Saturday, 31 January 2009

Saying Yes to Drugs

In the battle of reality versus ideology, the lively debate over drug abuse and treatment is full of grand ideas from many different perspectives. This has led to the public being assaulted for over 100 years with moralism, propaganda and scare tactics to suit a variety of agendas for those in power. Not surprisingly though, one important but critical issue is usually over looked ... is it really wrong to take drugs? Forget the images of desperate junkies shooting up in public toilets or the burnt out stares of meth-heads. The public face of drug use does not represent the reality for much of the drug taking population. Despite what you have been told, most people use drugs because it’s really enjoyable and they want to. Addicts only make up a tiny percentage of drug users and beating drug dependancy can vary between that of addiction and that of kicking coffee.
Consider the facts. 99% of drug users do not become addicted. Most drug users grow out of it in their 30s or 40s. Some drugs are basically non toxic in their pure form i.e. heroin, LSD, cannabis. No drug is instantly addictive. Nearly one in two people in the western world have tried illegal drugs including US presidents, world leaders and others in positions of power. If drugs caused as many health problems as we are told, our hospitals would be over flowing with crazed out drug zombies and our morgues would have to be privatised. Instead our jails are overflowing with non violent drug users which indeed led to the large privatisation trend of correctional institutions.
In moderation and with a known quality and dose, most illicit drugs will have little or no lasting effect on your health. The associated risks are easily overlooked when you consider the enjoyment they can bring to people. Taking ecstasy, LSD, magic mushrooms, speed, heroin or cocaine is like no other experience possible. Imagine the ability to pop a pill and 30 minutes later you feel love for those around you. They love you too and with the much heightened feeling of touch, sex becomes almost surrealistic. Everyone is your friend, there are no fights and each person is as fascinating as they find you. No wonder they call it ecstasy. Do you want to feel confident and super cool? Have a line of coke. Want it to last all night? Have a line of speed. Even camping can become one of the most memorable experiences you’ll have with a community broth of magic mushrooms for dinner one night. Having a boys night out? Drop some acid and you’re guaranteed a night of laughs, extreme smiling and the most amazing surroundings you could possible imagine. And that’s before you even leave the first pub. Maybe you just want some calm and to avoid the crowds. Opium was made for this very reason and heroin will do the trick very nicely. And no, you don’t have to inject it.

It is true that drugs have potential for problems but so do many other activities and substances. The key is moderation like everything you do in life. We have to face it, humans have been getting high since we crossed the great divide from wandering nomads to structured civilisations. Even one of the world’s first complex societies in Peru used coca leaves and lime to create a basic form of cocaine for pleasure. Since then various mind altering drugs have been used for religion, culture, self improvement, meditation, knowledge seeking and entertainment.
The big questions remain. Why is feeling “happiness” considered such an evil act and why are so many resources called on and so much time devoted to stopping it? It’s not that there isn’t any information available about these substances that dispel many of the popular myths . We know that alcohol and tobacco are much more dangerous and without the futile prohibition laws, the harms of illicit drugs would be even considerably less. The money spent on stopping people getting high would solve world hunger and house every homeless person on the planet. Think about that for a minute. What does it cost to keep incarcerated the 30% of prisoners who are non violent people and are only guilty of getting high? Whilst we know that most of the problems with illicit drugs is due to the laws of prohibition, the world continues spending over $100 billion annually trying to deal with drug use. When we are reapplying the same old strategy year after year and it has no success at all, then maybe we have a problem with our decision makers. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our principles when not enough money is available to stop people starving to death or to provide emergency health services but enough to fund a dismal failure like the cruel, misguided "War on Drugs".

Are drugs morally wrong? Of course not.

Are they dangerous? They are as dangerous as we allow them to be.

Is Getting High On Drugs Always A Bad Thing?
The Examiner
by J.D. Tuccille, Civil Liberties Examiner
December 2008

A while ago, I reread Jacob Sullum's Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, several years after first picking the book up. I was struck, once again, by his treatment of the consumption of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and any other intoxicant you can think of as a not inherently bad thing -- in fact, a potentially good thing if done in moderation. Sullum is one of the few writers I can think of who treats the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake with respect, rather than as an unseemly vice.

Even among many advocates of drug legalization, drugs are often treated as an unavoidable curse that burdens the human race, with legalization a necessary evil preferable to the ills, such as loss of civil liberties, that accompany prohibition. The very term "harm reduction," so popular now among advocates of alternatives to the War on Drugs, implies that drug use always damages the user, and that the goal is to reduce drug use by means other than criminal sanction.
This is why so many debates over legalization devolve to discussions of whether removing criminal sanctions will result in more consumption of disfavored intoxicants. See this otherwise somewhat sensible discussion from the Baltimore Sun:
A recent column on jury duty -- my first actual trial in more than 20 years of summonses to the Circuit Court of Baltimore City -- prompted a letter from reader Tom Ryugo about the decriminalization of heroin and cocaine. As you'll see, it's kind of hard to argue with this common-sense take. I've had this discussion with many people, including the former New York cop you runs an organization devoted to decriminalization, and the famous Baltimore attorney Bill Murphy. I can't make up my mind about it. Perhaps I should. . . . My fear is that legalization will lead to more use. I don't think the death penalty is a deterrent to murder, but I think the threat of incarceration and a life of addiction and misery is a deterrent to people who might be tempted to move from reefer to heroin or coke.
If you view drug use as inherently bad, it makes sense to assume that anything that might lead to increased consumption is something of a setback.

But, as many of us who have not just experimented with, but enthusiastically consumed various intoxicants know (Whoops! I bet I just blew my next job interview), the road to perdition is not usually lined with dried vegetation, white powder, pills or crystals. In fact, many a party, evening or weekend afternoon has been made more pleasant by "cocktail hours" that featured refreshments that would make John Walters weep. Some of us dabbled, a few of us indulged and there were occasional bingers, too. The vast majority of us, whether we still smoke or snort or not, suffered little or no harm -- in fact, we downright enjoyed our experiences, improved our moods and released a lot of tension in the process. And then we went about our responsibilities just a little more relaxed than we might have been.

