As senior law enforcement officials line up to say Australia cannot arrest its way out of our illicit drug problems, some politicians have expressed opposing views about drug consumption rooms. This debate is now raging in Melbourne.
Drug consumption rooms enable people to use drugs under the supervision of trained staff. Generally established close to large drug markets, they have been shown to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, reduce deaths and injuries due to drug overdose, reduce ambulance call-outs, increase referral to health and social services including detoxification and drug addiction treatment and reduce public drug injecting and numbers of discarded needles.Read more
Last weekend saw another series of overdoses, this time in Melbourne.
According to the United Nation's 2014 World Drug Report, Australia has the highest proportion of recreational drug users in the world. This suggests that this country's drug policy has been ineffective in reducing use or curbing demand, let alone protecting people from the harm that illicit drugs can cause.
For example, we are number one in the world when it comes to per capita use of ecstasy. While the government has paid lip service to "harm minimisation", it has actively opposed the use of pill testing at concerts and festivals. Not only does pill testing help people to avoid consuming ecstasy laced with dangerous chemicals, it additionally appears to have an impact in shaping the black market. According to a report made by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, "Products identified as particularly dangerous that subsequently became the subject of warning campaigns were found to leave the market."
Despite the evidence of pill testing providing safer outcomes for users, all Australian Governments have taken a more puritanical approach. The safety advice given to punters, is simple. "Don"t do it. Don't take the pills and you'll be fine."Read more
Drug prohibition is not protecting young Australians; it is killing them.
Last weekend, an apparently tainted batch of illegal drugs caused the needless deaths of three Melbournians and left another 20 hospitalised. In 2015, six ecstasy-related deaths were reported at Australian music festivals, and the latest statistics show that, on average, four Australians die every day from drug overdose. That's 1400 people per year.
Most people who use alcohol and other drugs do so infrequently and never become dependent (or "addicted" as it's sometimes called). On average about 10% of people who use alcohol or other drugs are dependent.
But for those who do become dependent, reducing their use, getting off or staying off can be difficult.
What happens to the brain on drugs?
Regardless of how it is consumed, alcohol and other drugs eventually make their way into the brain via the bloodstream. Once there, they affect how messages are sent through the brain.Read more
It's time to reinvent them based on what actually works
There is only one way to make better decisions about illicit drugs and so save lives and money: we need to change the way drugs policies are made.
The alternative is to remain stuck in the same futile cycle. Every time a young person dies tragically and needlessly at a music festival or dance party, our commentators clamour for our politicians to respond immediately.
We make drugs policies on the run. But policy quick-fixes are mostly ineffective and we find ourselves no better prepared to avert future tragedies or drug-related harm.
We can do much better. We have decades of research that tells us what works and why, and we are continuously building that evidence base. Smarter drugs policy-making would use that evidence, in conjunction with other policy drivers such as public opinion and personal experience.Read more
Explainer: what is NBOMe?
NBOMe is an abbreviation for N-methoxybenzyl. While NBOMe is often referred to as a drug, it's not a singular drug but a series of drugs that contain an N-methoxybenzyl group.
The most common NBOMes that are used recreationally are extensions of the 2C family of phenethylamine psychedelics that were discovered by Dr Alexander Shulgin. Some, such as 2C-B, became popular in the 1990s as a substitute for MDMA (commonly referred to as ecstasy). The 2C-B NBOMe derivative is 25B-NBOMe. Other common NBOMes include 25I-NBOMe and 25C-NBOMe.
Image from shutterstock.comRead more
Is Australia really being flooded by new killer drugs?
Recent media reports have suggested Australia is set to be flooded with new types of deadly "synthetic" drugs.
Don't worry, as far as we know, there's no "turbo-charged version of ice" on its way. And we need to steer clear of drug-related moral panic, which increases stigma and makes it harder for users to seek help.
But there is a potential for significant harm in Australia if we don't have adequate systems in place to monitor our drug markets and respond rapidly when specific dangers are detected.Read more
While rates of methamphetamine use in Australia have remained fairly stable at 2.1% over the past ten years, there has been a shift among people who use the lower-grade powdered form of methamphetamine (speed) to using the higher-grade crystal form (ice) in recent times.
Ice is much stronger than speed and has the potential to cause greater problems.Read more
In 1998, a special session of the United Nations General Assembly agreed to set a 10-year deadline to make the world "drug free". After an embarrassing failure to achieve this goal, the deadline was extended a further 10 years, setting the world up for another inevitable failure in 2019.
In the intervening years, the use, availability and variety of illicit drugs have escalated exponentially. It is estimated by the UK charity Transform Foundation that 300 million people worldwide used illegal drugs in 2012, contributing to a global market with a turnover of $US330 billion a year.
“A Drug-Free World: We Can Do It.”Read more
Some of the greatest harms from using illicit drugs are because they are illegal.
Illegal drug production is unregulated and many drugs are manufactured in backyard labs. Users cannot be sure what’s in them or how potent they are, so the risk of adverse reactions, including overdose and death, is high.
A large proportion of the work of the justice system – police, courts and prisons – is occupied with drug-related offences. Many people have a criminal record for possessing drugs intended for personal use, which can affect their work prospects.Read more