Monday, 30 November 2009

WHAT?!!! ... Another Dickhead Lib from WA

This is getting monotonous! As I was reading through the Kings Cross Times, I discovered yet another idiotic comment from a WA Liberal Party politician. The Hon. Nick Goiran MLC, member for the South Metropolitan Region has replied to a letter from a concerned citizen about the proposed legislation to repeal the Cannabis Control Act 2003. Whilst reading the reply, I couldn’t help but wonder if this guy actually knew what he was writing about. Apart from sounding like a media release, I realised that every point he raised was untrue. How could such a thing happen in 2009? Was he fabricating the whole letter or simply so stupid, he didn’t know any better? Either way, it’s another clear example of how so many public officials are not fit to hold office and represent the people.

Reply from WA politician Hon Nick Goiran MLC to a letter re repeal of the Cannabis Control Act 2003:

21 October 2009

Dear Mr X

CANNABIS CONTROL ACT 2OO3

Thank you for your letter regarding Premier Colin Barnett's announcement to introduce legislation to repeal the Cannabis Control Act 2003.

The State Government recognises that illicit drug use is a significant problem which affects the lives of users, their families, friends and the wider WA community and cannabis-related legislation is sending a clear anti-drugs message to the community.

Research shows that cannabis use can lead to a mass of health and mental health problems including respiratory problems and cancer risk, abnormalities in reproductive functioning and schizophrenia.
Drugs are an insidious threat to the fabric of our society. l have personally seen how people are enslaved, threatened and exploited because of drug debts and addiction. Illegal drugs ruin lives, shatter families and can create a downfall on our community foundation. We should seek to protect our fellow West Australians and these initiatives will crackdown on the plague of illicit drugs in our State.

From what you have written, you support a policy of 'Harm Minimisation'- a strategy to ameliorate the adverse consequences of drug use while drug use continues. I firmly believe that harm minimisation strategies communicate a message condoning drug use, a message I do not espouse. Furthermore, in my view harm minimisation strategies have been an abject failure.

Accordingly, l strongly support the Premier's announcement and the use of criminal law to deter drug use and look forward to voting in favour of the proposed legislation.

Yours sincerely

Hon Nick Goiran MLC

Member for the South Metropolitan Region

The letter opens with the standard claim that they are sending a message to the community that drugs are dangerous. Only those who are already anti-drugs ever take notice of an anti-drugs message e.g. parents, anti-drug groups, fellow politicians and moral crusaders. To the rest of us, the message is clear ... more wasted money, more useless dribble and more mindless policies.

Goiran then explains to Mr X that research has shown that cannabis use can lead to a “mass” of health and mental health problems. They include respiratory problems and cancer risk, abnormalities in reproductive functioning and schizophrenia. Not a whole lot of problems compared to other dangerous drugs like alcohol or crack. Where’s the addiction, damage to vital organs, psychosis, overdose and death? The listed problems reek like an extract from a NCPIC brochure or a Daily Telegraph article that exagerate the effects using worst case scenarios. The letter conveniently ignores the fact that most cannabis users are very moderate users and rarely have cannabis health problems.

The list of health and mental health problems:

Respiratory problems: Hasn’t Nick heard of vaporisers or consuming something orally? As for the average cannabis smoker who maybe smokes a few times a week, the intake of smoke is tiny.

Cancer risk: I assume that Nick means Lung cancer? I say that because cannabis is showing that it actual helps prevent some cancers.
A major 2006 study compared the effects of tobacco and Cannabis smoke on the lungs. The outcome of the study showed that even very heavy cannabis smokers "do not appear to be at increased risk of developing lung cancer," while the same study showed a twenty-fold increase in lung cancer risk for tobacco smokers who smoked two or more packs of tobacco cigarettes a day. It is known that Cannabis smoke, like all smoke, contains carcinogens and thus has a probability of triggering lung cancer. THC, unlike nicotine, is thought to "encourage aging cells to die earlier and therefore be less likely to undergo cancerous transformation."
-Wikipedia

Abnormalities in reproductive functioning:
The effects of cannabis on reproductive functioning are uncertain. The claim that cannabis impairs male and female reproductive functioning in humans has very little support in the scientific world. Although it is wise for pregnant women to abstain from using most drugs, the bulk of scientific evidence indicates that cannabis has very few adverse effects on the developing fetus.

Schizophrenia: Sorry Nick but cannabis doesn’t usually cause schizophrenia for the average user but might bring it on in those who have a family history of mental illness. The police would have to stop 40,000 average cannabis users from ever using again to prevent one case of schizophrenia in those who have no links to the illness.

Following on, Goiran explains that “drugs are an insidious threat to the fabric of our society” and claims he has observed for himself “how people are enslaved, threatened and exploited because of drug debts and addiction”. What he leaves out is that the proposed laws will only make matters worse. But annoying things like facts are not a problem for Goiran and he proudly declares that “I strongly support the Premier's announcement and the use of criminal law to deter drug use”. In one sentence, Goiran dismisses years of careful research and precise scientific studies and overrides it with his own Drugs are Bad, mmkay stupidity.

If there is any doubt left that the Hon. Nick Goiran is as thick as Colin Barnett’s forehead, then this statement will remove all doubt:
Furthermore, in my view harm minimisation strategies have been an abject failure
-The Hon. Nick Goiran MLC

It may only be his view but this man is supposed to represent the public. Making ridiculous comments like this is unacceptable and just further proof that Western Australia is packed with Liberal Party dickheads. And I mean dickheads of the highest degree. Harm Minimisation saves thousands of lives and gives hope and some much needed respect to those who have a drug problem. It’s success has been hailed around the world as more and more countries adopt it as official drug policy. I would love to know why it has failed? Stating that “I firmly believe that harm minimisation strategies communicate a message condoning drug use” might help explain Goiran’s logic or lack thereof. Not being able to understand the subtlety between condoning drug use and accepting the reality that people have and always will use drugs regardless of laws, highlights serious incompetence for someone in Goiran’s position. In fact, it’s a disgrace. If Nick Goiran was employed by the private sector, he would promptly be sacked and his reputation shredded. If ever a wrong message was being sent to our kids then this is it - the facts aren’t important for political decisions. The WA Libs have a history of pumping out anti-drug rhetoric which is always void of the truth and evidence. From ‘Dippy’ Donna Faragher to Luke Simpkins, from Christian Porter to the Premier himself, the spin is thick and the bullshit aplenty.

I can understand how some governments might overlook scientific research and evidence but to make contrary claims by lying is abhorrent. Remember British scientist, Prof. David Nutt who was sacked as head of the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) for telling the truth? The furore that followed had many hammering the government for ignoring scientific evidence about drugs and instead using the drug scheduling list for political means. The UK government reclassified cannabis from a class C drug back up to class B citing potency and mental health problems as the main reasons. The problem was, the ACMD had researched these issues and found them to have little effect on the nation and that harsher laws would be no deterrent at all. Does all this sound familiar? Maybe like Colin Barnett repealing the state’s cannabis laws for dubious, political reasons? Watch the clip below and note how many lies are told by Barnett which are then debunked by a medical expert.




How could someone stare into a camera and just blurt out so much crap? Surely they know that any claims can be checked by viewers within minutes? Any normal person would cringe and then apologise for being so arrogant and uninformed but the Barney Rubble look-a-like just marches on like a lobotomised lemming. A comedy writer could have a field day with this - a cross between Yes Minister, The Office, The Hollowmen and The Flintstones.

The days are over where we took for granted what an elected government told us. It ended when modern conservatives like neocons and the rabid right took power in the 1970s to the 1990s. They believe it’s okay to lie to the people if it’s in their best interest and helps achieve the government’s agenda. But those policies based on Game Theory didn’t factor in the internet giving access to so much factual information. Are Barnett and co. so delusional that they still believe the public will accept their views as gospel if they lie? Or are they just luddites that got lucky?