Yet the loser pothead or scrawny junky is the image most often evoked when people think of drug use.
There's a good reason for that. As Sullum writes in Saying Yes:
We see the drug users who get hauled away by the police, who nod off in doorways or on park benches, who beg on the street or break into cars. We do not see the drug users who hold down a job, pay the rent or the mortgage, and support a family. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, people naturally assume that most illegal drug users are like the ones they notice, who are apt to be the least discreet and most antisocial. This is like assuming that the wino passed out in a gutter is a typical drinker.
Hmmm. So, how many users are, you know, addicts?
That's actually a hard question to answer, given the difficulty involved in asking people about their drug consumption habits. In fact, when prohibitionists talk about vast armies of addicts, they're talking about something they just don't know. Let's turn to psychologist, lawyer and drug researcher Stanton Peele for an idea of how many cocaine users just can't put the stuff down:
One way to calculate the number/percentage of addicts is to compare those who have ever taken a drug with those who currently take it with those who currently take it daily (or nearly so). Of course, many regular, daily users wouldn't be classified as addicts (like the physician described by Zinberg and his colleagues who for decades injected morphine daily, but did not use on weekends and vacations, without ever increasing his dosage or undergoing withdrawal -- see Meaning of Addiction, Chapter 1).
Unfortunately, you can't get government statistics on daily use. The most frequent use calculated in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) National Household Survey on Drug Abuse is 51 or more times in the prior year, or an average of once weekly (or more), which would obviously include many users who are not addicts.
The 1995 Household Survey found that of 3.7 million cocaine users in the last year, 1.2 million used on average at least once a month and 600,000 used at least weekly on average. Although these 600,000 would not qualify as clinical addicts, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey wants to claim these and more. Hmmm ... so the number of addicted cocaine users actually falls below the government's measurement threshold.
Well, what about heroin? that's nasty stuff, right? Surely we have an idea of how many heroin addicts there are. Well, we can kind of guesstimate. Wrote Sullum for Reason magazine in 2003:
The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicates that about 3 million Americans have used heroin in their lifetimes; of them, 15 percent had used it in the last year, 4 percent in the last month. These numbers suggest that the vast majority of heroin users either never become addicted or, if they do, manage to give the drug up. A survey of high school seniors found that 1 percent had used heroin in the previous year, while 0.1 percent had used it on 20 or more days in the previous month. Assuming that daily use is a reasonable proxy for opiate addiction, one in 10 of the students who had taken heroin in the last year might have qualified as addicts.
One in ten? How does that compare with perfectly legal alcohol? Well, according to the National Institutes of Health:
A 1994 study of drug use and addiction in the U.S. showed that more than 90 percent of Americans have experimented with alcohol, and about 70 percent drink at least occasionally. About 15 percent of those who experiment become alcohol-dependent at some point in life. This compares to a dependency rate of 25 percent in those who experiment with smoking tobacco, and around 4 percent in marijuana smokers.
So, it's pretty clear that the vast majority of people who consume any intoxicant do so without developing dependency and, in fact, may well enjoy benefits from their consumption, since they presumably value the pleasure, stress-reduction and other qualities found in intoxicants. On the other hand, a few users of any intoxicant will have problems, whether their drug of choice is legal or illegal.
So, even if you don't believe that people have an inherent right to choose what to put into their own bodies (I obviously do), the "problem" of legalization isn't as simple as whether it "will lead to more use." For every abuser who suffers problems, there may be nine users who enjoy benefits. Increased use may, in balance, be a good thing since the evidence suggests that most of that use will be moderate.
All things considered, you still may conclude that prohibition, with its militarized policing, erosion of the Fourth Amendment, soaring costs and high rate of defiance (breeding disdain for the law) is a worthwhile venture. But I think Jacob Sullum makes a strong case that the drug use that prohibitionists want to stamp out is not an unalloyed evil.

Editorial Book Review

Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use
Jacob Sullum

Opponents of the "war on drugs" have long focused on the distinction between drug use and drug abuse; that distinction is at the heart of Sullum's provocative and impeccably reasoned new title. Our expensive and ineffectual drug war, Sullum says, is predicated on a fundamental misconception that drugs are inherently "bad." Politicians and the media perpetuate the stereotype of the desperate, violent druggie, while the average user looks nothing like that, Sullum says-just as the typical drinker bears little resemblance to a wino passed out in the gutter. "We see the drug users who get hauled away by police, who nod off in doorways and on park benches, who beg on the street or break into cars," Sullum writes. "We do not see the drug users who hold down a job, pay the rent or the mortgage, and support a family." He describes the billionaire insurance executive who's also a "functioning pothead," the neuroscientist who enjoys MDMA at social events and the woman who likes a bit of heroin before cleaning house. Most people understand that alcohol can be dangerous if used to excess, but alcohol in and of itself does not "compel immoral behavior." Why, Sullum asks, is that not the case for marijuana, cocaine and heroin? He labels the vilification of certain drugs over others (like alcohol, nicotine and caffeine) "voodoo pharmacology." A senior editor at the libertarian journal Reason, Sullum rejects the frequent moralizing that clouds the drug debate, and frames much of his case as part of the greater argument against so-called "consensual" crime, which asks why an act by consenting adults that doesn't hurt anyone should be illegal. As with his last title, For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health, Sullum proves he's not afraid to take on entrenched public policies that he sees as fundamentally wrongheaded. Never preachy, his volume presents its heavily annotated arguments in clear, conversational tone that's refreshing for a book of this kind.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Adelaide Advertiser has a Headline Overdose

You have to love those cwazy, wacky media folks. Joyfully and playfully thinking up enticing and alluring headlines to hook the reader in. Rascals. In a media scoop, it seems has uncovered a sinister, underground drug dealer network which led the wascally news team at Adelaide Advertiser to headline an article:

Web Deals: Crims Get Cheap SA Drugs Online
But the headline was a fizzer. The article was just a revamp of a story published on several other News Ltd websites albeit with their own unique headline. Sadly for The Advertiser, these forums have been around for many years and were for information only, there was no mention of “crims” anywhere in the story, the drug prices were not cheap, it was not SA specific and there was no deals done online. The headline in it’s edited form should be:


That’s better.

A summary from one reader:

Err the headline says "Crims get cheap SA drugs online" yet after reading the whole article there is no mention of this...
-Posted by: Jim Raynor

Drug takers use web to find cheapest drug deals
Mark Schliebs
Adelaide Now
January 2009

ONLINE social networks are being used to compare drug prices with Adelaide users paying the cheapest prices of all capital cities for cannabis, cocaine and ice.

An online survey found that the social networks were letting users shop around as if they were buying legal consumer goods. The secretive online forums are run according to strict guidelines and come with a warning to users not to incriminate themselves by admitting to possessing or selling drugs.

The discussions provide an underground snapshot of the local drugs markets and how they compare to those overseas, with recent threads revealing:

AUSTRALIA is one of the most expensive markets for illegal drugs in the world

BRISBANE is the most expensive city in the country for speed, ice, cocaine and LSD

ADELAIDE users pay less than those in other capital cities for cannabis, cocaine and ice

SYDNEY appears to be the cheapest market for ecstasy and speed.

As well as forensic discussions of pricing, one thread offers a critique of the pills produced by Underbelly's Carl Williams and another Melbourne identity and recalls private anecdotes from the times.
"They made the S**TTEST pills in Melbourne," one user said. "The pills Carl made were (methamphetamine) and ketamine. (The associate's) were often pink or red foxes, Carl's varied."

These self-described harm minimisation forums have been discussing price variations with their international counterparts for several years.

How it works
The rules at the start of the price thread state:

1) PRICES ONLY - No comments about how "you're paying too much for that" or "damn, where you get that hookup?

2) NO D**K-SIZING- You might have a really good hookup, or you might not, so post about how you get ecstasy pills for $2 each - you're not impressing anyone, and NO ONE will even reply to you - why? See rule #1

3) BE REALISTIC - don't post "I get 75,000 pills for about $3 each" - the price may be right but no one who is doing that kind of volume needs to inquire about prices here.


