break and hard drugs are no different. The results in Portugal are impressive, with deaths related to heroin and similar drugs decreasing by more than half. Portugal also saw a sharp increase in people who sought treatment for methadone and buprenorphine, rising from 6040 to 14877 after decriminalisation.

Portugal is a case study worthy of further investigation and analysis our government. I am still undecided on whether decriminalisation of drugs would work in Australia. All I know is that what is happening now, isn’t working.

Does the government need to rethink their policy on tackling drugs?





COMMENTS

To make a comment, please register or login
Reppie
5th Apr 2012
12:31pm
I think it is a fairly impossible situation. As the mother of 4 adult kids, I have seen the effect marijuana has had on my kids growing up. Only after a decade off the stuff do they see that it did actually reduce their ability to think logically. Nothing I ever said or did deterred them from smoking or ingesting it.. As for the cost, well, often they werent even able to work as a result of using it, so that made things very difficult for the family at times.

I guess, it seems I got one thing right though. I told my kids, if ever you want to try anything harder than grass, let me know and I will take you through a dry out centre first, so they would see the results of addiction. Even my "wild child"eventually thanked me for not just saying NO, but giving them something to think about.

The often hopeless depression caused, even by marijuana, is very hard to watch, and once the kids are adults there is nothing you can do, as much as you want to help.

I can't for the life of me see how decriminalisation will help - its rather like putting the green light on and not being able to turn it off!! I have no idea what the answer is, but I hope someone can come up with something.
ALPACA
5th Apr 2012
12:38pm
The only solution I can think of is to build more prisons and make sentences longer. I would think that if the laws were harsher as in Indonesia it might have some effect if they had to look at say 20 year sentences. At least they would be off the streets for that time.
Webmaster Drew
5th Apr 2012
1:59pm
I think we need to look at the problem from two different views. The users and the suppliers. Rehabilitation instead of prison is the better option for users and there needs to be a changes to the law in regards to identifying a user and supplier. A user who purchases two weeks of 'supplies' can be charged as a drug trafficker. Getting suppliers off the streets should remain the number one goal.
oldileaks
5th Apr 2012
12:54pm
Bring back the birch and the death sentence for drug offences and murder.
Multidisab
5th Apr 2012
12:54pm
The great risk in the drug problem is corruption, either when legalised or not.

The whole concept has to be thought over quietly and wisely, with those who themselves are not in any way connected with the drug trade, to preserve a degree if integrity towards legal issues that have been ignored by many governmenrts in many years.

Some drugs need to be decriminalised: marihuana for illness and mental patients is the first that comes to mind, a study needs to be made around Australia how much emergency time and very expensive doctor's money is spent on dealing with drug overdoses.

I have not seen signs of a 'war against drugs'. Is this a media mirage?

I am aware of a war against smokers of tobacco, which has severely crippeld many in their social and private life who use it as a form of suppression of intense emotions. This is unfair - when kids of all ages have easy access to drugs.

Schools should be supervised much stronger in who deals what to whom - those kids seeking drugs seek alleviations of their personal problems with so many families separated - this causes incredible internal pain to those kids who have to deal with this no matter what.

The process of rehabilitation should involve a lot more than prescribing drugs to combat withdrawal: people need to be listened to, not by a behavioural psychologist but someone who practices humanity and understanding by listening with mindfulness.

In the US people are penalized for having any drugs on them - which is attacking the problem of drugs at the wrong end.

Prison sentences in Australia are much to lenient, for example a perpetrator openly conviced of sexual assault on a minor is given 18 months. The minor suffers life long consequences and no compensation is paid. So it is with drug dealers: it is a system deeply rooted in lack of adequate prisons, and too many at places all through all layers of policy setting are already benefitting, - I guess- from the money that drug dealing provides.

Instead we should be seriously battling curruption. If the highest in charge is corrupt, we as the general public have no chance of being governed by reason instead of endless compromises between 'the easy way out' of blindfolds, or hard work by finding the real truth.

I'm an idealist. Am I entirely alone in this?
Reppie
5th Apr 2012
1:02pm
I don't agree with decriminalising marijuana Multi, anyone with any kind of mental illness or problem, is effected even more by smoking it. The time it takes to get off it is longer too from my experiences. I have known people with bi-polar or schitsophrenia and the effect smoking grass with these problems is horrific on all who have to deal or live with them as well as the person.

