• What If We Stopped Punishing Drug Users

    What If We Stopped Punishing Drug Users

     March 03, 2018 ·   · 1 reaction

    Let me repeat a phrase that has been used so often it is almost a cliché: the war on drugs has failed.

    Existing drug policies have increased drug-related harm, punished the vulnerable and the addicted and bolstered organised criminal networks.

    Health professionals, lawyers and policy experts have all made the case against current drug policies. Such is the overwhelming expert opinion against our current approach to drugs that words need not be wasted trying to convince you here.

    Nevertheless, critiquing current drug policies often provokes an inquisitive – if at times slightly smug – response, "well, what do we do instead?" To some, drug law reform stirs up images of laissez faire commercialisation of drug markets: a 'McHeroin' on every corner. Of course, this is not what professionals are advocating for.

    Instead, there is a growing consensus amongst AOD professionals of the ideal legal framework to tackle drug related harm. To put it simply, most experts are calling for Portugal-style decriminalisation model combined with some model of cannabis legalisation.

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  • Pointless Drug Prohibition Impedes Medical Breakthroughs

    Pointless Drug Prohibition Impedes Medical Breakthroughs

     February 28, 2018 ·  

    Medical breakthroughs missed because of pointless drug bans

    Magic mushrooms might be less mysterious if scientists could find out more about them.

    In 1632 the Catholic Church convened a case against Galileo on the grounds that his work using the telescope to explore the nature of the heavens contradicted the church's teaching - the culmination of a long fight that had lasted 16 years.

    Galileo was put under house arrest and his research stopped. Some of his inquisitors refused even to look down a telescope, believing it to be the work of the devil. With his life under threat, Galileo retracted his claims that the earth moved around the sun and was not the centre of the universe. A ban by the papal Congregation of the Index on all books advocating the Copernican system of planetary motion - which we use today - was not revoked until 1758.


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  • Three reasons why scientific advice on drugs is ignored

    Three reasons why scientific advice on drugs is ignored

     February 19, 2018 ·   · 1 reaction

    By Ghaith Aljayyoussi, University of Liverpool

    David Nutt, along with many other leading scientists, published a study a few years ago that showed how the overall harms associated with some legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, dramatically exceed the harms of some illegal drugs, such as cannabis, ecstasy and LSD – and even the harms of heroin and cocaine. Of course, these top scientists were right, but politicians continue to ignore scientific advice, and society continues to be largely in favour of current drug laws.

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  • Legalise Cannabis and Ecstasy

    Legalise Cannabis and Ecstasy

     November 23, 2017 ·  

    A new approach to drug reform: regulated supply of cannabis and ecstasy

    David Penington, University of Melbourne

    Sixteen years ago the premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett, asked me to conduct an inquiry into drug policy. At the time, deaths from heroin overdoses were high and the use of cannabis and other drugs continued to mount, despite prohibition.

    While there has been some improvement in the management of drugs over the years, both in Victoria and nationally, fundamental problems remain. It's time to consider practical solutions to the problem.

    I propose a novel system whereby Australians aged 16 and over have access to a limited, regulated quantity of cannabis and ecstasy from a government-approved pharmacy supplier – provided they are willing to go on a national confidential user's register.

    When dispensing the substance, pharmacists would also be able to give clients advice and, where necessary, refer them for counselling or treatment.

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  • Decriminalisation or Legalisation

    Decriminalisation or Legalisation

     September 24, 2017 ·  

    One argument for legalisation is it will move the problem away from police and the criminal justice system, where it currently dominates resources. AAP Image/Simon Mossman Alison Ritter, UNSW

    We should all be concerned about our laws on illegal drugs because they affect all of us – people who use drugs; who have family members using drugs; health professionals seeing people for drug-related problems; ambulance and police officers in the front line of drug harms; and all of us who pay high insurance premiums because drug-related crime is extensive.