The Kings Cross Times that originally printed the letter from Nick Goiran also mentioned that a mystery female WA Liberal MP and a cohort were rude to retired Seattle police commissioner Dr Norm Stamper, who was visiting Australia for a series of speeches on drug prohibition. An article by Dr Stamper in the Huffington Post wrote about being ambushed by this mystery MP before even walking through the front door for a prearranged meeting. According to Dr Stamper, he was berated and talked down to while the MP and cohort continually interrupted to “educate” him about how dangerous he was to Western Australia. Imagine what Dr Stamper thought when some rabid right-wing redneck was telling him, a retired police commissioner and ex drug cop, about the drug situation and how wrong he is. Hmph! Those crazy WA Libs!

Some final questions: I wonder what Dr Mal Washer, the Liberal MP for Moore, thinks of all this? After all, he is one of the Co-Chairs of the Australian Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform. I wonder if all the WA Libs think the same way? The whole party can’t be that stupid ... can they? And finally: how are tougher cannabis laws going to reduce the state’s drug problem. Only 3% of cannabis users come in contact with the law and we know that harsher penalties doesn’t deter drug use. Why don’t the WA Libs comprehend this when the rest of the world are wising up?

Related Articles:
Cannabis/Schizophrenia Link 'Minimal' -- UK Study
WA Do Not Want Tougher Cannabis Laws from 1981
The Final Proof - Colin Barnett is a Dickhead
Do Dickhead Politicians Grow on Trees in WA?
Drug Bins in WA Brings Out the Nutters
The Liberal Party on Drugs
WA Liberals - Drug Policy Blues
WA Liberals Become Even Sillier



Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Q & A: Mr. Tony Trimingham

Name: Tony Trimingham

Role: Chief Executive Officer, Family Drug Support
Date: January 2009

Tony Trimingham is a busy man. Too busy for questionnaires like this. But after several attempts and some selfish pleading, Tony finally gave in. Why would someone like Tony Trimingham use the very limited free time he has to answer questions about his profession? You would think that being one of Australia’s most public and active drug treatment professionals, it would leave him little or no time for a small blog like The Australian Heroin Diaries. But that’s Tony Trimingham for you. For years, Tony has supported the families of drug users who are so often overlooked in the treatment of drug addiction. His wisdom and compassion is legendary as is his relentless call for drug law reform and for the full implementation of Harm Minimisation policies. So what’s one little Q and A to fill out during dinner at 11.00pm when you get home from work on Sunday night?

About Tony Trimingham
Mr Trimingham established the Damien Trimingham Foundation after the death of his son from a drug overdose. A counsellor for twenty years, Mr Trimingham has assisted many families who are affected by illicit drug use. The Foundation’s working project, ‘Family Drug Support’ runs a 24hr help line, support meetings and has produced a Parent Education Kit for families with drug problems. The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia awarded Mr Trimingham an Australia Day Medallion in 1999 for outstanding achievement in the reduction of alcohol and drug-related harm.
[source: ANCD]



QUESTIONS:

Family Drug Support has some conflicting views with most abstinence only drug treatment centres? Do you find many potential members who disagree with the FDS supporting such strategies as drug decriminalisation and heroin assisted treatment (HAT)?
Families often start the journey in a controlling way and often take a hardline. Over time they often realise this is counter productive and can lead to harm.

So most of the family members we talk to over time support harm reduction strategies. You sometimes meet someone who’s locked themselves into a hardline position early on and it then becomes difficult for them to change direction.

Are your members from a wide cross section of society?
Our members come from every part of Australia, outback towns to suburban cities. They come from all economic, ethnic, religious and philosophical groups. However, it is true to say that most of the people who contact us are female (80%) most of them mothers (60%) and there are more Anglo, educated, middle class people then others. It is a challenge to reach across the barriers and reach the ones we don’t get.

Was it difficult to write your book, Not My Family, Never My Child?
Finding the time was the hardest.

Like you, South Australian anti-drug crusader and politician, Anne Bressington lost a child to drugs but she took a completely different approach towards drug policy and treatment. What are your thoughts?
Anne Bressington initially supported drug law reform and I had a constructive relationship with her, I don’t know why she changed – although I have some theories.

Do you feel it’s someone’s right to take illicit drugs?
Humans have the right to do many risky things in life and drug taking (especially illicit) is risky. While I do not condone or endorse drug taking I understand that people like doing it. With this right comes responsibility – especially to those close to them and the community at large.

Do you think a recreational drug user has many obstacles to living a normal productive life compared to someone who completely abstains?
A recreational drug user has human rights and I agree their lives should be productive and healthy. The drug user faces challenges caused by stigma and negative attitudes to drugs. Unfortunately this is a reality and families also face some of these challenges.

Some member of Drug Free Australia (DFA) say ex-addicts especially those on heavy medication like methadone don’t have a place discussing addiction treatment. Are the correct?
Organisations like Drug Free Australia look at drug use in the way they view other complexities of life – from a moral and religious viewpoint. They are entitled to their opinion but often morality takes over from evidence. When they express their often noisy opinions those of us who do operate from compassionate logic need to counter their moral argument.

Other Opiate Maintenance Treatments (OMT) in use or on trial in Europe, Canada and the U.K. have had very successful results. Should other forms of OMT be trailed in Australia like slow release oral morphine, Injectable hydromorphone, dihydrocodeine and prescription heroin?
I have always been a supporter of other maintenance treatments – the best possible being heroin – but recognise that this should not be for everyone and other treatments have their place. I would be supportive of most treatments that have produced evidence of benefit – on a trial basis.

You have very strong views about drug policy. Do you feel the government listens to your advice?
Governments do not do what I would like but I like to think that my voice – representing families – does contribute to their thinking – along with other valid voices in the drug and alcohol sector.

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 Rudd government has said very little so far on illicit drugs – he’s opposed to their strong views on alcohol. We remain to see how evidence based their policies will be.

Does religion have a place in drug policy or treatment?
Drug policy or treatment or in fact any health policy should not be governed by religious views. Everyone can comment but only firm evidence should govern policy.

Do you have any predictions for the future of Australia’s drug policy?
I have a strong optimism that the next couples of generations will produce sensible drug policy reform. My guess is that eventually we will see regulated supply of most drugs but I don’t think this will happen in my lifetime.

Bronwyn Bishop chaired an enquiry called the Impact of Illicit Drug Use On Families which you were involved in. The enquiry produced a report called The Winnable War on Drugs. What did you think of it?
Rubbish – the whole thing was biased from the start, only selected individuals were taken seriously (the nutters). Attacks on very good people were common and outrageous and the labor members of that committed were piss weak

Do you feel frustrated by the public’s ignorance regarding drug myths and their willingness to accept misinformation from the government and media outlets?
I think the public are more sensible on drug issues than most people imaging. There is still a lot of denial and stigma but on the whole I think people are quite pragmatic.

Do you think the general public understand what Harm Minimisation is?
I think they are confused because of government rhetoric. Our policy is confusing because basically it is prohibition with a dash of harm reduction and is very unbalanced. We could have better education campaigns to inform the public about the logic of the policy.

South Australia banned drug paraphernalia and rejected a call to test MDMA for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Were these good decisions?
These are retrograde steps and it is very sad that South Australia is heading in this direction.

The Western Australian government is about to repeal their current cannabis laws. Is this a good idea?
These are retrograde steps and it is very sad the Western Australia is heading in this direction.

What do think of politicians being labelled ‘Soft on Drugs’ when they suggest alternatives to current drug strategies?
Politicians have to have knowledge about a wide range of issues and they cannot be expert on everything. Those who show interest in any issue should have their views respected. Politicians generally are poorly educated on drug issues.

Finally, if you were Prime Minister Tony Trimingham and you could change one law relating to drugs or drug treatment, what would it be?
A big question but a broad brush would be to regulate the supply of most drugs

RELATED ARTICLES:
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: Gino Vumbaca - Executive Director of the Australian National Council on Drugs
Q and A: Sandra Kanck - Former South Australian MLC. South Australia spokesperson for Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform (FFDLR)




Monday, 23 November 2009

Harsher Cannabis Laws Means Higher User Rates

As the debate rages on about cannabis, we learn once again that tough drug laws have no effect on consumption rates. The latest report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction shows that The Netherland’s recent cannabis use is just 5.4% whilst the European average is 6.8%. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada come in at over 8%. The world average is 3.9%. I’m not sure why they don’t have exact percentages for Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada. According to the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, Australia’s recent use was 9.1% which many feel is understated. Asking the public to admit to drug use while the Howard government was busy spending $millions trying to convince us that dope smokers are losers and are being targeted for arrest might have something to do with it. The 2008 official figures for the US is from SAMHSA and has recent use(12-65) at 10.3%.