5) USE ACCURATE LANGUAGE - Post in terms we ALL KNOW - it's not a "jar" or a "sack" or a "quarter" or a "lick" or a "wrap" - if you use such terms, then GIVE THE AMOUNT WITHIN.

In the first weeks of 2009, users from Australia, America, Britain, Canada, Finland, Germany and Argentina have already started updating drug prices from previous years.
The first local on this year's price thread a user identified only as drug mentor has posted: "Yeah, first Aussie to get in on 2009 :P! I'm in Melbourne Australia. I know prices for other s**t but that's all I have been quoted on in 2009, I post more detailed prices in 2008 thread and for the most part they haven't changed."

High prices
A Belgian user said he was shocked to see how relatively costly buying illegal drugs in Australia was.
"Wow those Aus prices keep shocking me," the man posted.
"Does it really cost that much to import those drugs across the water, or are there only a few big players that dominate the market and set the prices? Maybe because of harsh penalties?"
A drug user in Melbourne responded that "Australia's border security is much tighter than other countries: I'd say it has something to do with us being an island and having extremely tight Customs and border control."
"I've heard we have some of the most tightest in the world, so obviously the distributors on the higher end of the chain, or the people that are responsible for 'transporting' the drugs to over here, are going to charge a pretty hefty surcharge for the hassle.
"Also, the fact that our country isn't anywhere near as heavily populated as United Kingdom, or the United States means that the demand isn't as great, therefore not being as much bulk as say, what there would be in America, etc..."

The Australian forum member went on to detail the prices for illegal drugs in their suburb.

Nationally, users report increases in the price of a 3.5g bag of cannabis in recent years, while the amount paid for a point or 0.1g of ice has fallen. The cost of ecstasy pills in Adelaide and Melbourne fell by $5 in the first half of 2008, while prices increased slightly in Sydney and stayed stagnant in Brisbane. But not all prices in every capital city have been updated on a constant basis. In Perth, users have reported paying a similar amount for cannabis in 2008 that buyers in other cities have. But only limited information on other drugs has been uploaded by West Australians in recent years.

Monday, 26 January 2009

World Gone Mad

The damage to society from barbaric and outdated drug policies don’t usually catch the media’s interest. So I have compiled a few recent articles that show the side effects of prohibition and what happens when we lose grasp of common sense. UPDATE Check out The Australian’s, Caroline Overington’s article, Removal of Kids 'Abuse by Officials'. You may be surprised at the readers comments.

Toddlers Taken From Parents for Smoking Pot

Like a scene from Reefer Madness, officers from the New South Wales Department of Community Services(DOCS) removed 2 children from their family because the parents were recreational cannabis smokers. Unbelievably, the parents had to go to the supreme court to get them back. The judge happily obliged and in the process, blasted the actions of DOCS as a "gross abuse of power".

My principal concern is that young children who have been well cared for by their parents have been removed from their care for some three months and, if the DOCS officers have their way, will be kept out of their parents' care for another three months, for no good reason

-Supreme Court Justice George Palmer

The parents and their children had to have an assessment with a psychologist who concluded, “Both parents are well able to provide for the safety, welfare and wellbeing of their infant children".  

The parents were not mentally ill, had no relevant criminal history and were not guilty of any offence except that they occasionally smoked marijuana. 

To top it off, DOCS refused to make any comment on the case and instead of apologising they said they would “carefully examine the judgment and consider whether to appeal”. The judge said the officers' attitude showed "an intransigent refusal to acknowledge a mistake, regardless of the consequences to the children"

This is the type of strategy that the federal opposition and the Christian based political parties want introduced as laid out in the The Bishop Report: “The Winnable War on Drugs”. 

Article: Children Taken From Parents With No Evidence Of Risk, Judge Says

72 Year Old Must Go to Jail - Judge

A 72 year old pensioner milkman faced court for supplying cannabis to pensioners to “ward off their aches and pains”. Although he received bail, the judges comment is the truly scary part.

You must understand these are serious offences and in my judgment the likely outcome is an immediate custodial sentence.

-Judge Beverley Lunt

The 72 year old delivered the cannabis in an egg box to the pensioners while doing his daily milk round. Obviously a criminal mastermind.

Article: Pensioner Milkman Supplied Cannabis To Pensioners

Inmate Dies After Sheriff Withholds His Medication

Sean Levert had just started a 22 month sentence for not paying child support. Although he brought his medication with him, it was withheld pending a health assessment from the jail psychiatrist. Unfortunately for Sean Levert, the assessment was 15 days away. The manager of health care services for the Cleveland county jail, Christine Dubber said inmates are not allowed to take Xanax unless they are evaluated by a jail psychiatrist. I wonder if Sean Levert was on another type of medication then would he had been seen to quicker or actually just given his medication because he already had filled a legitimate script.

Due to the volume of inmates and the level of severity, the schedule is based on need

-Christine Dubber, Manager Of Health Care Services For The Cleveland County Jail

Since the incident, Jail officials in Cleveland are examining a new policy that allows more flexibility for providing anti-anxiety medicine. Too late for Sean Levert.

Article: Sean Levert's death in jail was inexcusable

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Q & A: Gino Vumbaca

This is the third in a series of Q & A's for people who have some relationship or interest in illicit drugs.

Name: Gino Vumbaca

Role: Executive Director of the Australian National Council on Drugs
Date: January 2009

Gino Vumbaca has one of the hardest jobs in Australia. Although he is part of the core advisory group for drug policy to the Australian government, he also strongly supports Harm Minimisation which sometimes can put him in a precarious position. As we saw with the Inquiry into the Impact of Illicit Drug Use on Families aka The Bishop Report: “The Winnable War on Drugs”, Gino was called in to defend Harm Minimisation against a hostile, heavily biased and trumped up panel of twits led by Bronwyn Bishop. In his typical diplomatic style, Gino stood his ground whilst being bombarded with farcical and ludicrous questions aimed at discrediting Harm Minimisation. Someone as well grounded and knowledgeable as Gino Vumbaca was never going to be an easy target for them and was grossly underestimated.

I have never met Gino but his reputation speaks volumes about the man. Someone who is dedicated to the well being of others and one of Australia’s top experts on drug policy. A tireless and dedicated supporter of a better future for the addicted and society in general. The fact that Gino took the time out of his extremely busy schedule to be part of this Q & A is evidence of his commitment to the drug issue. Read on to get an insight into the personal views of maybe the most important person shaping our drug policy.

NOTE: Gino’s answers are his own personal opinions and not those of the ANCD, its members or the government.