    Drug-related offences also take up the lion's share of the work of police, courts and prisons. But what can we do? Some people feel that we should legalise drugs – treat them like alcohol and tobacco, as regulated products. And legalisation doesn't necessarily need to apply for every illegal drug.

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  • Islamic terror and drug profits

    Islamic terror and drug profits

     June 10, 2017 ·  

    Robert Rotberg, Harvard University

    Terrorists are in it as much for the loot as for the ideology.

    The Islamic State, or ISIS, could hardly exist, whatever its Islamist fervor, without hard cash from sales of pilfered petroleum, taxes on its subject population and kidnappings for ransom.

    Likewise ISIS- and al-Qaida-linked groups in Africa prosper by trafficking drugs across the Sahara and by offering "protection" to smugglers who have long been trading illicit goods throughout the continent. Although Westerners tend to think of these groups as driven by ideology, new recruits may be more attracted by opportunities to make money.

    Terror is big business, especially in the weak and fragile parts of the world.


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  • Discrimination and Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

    Discrimination and Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

     May 26, 2017 ·  

    Five thousand people on Newstart or Youth Allowance may be targeted for a drug test trial.

    The Australian government's proposed random drug test trial for welfare recipients is not so random. The Conversation

    Announced as part of the 2017 federal budget, Treasurer Scott Morrison wants 5,000 people on Newstart or Youth Allowance in three locations to undergo random drug testing from January next year.

    Traces of drugs including ecstasy, marijuana and ice will be sought using saliva, hair follicles and urine samples. If drugs are detected, the user could find their welfare quarantined.

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  • 'Record Seizure' headlines mark another false step in misguided war on drugs

    'Record Seizure' headlines mark another false step in misguided war on drugs

     April 07, 2017 ·  

    Alex Murray James Martin, Macquarie University and Stephen Bright, Edith Cowan University

    The announcement this week of the largest seizure of "Ice" in Australian history has been accompanied by a familiar chorus of uncritical and often sensationalised media reporting.

    The "street value" of the 903 kilograms of the seized drug was estimated at nearly A$900 million.

    But are the claims government authorities make about drug seizures accurate? And what broader implications do large-scale seizures have for Australia's drug-control policies?

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  • Why is it still so hard for patients to get medicinal cannabis?

    Why is it still so hard for patients to get medicinal cannabis?

     March 10, 2017 ·   · 1 reaction

    Alex Wodak, St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst and Laurence Mather, University of Sydney

    This week the federal government granted its first license for an Australian company to grow and harvest medical marijuana. The Conversation

    This follows Australia's amending of the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 to legalise the production and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The amendment came in February 2016, a year after the death of campaigner Daniel Haslam.

    Daniel suffered distressing side effects of chemotherapy, some of which were ameliorated by cannabis. While these changes sound promising for sufferers like Daniel, if he were alive today, he would still not be able to lawfully obtain medicinal cannabis.

    Despite the media attention, extensive political and medical commentary on the subject, and the fact that more than two thirds of Australians have supported medicinal cannabis for many years, a patient with a clear cut and widely accepted case for being able to use lawful medicinal cannabis would still be unable to.

    So far, only a few patients have been able to obtain lawful medicinal cannabis, and only after a long and difficult struggle.

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  • "Ice Wars" Message is Overblown and Unhelpful

    "Ice Wars" Message is Overblown and Unhelpful

     February 15, 2017 ·  

    Nicole Lee, Curtin University

    Without doubt, crystal methamphetamine, or ice, is capable of causing immense harm. That's true for many drugs, including alcohol. But when facts are distorted to create fear and stigma it helps no one. Not the people who use ice. Not their families. Not the health professionals supporting them. Not the police who enforce drug law.

    Ice Wars, airing over the next few weeks on ABC, shows the dark side of crystal methamphetamine use. It shows the great, but difficult work that police, mental health and substance use treatment professionals do every day.

    It carefully explains some of the commonly misunderstood effects of the drug. It shows the breadth of the ice problem across police, treatment services and individuals. And it shows how people are suffering and the compassionate response that is possible from health workers and police.

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