These figures again raise the question ... why are some politicians pushing for harsher cannabis laws?

Note: Recent use refers to the previous 12 months.


Dutch Among Lowest Cannabis Users In Europe
Reuters
November 2009

AMSTERDAM - The Dutch are among the lowest users of marijuana or cannabis in Europe despite the Netherlands' well-known tolerance of the drug, according to a regional study published on Thursday. Among adults in the Netherlands, 5.4 percent used cannabis, compared with the European average of 6.8 percent, according to an annual report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, using latest available figures.

A higher percentage of adults in Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic and France took cannabis last year, the EU agency said, with the highest being Italy at 14.6 percent. Usage in Italy used to be among the lowest at below 10 percent a decade ago.

Countries with the lowest usage rates, according to the Lisbon-based agency, were Romania, Malta, Greece and Bulgaria.

Cannabis use in Europe rose steadily during the 90s and earlier this decade, but has recently stabilised and is beginning to show signs of decline, the agency said, owing to several national campaigns to curb and treat use of the drug.

"Data from general population and school surveys point to a stabilising or even decreasing situation," the report said.

The policy on soft drugs in the Netherlands, one of the most liberal in Europe, allows for the sale of marijuana at "coffee shops", which the Dutch have allowed to operate for decades, and possession of less than 5 grams (0.18 oz).

Nearly a fifth of the 228 coffee shops in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam, a popular draw for tourists, are scheduled to be shut down because they are too close to schools.

The full report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction is available at r.reuters.com/vef87f



Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sophie Mirabella - Another “Tough on Drugs” Looney Lib

They’re at it again.
This is where Labor’s rhetoric once again diverges from reality. Despite declaring a pre-election “war on drugs” in 2007, the Rudd Government has largely abandoned the “Tough on Drugs” initiative that was so successful under the Howard Government.
-Sophie Mirabella - The Punch

Oh dear, those silly Libs. Always harping on about someone being “Soft on Drugs” or how the Howard government was so successful at fighting the drug scourge while the Rudd government is doing nothing.
Funding has been cut for both the Tough on Drugs initiative and the Customs and border protection services that so effectively prevented tonnes of dangerous drugs from being imported and getting to our streets.
-Sophie Mirabella - The Punch

Yes, I remember the success. Like the heroin epidemic that Howard proudly announced was beaten with help from the Australian Federal Police (AFP). At the time, heroin use did drop significantly in Australia and there was plenty of back patting and victory speeches. Amazingly, Howard’s “Tough on Drugs” policy was also working overseas and countries like Australia who were supplied heroin by Burma had a record drop in heroin use. Simply amazing! Several years later though, AFP head, Mick Kelty dropped a bombshell and explained that Burma and other S.E. Asia crime syndicates had switched to methamphetamines(ice) and ditched their heroin business. Oops. Just to rub it in, it was later revealed that the use of ice had been growing for the previous 5 years and peaked around the time the government announced that methamphetamines were starting to become a problem in Australia. By the time the media and government started screaming “Ice Epidemic”, methamphetamine use had already started to decline. The short story being that whilst the Howard government was busy taking credit for something they didn’t do, ice had slipped in unnoticed ... all on their watch.

Since the Rudd government took over, the “Tough on Drugs” campaign has taken a back seat while they focus on a much bigger problem called alcohol. This is driving the Libs crazy as they had previously defended the massive alcohol industry although it causes much more carnage on Australia than illicit drugs ever will. Sussan Ley, Jamie Briggs, Mathias Cormann, Colin Barnett, Christian Porter, Barry O'Farrell etc. have all had a go at the Rudd government for not being “Tough on Drugs”. Joining this groups of desperates is Sophie Mirabella, Liberal Party Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare, Women & Youth. Although Sophie Mirabella is already well known as a twat, she confirmed it by writing a piece for The Punch last week. In her article, she attacked Rudd and co. for being “Soft on Crime” highlighting how they have neglected to follow up the success of the Howard government and their “Tough on Drugs” policy. Well, here’s the thing Sophie ... “Tough on Drugs” doesn’t work. When you say “Soft on Drugs”, you mean being sensible, rational and following the facts. You mean reconsidering a failed policy that has cost millions of lives around the world. You mean breaking away from the US centric "War on Drugs" that has cursed that country into having the largest rate of drug users on the planet. Like I commented on the The Punch site - “But there’s the catch. If they really believe the propaganda they spin to the public then they are dumb as a hammer but if they are rational thinking adults and know it’s not true, then they are liars. Any guesses?”. My guess is that you know damn well what’s happening but you can’t get your head around addiction being a medical issue. You see drug use as immoral except for that most dangerous of drugs, alcohol. You think we are simply not tough enough on drug users and a worldwide concerted effort will produce a drug free world. Like most nutters from the far right, you accept druggies dying or being wrongly imprisoned as an unfortunate side effect of maintaining public morality. Yes, the quest for a perfect society that gave us Hitler, apartheid, jail for homosexuals, the over throwing of democratically elected governments, the loss of civil rights, a massive prison population, the stolen generation, rampant corruption and of course, the "War on Drugs". In your world Sophie, there’s no room for science or compassion if it interferes with conservative values.
At the Annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in March this year, our “tough” Government actually protested that the term “harm reduction” had been pointedly excluded from a political declaration – effectively betraying Labor’s real “soft on drugs” approach and putting us at odds with our traditional ally, the US.
-Sophie Mirabella - The Punch

Mirabella’s latest rant in The Punch is straight from a neocon handbook. It’s probably called How To Win Friends And Influence People (Using Fear & Lies). Neocons believe it’s okay to lie to the public if it’s in the best interest of the country and Mirabella wants to determine what that is. Who cares if it ruins lives? Who cares if it doesn’t work? And why would Mirabella criticise the government for wanting the term Harm Reduction included in the UN’s official drug policy? It is after all, part of Harm Minimisation which is Australia’s official drug policy. The reason is simple. The US have a Zero Tolerance policy for drugs and it was them who pressured the UN not to include the term Harm Reduction. As a neocon, Sophie believes the US is the motherland spreading law& order, freedom & democracy, free markets and capitalism, Christianity, family values & moral direction. There’s no place for Harm Minimisation in a US inspired world.

The "War on Drugs" has failed miserably but there are many Australian politicians who still want Australia to adopt more of the US Zero Tolerance policy. Funny enough, we actually do base most of our drug strategies on the US model with a dash of Harm Reduction. The call for tougher drug sentencing is purely political. Why would we want more of the US Zero Tolerance policy when the US has the highest level of drug use per capita in the world? Is this the “success” we want? Do we want 1 in 37 citizens in the criminal system like the US? Do we want special armed forces shooting innocent bystanders in the crossfire with drug gangs? Do we want millions of people unable to get decent jobs or receive government aid just because they once smoked pot? This is the reality of Sophie Mirabella’s suggestions but there’s no room for such inconvenient truths when you are busy spinning the “Tough on Drugs” line.
The link between illicit drug use and crime is well established and is described as “mutually reinforcing”. So if the Labor Government is tough on crime, as Minister Gillard declared, there’s a clear imperative that it also be tough on drugs.
-Sophie Mirabella - The Punch

On a final note, Sophie’s rant includes a classic anti-drug tactic that is rarely challenged by anyone - the reverse link. Making the connection between illicit drugs and crime is simple enough. You take something that is very popular like drugs and ban them. Huge demand creates extremely inflated prices and since some drugs are highly addictive, users have to regularly resort to crime to pay for them. Because they are banned and with so much money involved, the black market attracts organised crime who run the industry using violence and fear. This is called prohibition. For some reason, there are those who get it mixed up and say that the effect of drugs themselves cause users to delve into crime. Like a group of friends sitting around having a joint when suddenly one of them announces that she is going to become a dealer in illegal firearms. There is a good minute of silence before it sinks in. Under the influence of drugs, others soon declare their intentions for a criminal career as well. A bank robber, a credit card scammer and 2 car thieves. Incredible! But that’s drugs for you.