About Gino Vumbaca
Mr Vumbaca has extensive experience in the HIV/AIDS and drug and alcohol fields both in Australia and internationally. He is a Churchill Fellow and has completed a Social Work degree and a Master of Business Administration at the University of Sydney. He has worked as the Manager of HIV/AIDS and related services with the NSW Department of Corrective Services, in a variety of drug and alcohol centres as a counsellor and was responsible for coordinating the establishment of the NSW network of needle and syringe exchange programs for the NSW Health Department. Mr Vumbaca also continues to provide advice on prisons, HIV and drug issues for international organisations such as the UN and WHO.
Source: ANCD


The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) has no official decision making role for our drug policy and is an advisory group only. Do you feel you should this is sufficient?
Yes - it is the role of government (elected) to make decisions for which they can be held accountable to the community - certainly the ANCD has a role to provide independent evidence based advice and to inform public debate and thinking on drug policy but in the end it is governments, on behalf of and taking into account the needs and views of the whole community, that need to make the decisions.

Do you think the public understands what the ANCD actually do and should their profile be raised?
Some of the public will understand and some will not, but I think that the public profile of the ANCD over the last 5 years in particular has been raised considerably - it could always be better but I think many people continue to learn and understand its role. Certainly, the level of government and media requests for advice from the ANCD has increased markedly over the years. In the end however it is not the public knowledge profile of the ANCD that it is most important but rather the quality and timeliness of its advice for the public and policy makers.

Does the press help or hinder your job at the ANCD?
Both, but it helps far more than it hinders. I would say that in the overwhelming majority of cases the media has been good at reporting on ANCD commissioned research and announcements, as well as general drug and alcohol matters of concern, certainly in regard to alcohol policy in recent times the media have been very helpful in raising issues and maintaining pressure for change - reflecting the community view. There are of course media reports that are unhelpful and if I were to single some out it would be those that promote so called 'miracle' cures without checking or reference to any real evidence, and those media reports that imply drug users are somehow not entitled to humane care and support. I also think we don't help the media enough such as being able to provide a single national helpline number that could be listed at the end of every relevant story on drug and alcohol use.

There is now more evidence than ever before that drug addiction is a physical condition and some people are more susceptible to becoming drug addicts than others. Do you think the public understands this?
It is true that there is increasing work being done on the genetic disposition to dependence and I think the public understands this somewhat but many would still see dependence as a matter of personal choice or via a disease model approach - this is not a rejection of the theories and research within the biosciences fields but rather a reflection of the long standing complexity surrounding nature and nurture. Suffice to say, it is an area that requires far more research particularly in Australia.

Politicians are often labelled as being “soft on drugs” when they suggest that a “tough on drugs” policy is not the answer. Do these types of politic stunts make your job harder?
I don't think they make it easier - many people in the sector are rightly tired of this type of rhetoric although to be fair it is often others that attach such labels rather than politicians. The reality is that Australia has a balanced and pragmatic drug policy and has done so for many years. It should not be about being soft or tough it should be about being effective. However, we should not underestimate the power of language at times. The recent proposal by the NSW Opposition for a greater focus on rehabilitation of prisoners was met with positive coverage and this is encouraging for many of us that have been advocating for an end to increasing incarceration as an answer to the problems of drug use and associated harms.

Australia appears to be following the US and placing more emphasis on religion in politics. Do you feel this effects our drug policy?
Not that I am aware of - I think it would be fair to say that faith based services have a long history in providing services for disadvantaged groups, but they also compete for their funding with all other services. People representing faith based services also sit on advisory bodies at times, again this is a reflection of their role in providing treatment and other services. I don't think anyone should ever be appointed to a position of influence on drug policy (or any public health policy) as a result of their religious beliefs.

Does religion have any place in drug policy or treatment?
see above

The US is infamous for it’s drug policy and opposition to Harm Reduction. Though the US has about 10 times the number of HIV/AIDS sufferers amongst injecting drug users compared to Australia, only recently has federal funding been allowed for needle exchange programs. Is this a sign that Harm Minimisation is becoming more accepted in the US?
I am not sure about the level of acceptance in the USA - it is certainly encouraging that pragmatic and humane responses taken here over the past 20 years are starting to also gain greater traction in the USA - it is unfortunate that so many people have had to suffer in the interim. President Elect Obama has made some statements in the recent past that would seem to signal a change in approach, but I guess time will tell.

Bronwyn Bishop chaired an enquiry into illicit drugs last year and produced a report called “The Winnable War on Drugs” which you were asked to participate in. Do you think Harm Minimisation was unfairly criticised?
Yes - I think the report fell into the trap of arguing about language and ideology rather than evidence and that, in my opinion, is something that Australians are generally wary of and sceptical towards. A lot of people understand that drug users are people just like them with real lives, families and friends and they deserve to be the primary focus rather than used as a proxy in a battle of ideologies.

John Howard wanted to remove Harm Minimisation as Australia’s primary drug strategy and implement a policy of Zero Tolerance. Do you think most Australians understand what Harm Minimisation really is?
I am not sure that the premise of the question is accurate but I understand that is a perception for some - as to public understanding of HM, I think it could be a lot better. There is confusion at times between harm minimisation and harm reduction - but again we can get too caught up in arguing about language when it is the quality and effectiveness of the responses to drug use issues that needs to be debated.

South Australia recently banned drug paraphernalia and rejected a call to test MDMA for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Is this a good move in your opinion?
I think that in reality these decisions often sit at the margin of what constitutes effective drug policy. I am not aware of the evidence underpinning these policy decisions so don't feel in a position to comment further.

Are anti-drug advertisements using scare tactics effective?
I know some people will disagree but they can be - the ANCD has assisted in many campaigns for Governments and the goal has been effectiveness via thorough research and focus testing of concepts with the target audience, be they young people or parents. I understand that some people believe that somewhat dispassionate information on drug use is the most effective approach but I think that is not supported by what target audiences say and fell, it also seems to be undermined somewhat by the campaigns associated with anti-smoking which have been very effective and haven't shied away from showing people some of the graphic consequences of smoking. The issue is not so much scare campaigns but effective campaigns that need to be supported by a range of other strategies (as we also see with anti-smoking which includes a range of public policy changes) and the need for campaigns to be ongoing so they can evolve and develop even more sophisticated approaches to inform and educate the public.

Kevin Rudd said in an interview that his policies would be evidenced based if he won the election. Do you think this will encompass our drug policy?
The ANCD has had the privilege of meeting with the Prime Minister and many of his senior cabinet colleagues, including the Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister and have no doubt that evidence based policies will include drug policy.

A report was published in the medical journal, The Lancet, where psychiatrists who specialise in addiction and legal/police officials with medical expertise were asked to rank the most dangerous 20 drugs. The factors used were physical harm to the user, addictive potential of the drug and the drug's overall impact on society. Cannabis, LSD and ecstasy didn’t even make the top 10, alcohol came in at number 5 and tobacco came number 9. Should this effect how the government approaches the rating of drugs?
It is an interesting approach - there of course is still a level of subjectivity within the approach but it does seem to be a way of promoting greater public awareness and debate on drug and alcohol issues.