Drugs are drugs I think, wipe them all out (yeah I know, impossible) and that would be a huge problem sorted, maybe. I remember the days when getting "stoned"meant drinking a six pack of beer on a Saturday night! That was frowned on then, now our kids have this to somehow try to avoid. Even the word "stoned"has changed meaning, like a lot of other sayings.

Idealistic is good mate, nothing wrong with having our dreams.
Multidisab
5th Apr 2012
6:02pm
I am talking about marihuana for those in chronic pain, as well as those who have cancer, and those whose lives are made easier (like sex assault victims).
And also those with mental illness who can metabolise the drug. O habe living friends whose lives are made easier.
I hope this is more acceptable to you?
Actual Cat
5th Apr 2012
1:08pm
Yes Repple, it's a huge problem. I've heard that people making a lot of money from growing and selling marijuana here on the coast. The police, I think, do what they can to find crops and destroy and prosecute, but obviously tons gets through. It is a very dangerous drug and not soft at all! I told my teenagers when they were growing up that they only had one brain which can be permanently damaged by drug taking and life has so much to offer, so think about it. Fortunately, they were not interested in drugs (I'm not saying they didn't dabble...I know one did and didn't like the effect). As for the meth amphetamine (ice) - my son worked in accident & emergency for a while and told me that the most frightening sight he saw was two 14 year old girls on 'ice' who were so violent! He'd never seen even big blokes behaving that badly. Alcohol is also another drug, though legal, wreaking havoc on the community. The difference is that it is pushed by the companies and sporting events and this 'binge drinking until you're almost unconscious' is common. So legal or not, our culture overdoes it to it's detriment. But, I believe that if drugs were legalised, the makers would be out of a job, crime would be reduced and people would not suddenly decide that taking drugs in any form would be a good idea. The experience in Portugal shows that it is worth a try, because the war on drugs here in Australia is lost.
Reppie
5th Apr 2012
1:16pm
NSW north coast here Cat, I know what you are saying, and agree. You sound like you hit the nail on the head advising your kids the way you did.

Isn't raising kids, and advising them a huge task? We embrace parenthood, but nobody can really warn us of what is 15-20 years ahead!! Maybe just as well, there might be a population shortage in 20 years time eh?

I feel for your son. It must have been a real shock to him to have to deal with people effected by drugs. What a pity we can't learn from our parents words of wisdom!! Even though they didn't deal with the problems we as parents deal with in the next generation.

Alcohol wasnt a major problem in our house, as my father was a heavy drinker. My kids saw enough of that to prevent that problem at least. Not that they didnt come home plastered on the odd occassion!! Hangovers are designed to sort that one out maybe!
Nan Norma
5th Apr 2012
1:28pm
We'll never stop people from speeding so maybe we should stop have speed limits. There are many other things we'll never stop so do we just give up and make it a free for all country.
Multidisab
5th Apr 2012
6:04pm
I you hope are not offended if I say this is a very defeatist attitude. This giving up is the attitude that allows evil to go rampant in this country (i.e. ice that is not properly made).
ozimarco
5th Apr 2012
9:53pm
I don't think the drug problem will ever be solved by locking people up or harsher penalties. In Malaysia, they have the death penalty, yet drugs are everywhere. To keep someone in prison is not only very expensive, but you lose the contribution to society that person could make. A heroin addict, who gets his supply from a clinic, can go to work or run a business and be a valuable member of society. Lock him up and he becomes a criminal, lost to society. Which is better?
Nan Norma
5th Apr 2012
9:59pm
You make a lot of sense. I guess there is no easy answer.
gustacian
5th Apr 2012
11:06pm
What makes people take drugs? If you can find out the answer to that, you might be able to find the solution to the problem. Why do some people get involved in drugs and others wouldn't ever touch them? What is the difference between a user and a non-user?
Actual Cat
6th Apr 2012
7:04pm
Family dysfunction, risk-taking personality, peer pressure, blocking out emotional pain, too much time on your hands in bad company, availability of drugs, lack of self-respect - all, some & none of the above. Anyone else have any ideas? Whatever the reasons, it is clear that we are all very concerned about society and our own families.


Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

  • Receive our daily enewsletter
  • Enter competitions
  • Comment on articles