Tough On Crime Is An Empty Slogan For ALP
The Punch
by Sophie Mirabella
November 2009

The ability of Prime Minister Rudd and his Government to “talk tough” has never been in question. It’s the one thing Labor actually do well.

Remember that first heady year in office when they declared a war on virtually everything – from childhood obesity and whaling, to banker’s salaries, unemployment and even the global financial crisis itself?
Conveniently, the rhetoric has never had to bear resemblance to reality.

Julia Gillard talked tough during her faux stoush with the Unions, while at the same time delivering them unprecedented power and access in the workplace.

Wayne Swan solemnly warned of a “tough budget for tough times” before he delivered one of the biggest spending budgets in our nation’s history.

Kevin Rudd seriously claimed his changes to border security were “tough”, while at the same time creating a situation where the people smugglers are clearly back in business with a record number of illegal boats bobbing in Australian waters.

Heck, the rhetoric can even swing a full 360 degrees to suit the mood – declaring oneself an economic conservative one year, and writing a long treatise on the evils of capitalism the next.

No problem. Whatever suits perceived changes in the tide of public opinion. Whatever gets airplay. Or whatever suits as a distraction from other government failures.

The Prime Minister is currently “spinning” in India, where, just a few weeks back, Julia Gillard spent five days trying to reassure worried Indian families that Australia was a safe place, following violent incidents involving Indian students studying in Australia.

Ms Gillard declared that the Australian Government was tough on crime, adding: “We have zero tolerance towards any violence towards Indian students, any violence at all in our country.”

If only that was the case.

Just this week, in the Annual Report of the Office of Public Prosecutions, the Senior Prosecutor in Victoria Jeremy Rapke QC, accused the State’s judges of lenient sentencing, particularly in drug cases. In so many cases, these Judges have been appointed by Ms Gillard’s Labor colleagues.

Rapke rightly pointed out that the penalties imposed by Courts in drug cases continue to be inadequate having regard to the insidious effect drugs have on society and said that sentences should reflect “the huge public disquiet about the prevalence of drugs”.

The link between illicit drug use and crime is well established and is described as “mutually reinforcing”. So if the Labor Government is tough on crime, as Minister Gillard declared, there’s a clear imperative that it also be tough on drugs.

This is where Labor’s rhetoric once again diverges from reality. Despite declaring a pre-election “war on drugs” in 2007, the Rudd Government has largely abandoned the “Tough on Drugs” initiative that was so successful under the Howard Government.

Funding has been cut for both the Tough on Drugs initiative and the Customs and border protection services that so effectively prevented tonnes of dangerous drugs from being imported and getting to our streets.

At the Annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in March this year, our “tough” Government actually protested that the term “harm reduction” had been pointedly excluded from a political declaration – effectively betraying Labor’s real “soft on drugs” approach and putting us at odds with our traditional ally, the US.

When it comes to being “tough on crime”, Labor’s own policy platform also betrays them, with Chapter 7 declaring “Labor will promote the principles of restorative justice as a just and effective way to be tough on crime.”

Restorative justice? What exactly is that? A core principle in restorative justice is to “balance offender needs, victim needs and the needs of the community as well” (Bazemore and Umbreict 1995).

Note the “offenders needs” are pretty high up on that list. And that’s the sticking point.

At its best, restorative justice gives victims of crime a voice. That’s a good thing. For first offences and petty crimes it is a method of dispute resolution that can be effective if both parties enter into the process with good will.

But more and more often the principle is being applied to serious criminal behaviour.

For judges who philosophically support restorative justice that often means keeping an offender out of jail wherever possible…the theory being that they are unable to “make amends” if confined in prison.

This is an approach pretty much at odds with the “do the crime, do the time” deterrent to criminal behaviour which has long underpinned the system and reflects the sentiment of most of the Australian community.

But leniency and the philosophical belief that “offender needs” must be considered in sentencing mean we continue to see many cases where the time simply does not fit the crime. Nor does it reflect community standards and expectations.

Many Judges, like the Labor Party itself, see the principles of restorative justice as the most “just and effective” approach. That’s certainly debatable – and I don’t have the space in this column to go into all the pros and cons. But one thing restorative justice couldn’t be described as is “tough”.

So how can Labor claim to be tough on crime when their party platform says the opposite? Moreover, and perhaps more significantly given our proud history of judicial independence, Labor are appointing more and more judges who conveniently share Labor’s “go soft” beliefs.

The Victorian State Attorney General Rob Hulls is a case in point. His appointments now make up half the State’s judiciary – among them two “Lawyers for Labor”, a former Labor candidate, and four senior officials from the left-leaning “Liberty Victoria”, along with many other “activist” Judges.

Without commenting on their individual qualifications, I do question whether their collective views are representative of mainstream values. I wonder if the balance is skewed.

As a Barrister myself, I believe it’s important for the judiciary to maintain the confidence of the public by broadly reflecting the community’s concept of “justice”.

As outlined earlier, the Senior public prosecutor in Victoria also seems to think this is important.

As evidenced in some of his appointments, the Labor State Attorney General clearly does not.

Meanwhile, half a world away, our tough talking Labor Prime Minister continues to declare his Government is “tough on crime”.

Plenty of feel-good rhetoric, but reality will inevitably bite.


For some local insight into Sophie Mirabella, check out Ray Dixon’s Alpine Opinion.


Related Articles:
Sophie Mirabella, tough on crime, the war on drugs, blather about liberal softies, and a black dull Friday the 13th indee - Loon Pond
The Liberal Party on Drugs
Jamie Briggs - The MP Who Drank the Kool Aid with Lolly Water
Liberal Party Can't Shake Off Howard's Australia
The Unwinnable War On Dickheads



Thursday, 12 November 2009

Bipartisan Politicians Aim for Permanent Injection Centre in NSW

It would be safe to assume that when The Christian Democratic Party, Drug Free Australia (DFA), the right wing media and silly conservative politicians agree on a drug related initiative then we should probably take the opposite approach. Even more so when there is ample scientific evidence that the initiative is a success. For 8 years now, the NSW government has been stalling the decision to make the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) in Kings Cross permanent because of nutty, anti-drug warriors like DFA, John Howard, Fred Nile, Miranda Devine, Piers Akerman, Andrew Bolt, Peter Debnam, Christopher Pyne etc. But is that about to change? According to Andrew Potts of the Sydney Star Observer, there might be action on the horizon.


Political Support For Injecting Centre
By Andrew M Potts
Sydney Star Observer
November 2009

Politicians both state and federal and from across the political divide have come together to support a call to make the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) a permanent part of NSW Health’s response to drugs.

Members of the Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform gave their unanimous support for a motion in favour of the Centre moved by the federal Independent Member for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott.

“In accepting the valuable research and evaluation findings, this representative group of the members of Australian parliaments asks the NSW Government to expedite the end of the eight-year trial status of the MSIC and incorporate the centre and its service into the health programs delivered by NSW Health, due to the demonstrated benefits to individuals, families and the community,” the motion read.

“This is a cross-parliamentary, cross-party group that relies on an evidence-based approach to drug laws in Australia, not a sloganeering-based approach,” Oakeshott said.

“The overwhelming evidence from studies throughout the world tells us that supervised injecting facilities have been shown to reduce needle and syringe sharing, reduce sickness and death from drug overdose and increase uptake in drug treatment programs.”

Oakeshott said the Kings Cross centre has delivered a value to the surrounding area of over 30 times its running costs through reducing the associated harms of drug use.

“Perhaps of greatest significance is the finding that nearly three-quarters of residents and business operators in Kings Cross continue to support the Sydney MSIC,” he said.

The Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform will now seek meetings with Premier Nathan Rees and NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt, as well as NSW Liberals leader Barry O’Farrell.

O’Farrell has previously pledged to close the centre.

The Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform is co-chaired by the Liberals’ Dr Mal Washer and the Labor Member for Fowler, Julia Irwin.

In recent years The Daily Telegraph and abstinence-only drug group Drug-Free Australia have called for the centre’s closure.


Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Drug Madness Costs Decades of Research

For the last 100 years, politics, moral panic and special interest groups have shaped the world’s drug policies often leaving facts and science behind in the race for a drug free world. Just last week, Professor David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in the UK was sacked after he claimed that cannabis, ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than the legal drugs tobacco and alcohol. Professor Nutt, head of psychopharmacology at the University of Bristol has long been a critic of the UK drug scheduling list, often saying that drug policy is not based on science or research but political posturing. The current UK government is the countries first administration in power to ignore a report from the AMCD and implement contradicting recommendations. The science community is in an uproar that an independent scientific committee can have their chief scientist sacked for simply telling the truth that just happens to conflict with the government’s political position. Professor Nutt and his colleagues had previously initiated several government enquiries into drug policy but each one has been shut down by members of the government when it threatened their political position. The failure to class drugs appropriately might seem illogical or just a political game by dopey politicians but the real world carnage for users is life changing. With courts able to dish out some serious prison time, addicts, users and dealers face daily the possibility of spending decades behind bars. The effects are usually devastating on the families and friends involved.

Led by the US, the UN has constantly pushed all member countries to support and ratify treaties with more restrictive and harsher drug policies. This led to various treaties for different regions but they were eventually wrapped into The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs with The 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances following a decade later. The 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances later expanded the two existing treaties to better tackle global organised crime and place more pressure on consumer countries to arrest drug users and addicts instead of just the manufacturers, suppliers and dealers. Yes, you read that right ... a concerted effort to arrest more users and addicts.
... each Party shall adopt such measures as may be necessary to establish as a criminal offence under its domestic law, when committed intentionally, the possession, purchase or cultivation of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances for personal consumption contrary to the provisions of the 1961 Convention, the 1961 Convention as amended or the 1971 Convention.
-The 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances

The reliance on extreme and harsh punitive measures to manage drug policies has created a massive artificial, illegal industry worth $400 billion dollars a year. It also created a world living in fear. It started in the early 1900s when authorities arrested doctors who prescribed opiates for addiction and continued to the current day restrictions on medical research involving illicit drugs. Drugs that held great promise for various ailments were often forced unnecessarily onto the most dangerous list when they became popular for recreational use by the public. Doctors are hesitant to prescribe strong painkillers for fear of being targeted by the over zealous authorities. Substitution treatment for heroin addicts is limited to a few basic opioids as heroin assisted treatment (HAT) was deemed to breach UN drug treaties. Even medical marijuana has been ignored by most countries as decades of propaganda has tarnished it’s image as a dangerous drug.

Cannabis
Strangely enough, cannabis would have never been banned had the US congress accepted the advice of the American Medical Association(AMA) and not the racist views of Harry Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Anslinger hated Mexicans (who were the main users then) and had a lot of personal interest in banning marijuana. Incidentally, Anslinger had once claimed it’s use was harmless. Dr. William Woodward from the AMA also appeared in congress that day and contradicted every reason put forward by Anslinger for banning cannabis. But the chairman chose to read articles from the media as proof that cannabis was as dangerous as Anslinger claimed. Ironically, the beat-up in the media was the main issue raised by the AMA that said the US media was not basing their articles on any evidence whatsoever and none of their claims have ever been scrutinised by research. It’s worth noting that the owner of the newspapers that printed these stories was William Randolf Hearst who had huge financial interests in closing down the hemp industry. He was also a well known racist who hated Mexicans as much as Anslinger. After ignoring any science put forward by the AMA, the bill was passed. When the bill went to the floor of the house to be approved another incredible incident helped seal the fate of cannabis and hemp.
Member from upstate New York: “Mr. Speaker, what is this bill about?”

Speaker Rayburn: “I don’t know. It has something to do with a thing called marihuana. I think it’s a narcotic of some kind.”

Member from upstate New York: “Mr. Speaker, does the American Medical Association support this bill?”

Member on the committee jumps up and says: “Their Doctor Wentworth(Woodward) came down here. They support this bill 100 percent.”

And on the basis of that lie, on August 2, 1937, marijuana became illegal at the federal level.

-Why is Marijuana Illegal? - Drug War Rant

Although 15 states in the US now support medical marijuana which treats millions of patients, it is still listed as a schedule I drug.
Schedule I Drug:
(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States
(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

As you can see, points B and C simply do not apply to cannabis. This is an example of how outdated and obsolete that drug scheduling is in it’s current form. Since drug laws and punishment are usually based on scheduling a huge array of issues are distorted including crime, sentencing and research.

Although cannabis is classed as having “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” , there are many claims about it being a miracle treatment for all sorts of conditions, including cancer. From Ricky Simpson to Harvard University, claims of cannabis fighting cancer cells or even being a cure have been circulating since the 1960s. According to the BBC in their health section, cannabis helps reduce the side effects of chemotherapy by allowing patients to regain their appetite quickly and reduce nausea. For these reasons, it is also used for AIDS patients with Wasting Disease. Cannabis also helps treat multiple sclerosis, menstrual cramps, depression, mood disorders, glaucoma, asthma, strokes, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, alcoholism and insomnia. However, according to the BBC there are side effects and the “opponents of the use of cannabis” point out - it damages the ability to concentrate. If these “opponents of the use of cannabis” get their way, all the people suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis etc. can concentrate all the better on dying a slow, painful death.




Apart from marijuana, other drugs listed in the US as schedule I are heroin, mescaline, MDMA(ecstasy), GHB, LSD and psilocybin(magic mushrooms). You might notice that some of these drugs don’t fit the criteria very well especially point B that says, The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. MDMA, LSD and psilocybin were showing great potential when used during the 1960s and 1970s for various psychiatric studies and physiological therapy. But like all drugs that become popular for recreational use, they were quickly banned in a bid to protect the public from harming themselves. In their haste though, the science community were also mostly denied access to these drugs regardless of their potential medical use.
Prof Roland Griffiths at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore Maryland recently published a study of 36 healthy volunteers who were given psilocybin and then observed in the lab. The participants' ages ranged from 24 to 64 and none had taken hallucinogens before. When the group were interviewed again 14 months later 58% said they rated the experience as being among the five most personally meaningful of their lives, 67% said it was in their top five spiritual experiences, and 64% said it had increased their well-being or life satisfaction.
-The Guardian: Clinical Trials Test Potential Of Hallucinogenic Drugs To Help Patients With Terminal Illnesses


Prior to the popularity of these new hallucinogenic drugs for recreational use, they were considered to be cutting edge science. They helped scientists better understand the mind and how the brain works including the treatment of several conditions like alcoholism. The potential was exciting for the many scientists who were exposed to a whole new field and were able to treat patients that had not responded to previous treatments. But the rising use of these drugs for pleasure, especially LSD, was just too much for a conservative America and soon stories of people jumping out windows and crossing busy roads while “tripping” became urban myths. Hippies with long hair and other anti-establishment behaviour became the image embedded in the public’s mind when LSD or other hallucinogenic drugs were mentioned. Eventually the media and the government started questioning the safety of using these drugs for research with exaggerated stories of psychosis and other mental health problems. The truth is that these drugs are basically non toxic, non addictive and rarely have long term effects unless there is a pre-existing mental illness. All the success and potential didn’t matter though. They were seen as dangerous to society, immoral and a symbol of rebellious, anti-American youth.


MDMA
The story of how MDMA(ecstasy) became a schedule I drug is just one of the amazing examples of how obscure drug scheduling still is.
Most of the information available regarding street use of MDMA(in the 80s) is based on anecdotal accounts given to the media, therapists, and substance abuse professionals...
-Erowid (1987)

Without any qualified evidence, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defied medical research and used their emergency scheduling powers to temporarily make MDMA a Schedule I drug. Several medical professionals including pharmacology experts argued that a Schedule I status would severely hinder their research into MDMA's therapeutic potential. The science community appealed the emergency classification before the administrative law judge, Francis Young who recommended that MDMA be classed as a Schedule III drug. The DEA rejected the judge’s recommendation and MDMA was made a Schedule I drug permanently. Obviously the medical experts, researchers and scientists were wrong. God damn, even the judge was wrong.