Should the drinking age be raised to 21?
There is evidence that in some countries there have been some benefits from a higher drinking age but I think in Australia we have problems with underage drinking despite there being a legal limit in place and I would be wary of placing so many more people in illegal situations, particularly given the associated problems that could cause - it is the culture and patterns of alcohol consumption that need to be addressed. Alcohol is available and consumed by many here and we need to be wiser and more aware of the potential consequences of alcohol misuse, particularly for young people.

Should well known sportsmen and sportswomen be tested for non performance enhancing drugs?
This is not an area of expertise for me but if testing regimes are to be in place they need to be done within the context of a comprehensive program that also provides assistance and addresses alcohol misuse.

Do you have any first hand experience with someone you know being addicted to drugs?
Yes - both personally and professionally

Methadone is just as addictive as heroin and some people argue that methadone simply replaces one addiction for another. Do you have an opinion on this?
Methadone and other pharmacotherpies allow people to get some control back over their lives. The evidence is quite clear on their effectiveness. It is a legitimate treatment that deserves support.

Some members of Drug Free Australia (DFA) say ex addicts especially those on medication like methadone don’t have a place discussing addiction treatment. Are they correct.
I am not aware of that comment specifically but I think we should all be very careful about trying to exclude people from a debate. It should be the merit of the argument that determines its worth not the opinion of mine or others on the person that delivers the argument.

Australia was to have a heroin trial but it was vetoed by John Howard because it “sent the wrong message about drugs”. Was he right?
This was a decision made by the government of the day - I am unclear as to how the impact of the messages that could have be sent by its introduction were assessed and decided. Trend data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey shows increasing support for controversial programs such as injecting rooms and prescription programs. As I said earlier the final judgement that balances the evidence and community wishes rest with the government of the day, as it should.

Other Opiate Maintenance Treatments(OMT) are in use or on trial in Europe, Canada and the U.K and have great success. Should other forms of OMT be trailed in Australia like slow release oral morphine, injectible hydromorphone, dihydrocodeine and prescription heroin?
Evidence from these programs should be assessed and inform policy debate and thinking in Australia. We should never be afraid to look at options and alternatives.

Finally, if you were Prime Minister Gino Vumbaca and you could change one law relating to illicit drugs or drug treatment, what would it be?
No restrictions for treatment, that is, when someone wants help they should be assessed and have the best treatment made available to them without delay. Seeking treatment is a significant and somewhat scary step for many people to take and it should be met with positive professional assistance as quickly as possible.

Q and A: Kerry Wolf - Certified Methadone Advocate (USA)
Q and A: Dr. James Rowe - Lecturer at RMIT, School of Global Studies, Social Science & Planning
Q and A: Sandra Kanck - Former South Australian MLC. South Australia spokesperson for Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform (FFDLR)
Q and A: Tony Trimingham - Chief Executive Officer, Family Drug Support

Monday, 19 January 2009

Diary: Since Xmas

DIARY: Xmas is over and I did it without using heroin. The first time in over 11 years. Did I want to use heroin ... yes but my medication is responsible for my decision not to . This just would not have happened on methadone and everyday I am thankful to Allah/Buddah/Jimmy Page/Jesus/Yahweh & co. for being able to take SROM. Of course there is a downside. There’s always a downside and that’s one of the facts of addiction. This was the first time I have been alone for Xmas lunch. I wasn’t lonely like I thought I would be and it was only for about 4 hours or so. I was supposed to go to my brother’s Xmas lunch but I felt sick and Angela was coming home early from her family Xmas lunch. My brother was having several guests as well, many who I didn’t know very well. I really didn’t care too much being alone for Xmas lunch which is not my usual self. Xmas morning is the most important event for us. We go overboard with presents and Xmas morning we finally resolve the weeks of guessing of what’s in that box under the tree? We dress our dogs up in Santa outfits and as a reward they get ham and chocolates. The hats don’t hold very well and one of them always gets tangled up in the Santa suits but it a tradition for us. Everyone wins - our dogs get ham and we get 2 very cute little Santa dogs. I am starting to wonder about my predicament and where I am in the scheme of my addiction. I no longer crave heroin or even really think about it that much anymore. That’s a definitely an important advancement. The downside is now sleeping way too much and lacking ambition and drive. I was sleeping about 3-4 times a day for a estimated total of 10-12 hours. At least I didn’t have that ominous feeling of continuous depression that I did with methadone. I was glad to swap the day long depression with having to sleep so often. The biggest problem though is losing my drive. My need to socialise, my sex drive, work ambition etc. all suffer and many previous enjoyments are now painfully boring. I had a few days spare so I took this opportunity to learn a new computer program. I already knew the basics and the video tutorial should have been quick and easy but I could not for the life of me keep my interest up. Four times I started but after 30 minutes or so, I had to stop. I just had no interest. I started to get sick of this so I tried a few different techniques by altering my medication. I tried doubling my SRRIs (doctors suggestion) and then tried without it. I tried cutting my SROM by two tablets then by one. None of these worked. My latest trial is to cut my SROM by half a tablet per day which surprisingly had an enormous effect on me. My daily sleeping needs halved, I gained some drive but I feel signs of depression breaking through. The depression only last for a few minutes at a time so I am continuing this strategy for a while longer. It appears there is a delicate balance between the SRRIs and the morphine that determine depression versus being active. I investigated some more about morphine/opiates for depression and found that morphine has long been associated with depression treatment. To counter the lack of drive, I am going for a blood test to see if I should go on steroid treatment. My doctor jokingly said I would make the drug squad really happy if I lost my scripts and they raided my house ... morphine, steroids, injecting equipment, traces of heroin etc. etc. My main interests at the moment seem to be related to drug issues including this blog. I am an avid reader of news and current affairs so drug issues fit in well with my daily activities. As I discover more, I get a much greater ability to analyse the scope of the drug situation. This coupled with my own experience allows me a well rounded insight into the issues. I am starting to see my situation and the events that led to where I am a lot clearer now. I am beginning to better explain why people use drugs by remembering situations that involved my friends and myself. I see the peer pressure of people wanting to fit in, even into their 20s and 30s. I see more clearly now how many people took drugs simply because they wanted to. I recognise those who take drugs on special occasions or because a certain activity is much more fun under the influence. For example, drugs like speed and ecstasy are usually just extensions of drinking and having a big night out. The fact that 99% of drug users never have a major problem becomes much more obvious and I clearly see the distinct difference between drug use and drug abuse. The most enlightened subject for me though is how people perceive drug use and the politics involved. I now find that most anti-drug zealots are nothing more than a joke. It’s not those who are acting with noble intentions which is usually due to a family situation but those who purposely ignore any alternatives or evidence put before them. These people have an agenda and it’s certainly not for the benefit of others. It’s purely for selfish reasons whether it be political popularity, religious beliefs, conservative values or arrogance. The reason most people oppose Harm Minimisation or a new approach to the drug situation is because they can’t see past what they have learned through years of propaganda and misinformation. This is understandable but I find annoying are those who have a strong opinion about something they know jack-shit about. i.e. drugs. You often see these people making ridiculous statements in the readers comments section. I wonder if these people would change their minds if they knew the truth or would they continue with their strong but misguided opinions. I must admit it would be hard to change your views with the amount of lies and misinformation that has bombarded us for all of our lives. The most sinister though are those who spend their life desperately trying to instil misinformation into the public psyche. They are not anti-drug heroes or pillars of society but liars, egocentrics and opportunists. Nearly 3 weeks after Xmas, I finally caved in and decided to use for the first time in about 4-5 months. As my luck would have it, my dealer's phone was off. I tried to contact another dealer but their phone was disconnected. My last hope didn’t answer when I rang. JESUS Q CHRIST!!!! Why was such a simple task so hard? Fed up, I went to my dealer’s house and he wasn’t home. I asked for his mobile number in case he had changed it but I was given the same number I already had. It was nearly dark by this time so I went home and had dinner. I tried the phone numbers again after dinner and decided to go back to my dealer’s house. When I pulled up I saw his car and I was much relieved ... finally! Knock knock. “Do you have anything?” I asked. “No, tomorrow midday”, he answered. Silly me. Why would a drug dealer have drugs? The next day, I decided not to score. I was going well with my treatment and I didn’t really need heroin. I could get by just fine without drugs. [2 hours later] After I had my hit, I noticed that my tolerance hadn’t really changed. I had .4 of a gram like usual which incidentally cost $150. The quality was exactly the same as it had been for the last 5 years or so. What I did notice though was how calm I felt for the next 4-5 hours. The effect didn’t drop off after 15 minutes like it usually did but it also wasn’t as potent in the initial rush. I felt good. I didn't experience the usual guilt associated with blowing so much money on drugs. I had gone so long without and I almost felt proud of this. Was I making excuses for myself or was it justified? That's what I need to work out. Will it be another 4-5 months before I use again? I am hoping at least that long but the memories of my last hit were fresh in my mind. I decided to give my EFT card to Angela for the next few weeks just in case.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Soft on Drugs Causes Ambulance Call Outs to Rise

Queensland Disgrace
Ambulance call outs rise while politicians argue whose tougher on drugs.

I have regularly said that drug users and addicts are just fodder in the political world and they are treated as chess pieces for politicians in their never ending game of gathering voters. But when I read this article in the CourierMail I felt there was something I was missing . Then it struck me. The politicians involved were so tied up in their political games that they forgot to even try to appear sincere.

Drug-Related Paramedic Callouts Up 15 Per Cent 
Rosemary Odgers 
January 2009 

PARAMEDICS are treating more than 30 Queenslanders a day for drug-related conditions including overdoses, a rise of 15 per cent in two years.

New figures reveal that ambulance officers across the state attended 11,429 cases involving drug-affected people last year.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the figures were proof the Government was not doing enough to tackle the growing problem of drugs in the community.

He called for a review of drug awareness campaigns to ensure they were targeting the problem.

"We've known for years that Queensland is the amphetamine capital of Australia and these figures show the problem is getting worse and yet this government has sat on its hands," Mr Springborg said.

"We need zero tolerance to drugs, harsher penalties for people caught trafficking and supplying drugs, and money spent on better drug awareness campaigns rather than on ads promoting the Government."

But Police Minister Judy Spence rejected the Opposition's suggestion the Government was soft on drugs.

Ms Spence said about 10 per cent of prisoners in Queensland were jailed for drug offences. "The Government and the Queensland Police Service are continually increasing our resources and arrests with respect to drugs, and Queensland Health run continuous drug awareness campaigns," she said.

"Parents and indeed all members of the community need to join with government to help society understand that far from being harmless and recreational, illicit and illegal drugs can lead to hefty fines, prison sentences and in the cases of drug use, death."

The war of words follows the tragic case of Rosie Bebendorf, 28, who died on New Year's Day after taking two ecstasy tablets allegedly bought from a Fortitude Valley nightclub.

Her grieving parents have pleaded with young people to stay away from party drugs.

Kroy Day of the union representing ambulance workers said the latest figures supported anecdotal evidence that paramedics were dealing with more drug cases.

But he said drug and alcohol abuse had always been part of their workload, and paramedics were more concerned about the growing level of violence associated with drug use.

"The Government has increased penalties for people who assault officers but what we don't want is people to be deterred from calling us (to cases involving drugs)," he said.

"We're not interested in being a police force. They will only be called if there is a safety issue for our members."

The latest figures, obtained by the Opposition through a Question on Notice, revealed paramedics attended 11,429 drug-related cases including overdoses in 2007-08, compared to 11,214 the previous year and 9907 in 2005-06.

With ambulance call outs rising in Queensland, there was no mention of what health factors are involved or whether contaminated drugs were hitting the streets. No mention that people were dying or dropping like flies. The only concern of the opposition was which party was toughest on drugs!

New figures reveal that ambulance officers across the state attended 11,429 cases involving drug-affected people last year. Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the figures were proof the Government was not doing enough to tackle the growing problem of drugs in the community.

Why is it that at every mention of a drug related issue, politicians feel the need to appear "tough on drugs"? Even with more people being rushed to hospital, the only solution for these boneheads is to announce tougher measures. 

"We've known for years that Queensland is the amphetamine capital of Australia and these figures show the problem is getting worse and yet this government has sat on its hands," Mr Springborg said. "We need zero tolerance to drugs, harsher penalties for people caught trafficking and supplying drugs, and money spent on better drug awareness campaigns rather than on ads promoting the Government."

Queensland Opposition Leader, Lawrence Springborg is a twat. A slippery, sleazy self serving twat. Capitalising on the issue of people overdosing or being rushed to hospital and then transforming it into a point scoring slanging match is not acceptable from someone in his position. Apart from being a reflection on his priorities, it shows his lack of values that is so common for many of our politicians. This type of behaviour is becoming increasingly obvious to the public as merely political posturing and considering it involved people’s lives, Springborg deserves any contempt he receives . Queensland Police Minister Judy Spence is also a twat. The issue of growing ambulance call out rates somehow got lost in her response to the opposition’s rant. In a contest of who’s toughest on drugs and crime, she proudly stated that 10% of prisoners were in for drug offences and the arrest rate was growing. WTF?!?! During this period of prison overcrowding. concerns for the sentencing wars between political foes and the question of whether sending drug addicts to jail is self defeating, Judy Spence’s response shows how out of touch she is with the world outside Queensland. 

But Police Minister Judy Spence rejected the Opposition's suggestion the Government was soft on drugs. Ms Spence said about 10 per cent of prisoners in Queensland were jailed for drug offences. "The Government and the Queensland Police Service are continually increasing our resources and arrests with respect to drugs, and Queensland Health run continuous drug awareness campaigns," she said.

Her proud approach of punitive actions and the flippant referrals to real life consequences are scary, to say the least. Note the casual addition of ‘minor’ issues like drug awareness campaigns and oh, yeah, if you’re not caught and jailed you might also die. 