MDMA - Another Case of Crack/Cocaine Disparity?
In response to a mandate from the US Congress and after weighing the views of the Justice Department, the US Sentencing Commission in 2001 increased the penalties for MDMA offences by nearly 3000%. This made the penalty for possessing 4 ecstasy pills the equivalent of having 1 kilogram of cannabis or 1 gram of heroin.
The change makes ecstasy five times more serious to possess or sell than heroin on a per-dose basis [...] This is a wholly political act, not one based on scientific evidence
-Edward Mallett - President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Opposing the new laws and armed with scientific evidence that MDMA was nowhere near the danger levels of heroin to both society and the user, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Federation of American Scientists called for a relaxing of the laws involving MDMA distribution, possession and use. They were ignored of course in what appears to be the new crack/cocaine disparity fiasco from the 80s.

The crack/cocaine disparity laws were introduced in 1986 by Ronald Reagan in response to the crack epidemic as exaggerated claims of “crack babies” and “instant addiction” hit the media. A mandatory five-year sentence was dished out to anyone caught with 5 grams or more of cocaine which meant crack users were jailed for a drug that was much heavier than it’s powder form. Incidentally, most crack users were African American and later Hispanics. The new laws copped plenty of criticism over the years for creating severe racial disparities in the prison system but for cocaine using middle America, it wasn’t their problem.
The mechanism is known as the "100-to-1 drug ratio," which gives crack cocaine 100 times the weight of powder cocaine. Under the ratio, a person convicted of selling five grams of crack — about the weight of a teaspoon of salt — triggers the same five-year mandatory minimum sentence as a person convicted of selling 500 grams of powder cocaine, roughly the weight of a loaf of bread.
-TIME. August 2009

I mentioned the crack/cocaine disparity as it is a clear example of how misguided drug laws can reap so much damage especially for minorities. What’s really interesting though is that the 2001 push for ecstasy offences to be increased so heavily coincide with a White House report showing an increase in use by minorities.
The availability of ecstasy increased dramatically and more blacks and Hispanics are using the drug
-White House Drug Policy Report

And then the crunch.
We never again want another 'crack epidemic' to blindside this nation
-Edward H. Jurith - Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

Is this a coincidence? A new drug policy that penalises by weight instead of dosage when the heaviest drug is being used increasingly by Blacks and Hispanics? It may sound somewhat like a conspiracy theory but since there was so much scientific evidence against these laws and with the history of US drug laws, I can’t help but wonder.

MDMA is now officially classed as having no medical value and too risky for research. How can such a potentially useful drug with a small but significant history of success suddenly be banned and placed onto the US schedule I list? How can they then increase penalties disproportionally to other drugs purely for political reasons? Is research using MDMA dead in the US?

Australia
The mere mention of street drugs sends shivers down the spine of most politicians. Unless they play the “Tough on Drugs” game, they risk the chance of being singled out as “Soft on Drugs” by the many anti-drug nutters in politics. Even those who aren’t zealots will still see it as an opportunity to attack their opposition and score political points. The sad part isn’t that it’s confined to just recreational drug use but also when these drugs are associated with medical procedures that they were originally developed for. Nothing highlights this more than when SA Attorney General, Michael Atkinson bucketed Democrat, Sandra Kanck when she suggested a study into MDMA as a possible treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome(PTSS). In a public dressing down, Atkinson said the Government would "not be supporting Sandra Kanck's latest rave" and "Vietnam Veterans are not laboratory mice for a left-wing social experiment". A year later the study was taken up by the Canadian government.

How can we forget John Howard who in August 1997, vetoed the proposed ACT heroin trial. Although the trial had support from the AMA, the medical community, both sides of parliament and most states, Howard claimed it 'sent the wrong message' and refused to sign off on the proposal wasting 6 years of careful scientific research. Importing heroin is controlled by the federal government and without their approval, the states could not source the drug from overseas. Prior to the proposed ACT heroin trials, Victorian premier, Jeff Kennett had commissioned Prof. David Pennington to report on Victoria’s drug laws. He also favoured a trial of prescription heroin and his report caught the attention of the US government. US president, Bill Clinton sent a few of his heavies to investigate the rumblings of a proposed heroin trial and Prof. Pennington was swiftly summoned to a meeting. The US and their staunch Zero Tolerance policy has dominated the UN drug offices since it’s inception. Any country that dared upset their moralist and anti-drug views were called into line very quickly often with threats. Unlike Switzerland that could run their own heroin trials without fear of US intervention, Australia had a lot under the control of the US/UN particularly, the Tasmanian poppy industry. The US goon squad made it clear that the UN run International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) managed Tasmania’s poppy production levels and a heroin trial was not welcomed by the US/UN. Although the proposed heroin trial was classed as “scientific research”, drug free rhetoric was more important to the US/UN and trumps any namby pamby scientific argument. It seems that the US not only prohibited drug research internally but in any country where they can extend their influence.

It is always sad when science is stymied by ideology, religion or ignorance. The US Bush administration and the Australian Howard government are 2 classic examples of this. During the Bush years, science was pushed aside for the religious convictions of the president and the religious right who supported him. In Australia around the same time, Bush crony, John Howard threatened non-government organisations(NGOs) and other groups who relied on government funding to submit all media releases before publishing them. It was the darkest period in Australia’s scientific history with a great number of important research studies being disregarded by our own government. Instead we were exposed to absolute tripe like The Bishop Report: “The Winnable War on Drugs” and government funded evangelistic groups like Drug Free Australia(DFA). The hardest hit were the NGOs who worked in welfare and of course were supporters of Harm Minimisation. Howard hated Harm Minimisation and even denied it was Australia’s official drug policy. A change of government was welcomed by the scientific community but they were soon faced with political reality when Kevin Rudd requested all media statements from government research groups be cleared with the Prime Minister’s office.

Hope?
Fortunately, the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs has a clause that allows some programs to be classed as “scientific research”. Although it doesn’t guarantee acceptance by the UN it is often used by countries that want to keep within UN guidelines and aren’t in the position of being threaten with a US embargo like Australia was with the Tasmanian poppy industry. The Netherlands heroin assisted treatment (HAT) program is still classified as “scientific research” and has to be renewed every few years. Also, the Dutch “coffee shops” that sell cannabis are still technically illegal which keeps them inside the UN guidelines but they choose to de-prioritise the laws under a “gedoogbeleid” or tolerance policy. Australia has the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) which conflicts with UN policy but since it’s classed as a “scientific trial” and the US hasn’t tried to intervene, it’s free to operate but still needs to be re-established every 4 years.

During the Bush years, Mexican president, Vincente Fox introduced a bill that would decriminalise small amounts of all drug. The bill was passed in the Mexican congress but after intense pressure from the US, president Fox vetoed his own bill. An almost identical bill was passed this year under different US and Mexican presidents. Is this a sign of change? Has the anti-drug madness of US presidents like Reagan, Clinton and Bush(Snr. & Jr.) been confined to the history books to haunt them forever? Is the UN’s lack of criticism for the new drug laws in Mexico and Portugal suggesting a rethink of drug policies? Is this a new era for science?

We have lost nearly 40 years of research and potential medical breakthroughs because of the elected twats we put in power, Those who selfishly put their own agenda ahead of the millions who may have benefited by research into illicit drugs. From the US and their objection to researching these drugs down to state governments that oppose medical clinics as being immoral ... the winners are organised crime like drug cartels and some may argue the government who are technically “organised criminals”. The losers are clearly us, the public.

Scientists Study Possible Health Benefits Of LSD And Ecstacy
The Guardian
By Denis Campbell - Health Correspondent
October 2009

 A growing number of people are taking LSD and other psychedelic drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy to help them cope with a variety of conditions including anorexia nervosa, cluster headaches and chronic anxiety attacks.

The emergence of a community that passes the drugs between users on the basis of friendship, support and need – with money rarely involved – comes amid a resurgence of research into the possible therapeutic benefits of psychedelics. This is leading to a growing optimism among those using the drugs that soon they may be able to obtain medicines based on psychedelics from their doctor, rather than risk jail for taking illicit drugs.

Among those in Britain already using the drugs and hoping for a change in the way they are viewed is Anna Jones (not her real name), a 35-year-old university lecturer, who takes LSD once or twice a year. She fears that without an occasional dose she will go back to the drinking problem she left behind 14 years ago with the help of the banned drug.

LSD, the drug synonymous with the 1960s counter-culture, changed her life, she says. "For me it was the catalyst to give up destructive behaviour – heavy drinking and smoking. As a student I used to drink two or three bottles of wine, two or three days a week, because I didn't have many friends and didn't feel comfortable in my own skin.

"Then I took a hit of LSD one day and didn't feel alone any more. It helped me to see myself differently, increase my self-confidence, lose my desire to drink or smoke and just feel at one with the world. I haven't touched alcohol or cigarettes since that day in 1995 and am much happier than before."

Many others are using the drugs to deal with chronic anxiety attacks brought on by terminal illness such as cancer.

Research was carried out in the 1950s and 1960s into psychedelics. In some places they were even used as a treatment for anxiety, depression and addiction. But a backlash against LSD – owing to concerns that the powerful hallucinogen was becoming widespread as a recreational drug, and fear that excessive use could trigger mental health conditions such as schizophrenia – led to prohibition of research in the 1970s.

Under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act it is classified as a Class A, schedule 1 substance – which means not only is LSD considered highly dangerous, but it is deemed to have no medical research value.

Now, though, distinguished academics and highly respected institutions are looking again at whether LSD and other psychedelics might help patients. Psychiatrist Dr John Halpern, of Harvard medical school in the US, found that almost all of 53 people with cluster headaches who illegally took LSD or psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, obtained relief from the searing pain. He and an international team have also begun investigating whether 2-Bromo-LSD, a non-psychedelic version of LSD known as BOL, can help ease the same condition.

Studies into how the drug may be helping such people are also being carried out in the UK. Amanda Feilding is the director of the Oxford-based Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust that investigates consciousness, its altered states and the effects of psychedelics and meditation. She is a key figure in the revival of scientific interest in psychedelics and expresses her excitement about the initial findings of two overseas studies with which her foundation is heavily involved.

"One, at the University of California in Berkeley, was the first research into LSD to get approval from regulators and ethics bodies since the 1970s," she said. Those in the study are the first to be allowed to take LSD legally in decades as part of research into whether it aids creativity. "LSD is a potentially very valuable substance for human health and happiness."

The other is a Swiss trial in which the drug is give alongside psychotherapy to people who have a terminal condition to help them cope with the profound anxiety brought on by impending death. "If you handle LSD with care, it isn't any more dangerous than other therapies," said Dr Peter Gasser, the psychiatrist leading the trial.

At Johns Hopkins University in Washington, another trial is examining whether psilocybin can aid psychotherapy for those with chronic substance addiction who have not been helped by more conventional treatment.

Professor Colin Blakemore, a former chief executive of the Medical Research Council, said the class-A status of psychedelics such as LSD should not stop them being explored as potential therapies. "No drug is completely safe, and that includes medical drugs as well as illegal substances," he said. "But we have well-developed and universally respected methods of assessing the balance of benefit and harm for new medicines.

"If there are claims of benefits from substances that are not regulated medicines – even including illegal drugs – it is important that they should be tested as thoroughly for efficacy and safety as any new conventional drug."

Past reputations may make it hard to get approval for psychedelic medicines, according to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

"The known adverse effect profiles of psychedelic drugs would have to be considered very carefully in the risk/benefit analysis before the drugs may be approved for medicinal use," said a spokeswoman. "These products, if approved, are likely to be classified as a prescription-only medicine and also likely to remain on the dangerous drug list, which means that their supply would be strictly controlled."


Related Articles:

•Clinical Trials Test Potential Of Hallucinogenic Drugs To Help Patients With Terminal Illnesses - The Guardian
•Why is Marijuana Illegal? - Drug War Rant
•Breakthrough Discovered in Medical Marijuana Cancer Treatment - Salem News
MDMA Scheduling Hearing
•Will Crack-Cocaine Sentencing Reform Help Current Cons? - TIME
•Why the US won't let Australia reform its drug laws - SMH




Monday, 2 November 2009

CourierMail - Cocaine Hysteria Thrives in Trash Media

I’ve read some really silly articles about drugs lately but this cracker from Jackie Sinnerton in the Courier Mail needs your attention. Not for the profound message it attempts to sell you but to brighten up your day. Maybe I’m just a sucker for accidental self parody from self righteous or ignorant twats but reading this type of article really makes my day ... and makes me laugh. It’s like watching The Office(UK) where you get pleasure from cringing at some idiot trying to be something they’re not. Which reminds me, do you remember the Fiona Connolly article in the The Daily Telegraph last year titled Cokehead Should be Ashamed? If you do then you may be forgiven if you think the authors are sisters.


Cocaine Parties Thrive In Suburbia
Courier Mail
By Jackie Sinnerton
October 2009


A FOUR-wheel-drive makes its way to the front door of a well-loved suburban home.

It's a two-income, two-child abode. Worth a million, but heavily mortgaged. This is not rock star territory.

The mother of the house follows her fortnightly routine. She checks that the kids are distracted and pops outside, takes the envelope off the driver and exchanges pleasantries.

Nothing cloak and dagger.

No names or money are exchanged.

Apparently her husband takes care of the financial business with a guy in the city – $350 she believes. They spend $700 a month.

The transaction is completed.

It is as straight forward as someone delivering the milk.

The lady of the house then rushes upstairs and secretes the envelope in her bottom drawer – away from tiny hands.

No need to check the contents – it is always the same. A gram of cocaine folded in foil paper and tucked into a plastic bag.

Back to the kitchen to prepare school lunches. There will be no mention of the delivery until Saturday night when the guests arrive.

Looking past the manicured hedges, French doors and shop-buffed people-movers in suburban driveways unearths a shocking reality.

Sarah does not use cocaine. But her story, like a script from a bad episode of Desperate Housewives, paints a surreal picture of what family life in the 'burbs can be like when the lights in the children's rooms go out.

Sarah reluctantly discloses the happenings of the night out when she stumbled upon the drug culture lurking in the shadows of suburban streets.

Sarah's family was invited to a social evening at a friend's home on the outskirts of the city.

"My husband and I were invited to a party at a friend of a friend's," she recalls. "They live in a really nice house – they are both professional people with kids and are heavily involved in the kids school functions and sport.

"Kids were invited to the party. It all seemed quite harmless to begin with but as the evening wore on I certainly got my eyes opened.

"Early on it was just like any other family barbecue: Kids were running around everywhere and parents were enjoying a chat and a drink.

"As it got later, there seemed to be a huge urgency to get the kids settled down in makeshift beds upstairs.

"Only adults remained downstairs, and they just continued to enjoy the evening with another drink.

"Then at the top of the stairs the signal came from one of the dads. It was the all-clear. All the kids, including mine, were asleep.

"I remember looking around a little bemused, and that is when a few of the parents brought out little plastic packages of cocaine from their pockets.

"I was blown away. I may have enjoyed a joint in my youth, but hardcore drugs amongst friends of friends in a suburban house! I admit, I was very intrigued.

"I took it all in. Agreements had been made between some of the couples. 'Tonight it is your turn'. It's a bit like who is going to drive home. One parent has to remain sensible in case of child emergency."

A growing number of Australian suburban homes play out similar scenarios as parents dabble in narcotics, and Queensland's suburban sprawls are not immune.

Most of the state's cocaine use takes place in the southeast corner – but it is the affluent areas rather than the lower socio-economic areas so often tainted by drug use that have been pin-pointed as a problem.

"The people at this barbecue were mostly professional, well respected members of the community who support their children's school building funds, hold down challenging jobs, and make sure their kids eat their greens and don't talk to strangers," Sarah continues.

"Thankfully the set-up was fairly controlled, and a person was allocated to watch the kids at all times.

"But my heart was racing, I could only think about what would happen if the police came. Would I be in trouble too? I decided I would grab my kids and get out, but I didn't want to look panicked, so I chatted and smiled as I made my way through the crowd.

"During that time, as I located my husband, I watched some people disappear into the downstairs toilet. But more blatantly, a couple of the men just lined up their powder on the dining room table, using a credit card to straighten the edges.

"Then they rolled up paper money, and got into it.

"It crossed my mind how maxed out that credit card must be.

"I am not a prude by any means, and have had my fair share of alcoholic drinks over the years, but by all accounts listening to the others at the party I am obviously somewhat behind the times."

For some, having a few drinks doesn't cut it anymore. Drug-fuelled Saturday nights are the way to go.

"I felt like a scared child when offered the drug," Sarah said.