"Parents and indeed all members of the community need to join with government to help society understand that far from being harmless and recreational, illicit and illegal drugs can lead to hefty fines, prison sentences and in the cases of drug use, death". 
-Queensland Police Minister Judy Spence

Recently, there has been some widely publicised cases of people failing to ring an ambulance for a drug overdose due to the fear of involving police. A coroner’s finding into the drug overdose of Queenslander, Melanie Boyd found that her death could have been avoided if an ambulance was called. 

After taking drugs, Melanie Boyd was left without medical help after her friends decided not to ring an ambulance for fear of getting in trouble with police. Coroner Brian Smith made five strong recommendations, including an awareness campaign that calling an ambulance does not automatically mean police would be involved. He called on the Queensland Ambulance Service to consider the distribution of a pamphlet called 'calling for an ambulance when illicit drugs have been taken' to avoid similar situations. The need to be able to call an ambulance without fear of legal action is vital and has become common practice worldwide. I doubt if this mattered though during the latest chest beating event from Lawrence Springborg and Judy Spence. 

Readers Comments: As usual, there was a barrage of inane comments from some brain dead readers. 

compulsory reporting to the police if you go to an emergency room with an OD. if you choose to take the drugs, you should be grown up enough to accept that drugs have got very nasty side effects. none of this weak judiciary not recording convictions, or giving wholly suspended sentences. drug use is a cancer to our society, and we need to fight it as you would fight a cancer - with strength and determination, rather than a wimpish "don't do drugs, kiddies, it's really bad for you". 
-Posted by: Andrew of Ipswich

One way of tackling the illegal drug problem is to not treat the scumbags. Once illegal drug use has been identified then they should be left to fend for themselves. 
-Posted by: Nickt of Wellington Point

With all the drugs avaible, someone isn't doing their job. More police are needed. We seem to follow the Yanks, or shouldn't say that as it might be raciest, why don't we follow them with their Justice system. Eighty years for murder. What do we give, maybe 10 if they are unlucky. 
-Posted by: WELL DONE of Redcliffe 

Its an epidemic! Why don't the police follow up and arrest these idiots! -Posted by: adrian of Bris So the ambulance in Brisbane has an increased work load due to drugs and they are just reporting this now? Alcohol is also a drug, why does the media keep separating it? Go to Sydney and Melbourne and see how bad it really is, with 3 times the drug overdoses than Brisbane and the grubby Gold Coast. If people CHOOSE to take drugs leave them to their own devices. Maybe letting a few of these people "go to God" (which of course we wouldn't), might make some of the others wake up to themselves. Many people take drugs knowing the risk of overdose, because they know the ambulance will come if needed, and they will get treatment in a hospital at taxpayers expense. If the services did not attend to theses people's chosen stupid acts, the word would soon spread, and the overdose rate, even drug use, would fall almost immediately. We have to stop wrapping these losers in cotton wool and pampering them, because the "feel good" approach does not work. 
-Posted by: Shannon of Brisbane Simple, 

The paramedics can treat them then call the Police to charge them with drug offences. After that the cost of the medical treatment should also be recovered due to illness by an illegal substance. 
-Posted by: Ron from Albany Creek

Is this just a Queensland police issue under the watchful eye of Police Minister, Judy Spence? Crime is crime, right? On the Queensland Police website, there is a whole page dedicated to the Queensland Police - Party-Safe Program which has information on hosting a party including guidelines, check lists, links to related sites, the Party Safe registration form etc. Considering the recent push to inform the public that ringing an ambulance in a drug related emergency does not necessarily involve police, I expected the message to be given priority. Apart from non-police related contact details for drug counselling services and a warning that drinking alcohol or taking drugs affects your ability to make safe decisions, there was only two other references to drugs or ringing an ambulance: 

Party Safe for Guests 
Point 5: It is a criminal offence to have illicit drugs including cannabis.  You could be charged and convicted.  This could involve paying a fine or serving a prison sentence.  Your future may be affected as you could have a criminal record for the rest of your life.  This could also impact on your future job or travel opportunities. 

Party Safe Checklist Point 2: Have relevant telephone numbers available at the party, including the police, ambulance, taxi company and contact details for parents of young people attending.
UPDATE: Terry Sweetman from The CourierMail has also noticed the disgraceful behaviour from Lawrence Springborg and Judy Spence. 
Read his great article here

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Darren Marton - No Way!

I had some great feedback to the Bucket Head of the Year Awards including from several of the nominees. One award winner, Darren Marton (Anti-Drug Propagandist - Rising Star Award for 2008) left a few long comments which basically accused me of not being worthy of other addicts who had a much tougher time than me ... especially referring to himself. After pondering his last reply, I thought I should expand on some interesting points. Darren Marton’s No-Way Campaign appears very similar to the “Just Say No” school of thought where anyone can avoid drug addiction by being strong willed and simply saying no to drugs. This was made famous in the US via Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No’ campaign. Of course it was a huge flop but is still the corner stone of most anti-drug campaigns today. I would guess that most campaigns have good intentions but the usual scare tactics and moralising doesn’t seem to be very successful. The D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in the US is a classic example where no one bothered to examine it’s success and it was just accepted as the gold standard for schools. After some much needed analysis, it seems that apart from not lowering the rate of drug taking amongst students, it actual has the opposite effect. What shits me is the blind acceptance of the “Just Say No” strategy. Even though there is research indicating it’s ineffectiveness, many campaigners march on anyway ignoring the facts. More importantly, some of the more unscrupulous types try to trick the public into accepting this strategy as being highly successful and will discredit anyone who opposes them. Is Darren Marton one of these people? Unfortunately for him, it’s a double edged sword. Either he does know the facts and continues on with the charade or he doesn’t know the facts but he should. Either way. it’s a problem. So when he pulls one of the old anti-drug, propaganda stunts and asks me to provide a plan for heroin legalisation even though I have never supported it, it’s time for me to act. What can I do? Ignore it? Ring George Soros for campaign funds? Lobby the government? With so many options I decided to be brave and direct ... after washing the dishes and cleaning up the dog poo, I opted to write this article. Tough issues need tough action! I awarded Darren Marton the Anti-Drug Propagandist - Rising Star Award for 2008 so I expected some retaliation but when it’s just more of the very thing that got him the nomination in the first place, I will gladly play along. It isn’t very hard for I have several factors on my side ... the truth, evidence, facts, expert support, medical support, scientific support and common sense. Lastly and most importantly, this is my website so I can say what I want. Maybe it’s this fact that is changing attitudes because no longer do the MSM and the government have carte blanche on information. The MSM is not the only source of information anymore that has so much of the public believing anti-drug propaganda. Anyone is now able to find the facts in an instant which is opening up much needed debate on issues like drug policy.
Darren Marton's comments are in red
January 7, 2009 Re: TERRY GOOD - SHOW ME THE PLAN !
I know what you’re thinking but I have no idea either what “Terry Good” means
Special note: I am not affliated with Drugfree Australia nor am I affiliated with any other organisation to set the record straight Terry Good. I distanced myself from them a long time ago.
That sounds ominous. Were they too hard core even for the winner of the Anti-Drug Propagandist - Rising Star Award for 2008 - Darren Marton? Interestingly, Darren’s No-Way Campaign website includes pictures of and endorsements from DFA members.
Terry Good, memoirs of a heroin addict’s dairy! I must confess I find it extremely difficult picturing Terry Good sitting in a holding cell with holes in his arms the size of key holes about to descend into heroin withdrawal. Hang on a minute - nah, but hang on, nah, not Terry Good, the professional addict. Think about it, a day in the life of an academic professional addict ; sourcing and scour ring for products to sell just to even feel normal, seven days a week, 365days of the year, year in and year out, decade to decade, no birthdays, no Christmas days. I’m not picturing it, can you??? Take a big pause my friends, ah, if only 1/4 of us addicts (junkies – that’s how he likes to refer to them) could have lived the life of a professional addict like Terry Good. All the while maintaining one's dignity with a home, a job, a car, the pets, not to mention the legitimate shopping once a week – ah Terry Good, if only just to shop legitimately for one day - even just to purchase a razor once without having to rip of a bar code. If only it were so easy. I never thought that going to jail or stealing was a prerequisite to be considered a “real addict”. Most of the addicts I have met are not homeless and many have jobs. Some are on the dole, some are professionals, some are criminals and some are tradespeople. Some live with mum and dad, some move between friends and some are married with children. Some are young and some are old. The only constant is the lack of guidelines on who becomes an addict.
It seems Darren has a problem with anyone who didn’t fall as far as he did and like any self respecting, street tough, knockabout lad and footy player turned junkie, he rubbishs anyone who is educated or has not had to deal with life on the streets. The problem is he is wrong. I have been to jail, I have stolen and cheated, I have lived recklessly and I am not educated. My street days are in the past and my blog starts well after that. The irony of Darren’s assertions is that he had what many addicts don’t have - support from their family. When he received the the Pride of Australia Medal 2007 - Role Model, Darren dedicated his medal to his mother, Maureen Marton. She said, "I never gave up on him" which is good for Darren but someone cynical could say that he didn’t do it tough because he always had his family to fall back on. Of course this is ludicrous but so is saying that a heroin addict who functions adequately within society is somehow not a real junkie.
I think Terry Good’s mind has been open for far too long and it needs to be closed for renovations. He is obviously another academia educated beyond his intelligence.
I am flattered. To be called “another academia educated beyond his intelligence”, pleases me greatly. You see, I left school when I was 15. It wasn’t until I was about 20 years old that I discovered work as a way out of a directionless existence. I worked my way up through the financial markets as a clerk and ended up being a money market dealer for one of the big banks. I then worked in various industries over the years until eventually I started my own business which was growing quite nicely including several employees. Then my wife died suddenly and I turned to heroin. The next 8 - 9 years were hell and included all the juicy bits that would make Darren proud. I got to achieve success in my career through hard work and determination, not because of my education. If that makes me sound ‘educated’, that’s a bonus. I find it bizarre that Darren Marton can criticise me for this. To pull myself out of a glut and try to make the best of a bad situation. To be fair to Darren, he didn’t read enough of my site to know my history but there also lies the problem. Darren’s side of the drug debate often don’t get all the facts and are prepared to make wild accusations to suit their argument and get their point across. Reading through Darren’s response, you will also see the contempt for research and facts that tear at his strategies and the mocking of academia and science as some sort of evil, reminiscent of the religious argument against evolution vs. creationism. I don’t doubt Darren’s motives but having gone to the DFA school of propaganda, I feel his mission might be somewhat askew.
The rest of Darren’s reply is pointless. It is all based on the usual misconception that anyone pro-Harm Minimisation or anti-prohibition wants an open market for the sale of drugs. I have never once suggested that heroin should be sold freely to the public. I am opposed to that idea but Darren again assumes something without knowing the facts.
It’s all well and good to have all the answers there squire – but where’s the plan on how Terry Good is going to implement it all and save the lives of all the worlds junkies. I have been around long enough now to learn all the academia jargon Terry Good – document the deliverables, client centered approaches, and my favorite, EVIDENCE BASED OUTCOMES!!! Come on Terry, you can do it. You know the score, 96% of all us know that 69% of all evaluations are made up on the spot. You’ve got the upper hand my friend. Just smudge and fudge. Come on – you can do it.
Like the argument many centuries ago that the earth was flat or the creationist dogma still going on today, science is ridiculed by those who are threatened by it. For example, the statement “96% of all us know that 69% of all evaluations are made up on the spot”. Funnily enough, it reminds me of another observation - 88% of percentages are made up. Darren’s brainwashing from DFA obscures the fact that his argument against Harm Minimisation is actually the argument used against his cohorts. They are constantly accused of referring to junk science using useless statistics in an effort to appear legitimate. Harm Minimisation supporters, on the other hand, base their arguments on evidence and well established research but when it doesn’t suit the anti-drug zealots, it magically becomes “academia jargon”.
My challenge to you Terry Good is! Can you please document for us, the public, a 2 to 5 year strategic plan with all of your aims and objectives on how you’re going to legalise and administer heroin please. Just post it on your website, come on, it’s not that hard. You’ve posted that many things on your web site most would think you wouldn't have trouble posting a letter to Santa by the looks of it, and Santa actually even replying to it.
This is the first time I have been criticised for having too much content!
Who will administer the heroin TERRY GOOD? The government sector or the private sector? Who decides on the level of dose TERRY GOOD? Will it be the client's just like the methadone program? At what age will the criteria be set to for perspective uses to engage in heroin use TERRY GOOD? Come on TERRY GOOD – SHOW US THE PLAN. P.S If you were to accept the challenge to which I doubt, don’t let it take up to much of your time though mate. You have to work remember whilst all the time managing to keep your web site ticking over, which looks like to the average punter it would take probably 5 of Bill Gates best just to keep it ticking over for a week. Go figure!!!
There are several references to the time I spend on this site and the amount of content being excessive. If I compare my site to other blogs that I often read, I have less content on average. There are millions of bloggers who have a lot more content than me which raises the issue of Darren’s ability to intake information. If my site is overdone with content, how the hell would he go reading a government enquiry or research papers? Maybe it’s because it has too many hard words and not enough pretty pictures or because Darren’s blog only had one article, 13 comments, included the word “mate” 14 times and lasted about 2 hours. More importantly it again raises the issue of being criticised for achieving something. I might understand if The Australian Heroin Diaries was accused of lacking substance or not being maintained adequately but to be criticised (wrongly) for having too much content is bizarre. Do I spend too much time writing? That’s debatable but you would have to include a million or so bloggers as well. I wonder if regularly talking to school kids and filling their heads with misinformation is a bigger waste of time?
P.S.S.TERRY Don’t forget to feed the pets. TERRY,GET OFF THE COMPUTER. Terry you’re neglecting the pets. GET OFF THE COMPUTER. NOW! And feed the pets.
I don’t know what to make of this one. I think it’s humour like calling me “Terry Good”. Maybe it’s an in-joke between Darren and himself?
Darren Marton
Correct. You spelt your name right.