"I politely declined.

"Not everyone used drugs that night. In fact, maybe less than one-third of those at the party, but most people seemed unperturbed by the behaviour."

Sarah says some of the women sensed her horror at what was unfolding before her, and tried to talk down the implications of the activity.

"Apparently that the best thing about taking the drug was that you feel great about yourself, it increases self-confidence and it is easier to let yourself go," she said.

"Certainly the party picked up quite dramatically and before leaving I saw another person go back for more.

"I remembered hearing once that cocaine can give you seizures and I couldn't help but worry that someone was going to have to call for an ambulance.

"Imagine the scandal if all these very respected citizens ended up in the police station for doing hard core drugs? What about the poor kids then?

"No one seemed too concerned about the down sides. All I heard was it makes you feel energised, powerful and enhances the libido – it works wonders for the love life.

"I did hear the words 'recreational' and 'social' used quite a lot that night. Whether to convince me or themselves, those who chose to snort were very adamant 'I hardly ever do it, it's just for fun'."

But according to the experts there is no such thing as recreational drug taking.

There is nothing but bad news at the end of the white dust track.

Coke, crack, dust, nose candy, white lady – whatever you want to call it – cocaine kills people.

It's not called "the Addicter" or "Great Deceiver" for no reason.

When absorbed into the blood stream, it is a very potent drug.

A small amount – one to three milligrams – produces extreme stimulating effects on the brain by releasing a chemical, norepinephrine, from the nerve endings.

It elevates the mood and helps boost energy levels and mental activity.

It helps you feel invincible and wipes out fatigue.

But what goes up must come down.

This state of euphoria can be followed within 30 to 60 minutes by a "let-down feeling" of depression and dullness.

According to Drug Arm counsellor Richard Norman, cocaine is often included in cocktails of drugs and is not always the primary drug used.

It is often mixed with other drugs and alcohol – adding to the toxic mix.

"It is ridiculous to think that you can use cocaine recreationally," he said.

"It depends on the person's build, but it doesn't take long before people start to yearn for that euphoric feeling more often.

"The middle-class demographic is a difficult one to understand, because they are not likely to come to public rehabilitation or counselling centres.

"I would imagine they would go to their GPs or private counsellors – there is a lot at stake. It's illegal as well as highly dangerous."

While the drug is no longer just reserved for millionaires, there can be a huge financial impact on the user if they become dependent on cocaine.

The 2007 National Drug Strategy's Household Survey showed cocaine consumption was at its highest level since 1993.

It's a risky way to get through domestic stresses.

It is possible to build up a resistance to the drug, which means people need to take larger and larger doses to achieve the same high.

For some, there can be the opposite effect – where just small amounts are enough to prompt a rush.

Psychological withdrawal symptoms can hang around for many weeks and may include intense cravings, depression, anxiety and angry outbursts.

Physical withdrawal symptoms include tremors, nausea, insomnia and muscle pain.

Not something you'd want to deal with on the school pick-up run.


So what is it with Murdoch journalists and drugs ... especially cocaine? No, I’m not talking about the hypocrite Piers Akerman and his alleged coke habit but those who suddenly write some incredible story of drugs reeking havoc on societies values? Do they feel that they must make a contribution to the anti-drug effort regardless of whether they have something to say or not? It seems that way if you read Jackie Sinnerton’s article. First of all, is this story made up? It feels like a collection of clich├ęs, scenes from a bad novel and moral claptrap rolled into one. Seriously, someone monitoring the kids giving the all-clear, it’s OK to do drugs now ... the kids are asleep! And designated abstainer ... in case of a child emergency? Pffft. Is this really a scene from an 80s TV movie? The bit that got me laughing loudest though was the names that cocaine is supposedly called.
It's not called "the Addicter" or "Great Deceiver" for no reason
-The Courier Mail: Cocaine Parties Thrive In Suburbia by Jackie Sinnerton

The “Great Deceiver”? Oh, dear god, strike me down. It’s certainly not a term I am familiar with but a little bit of research on the intertubes shows that Satan is usually called The Great Deceiver along with a few examples of various drugs. Reelizations Media produced the very popular Marijuana and Recovery Counselor Guide which references marijuana as The Great Deceiver. The California Department of Justice released a video called, Meth: The Great Deceiver in 2002 and in 1990, the US Drug Czar, William Bennett wrote an article in First Things, published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life. Here’s an extract:
I continue to be amazed at how often people I speak to in treatment centers refer to drugs as the great lie, the great deception, indeed as a product of the Great Deceiver. An astonishing number of people in treatment have described crack cocaine to me simply as “the Devil.”
 -William J. Bennett : First Things - Drugs and the Face of Evil

So where the hell did Jackie Sinnerton get the idea that cocaine is commonly known as The Great Deceiver? If you think this definition is amusing then Google the other well known name, “cocaine - "the Addicter"”. The result ... oh. mmm well, there is no record anywhere of cocaine being called “The Addicter” except in her own article. The author just made it up. This should give us a clue to the authenticity of the article and what depths the Murdoch press will lower itself to. Pooeeeee! - forget all that. Who cares? It’s such a fun read and an opportunity to see how far some so called journalists will go to write an interesting story.
Coke, crack, dust, nose candy, white lady – whatever you want to call it – cocaine kills people
-The Courier Mail: Cocaine Parties Thrive In Suburbia by Jackie Sinnerton

Dust? Crack? White Lady? Apart from crack being a different form of cocaine and comes as a rock that can’t be snorted, who the hell calls cocaine “dust” or “white lady”? Maybe in Starsky and Hutch or CHIPS but not in the real world down-under. Well as far as I know.
But according to the experts there is no such thing as recreational drug taking
-The Courier Mail: Cocaine Parties Thrive In Suburbia by Jackie Sinnerton

There’s at least 150,000,000 recreational drug users worldwide who might disagree with this statement. And who are these experts she quotes?
It is ridiculous to think that you can use cocaine recreationally
 -Drug Arm counsellor Richard Norman

Oh, not an expert but a counsellor for an organisation(Drug Arm) that originated from the Temperance Movement 2 centuries ago. Remember the Temperance Movement? Their claim to fame is alcohol prohibition in the US and the push to ban drugs.

This article is just more drug hysteria from the Murdoch press designed to sell papers and collect webpage hits. Incidentally, the article was published simultaneously with another piece about suburban cocaine use, Housewives Turn To Cocaine Abuse In Queensland. Co-written by Sinnerton and Paula Doneman, the article is filed under that infamous Courier Mail special, The Drugs Scourge which may give us some insight into the it’s contents. The article is wrapped up nicely by one reader:
Ahead of the release of new findings from the Crime and Misconduct Commission on illicit drugs, intelligence director Chris Keen confirmed that cocaine use in Queensland "is more prevalent over a wider range of demographics"....where does this say anything specific about "housewives"...the whole article is based on the suppostions of ONE man...Richard Norman who said...""I could see how stressed-out, middle-class housewives would single out cocaine to help them perform better at work, look after a family and house and still have the energy to party," Jackie Sinnerton and Paula Doneman have taken this remark and ran with it..they and the Couriermail should be ashamed of themselves..but I suppose the headline is the thing and drug addicted housewives reads better than..increase in drug addicts in south east Queensland. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story. I agree this story is plagiarised and deliberately skewed to target housewives.
Posted by: lyn of melbourne 4:09pm November 01, 2009
-Comment from Courier Mail Reader

The claims of inevitable problems like tremors, nausea, insomnia, muscle pain and addiction are what a hard core addict might suffer and not what a standard recreational cocaine user would encounter. Also, what has been left out of these articles is more important than what was included with much of it merely opinions without any evidence or backing.
There is nothing but bad news at the end of the white dust track
-The Courier Mail: Cocaine Parties Thrive In Suburbia by Jackie Sinnerton

As cocaine use rapidly increases, the number of those requiring treatment hasn’t risen proportionally. It's probably because the addiction level of cocaine(17%) and alcohol(15%) are nearly the same. The truth is, most cocaine users take it in moderation and usually reserve it for special occasions. Similar to how most drinkers choose to exploit their drug of choice. Most drinkers don't need treatment and neither do most cocaine users.

The World Health Organisation conducted the largest ever study of global cocaine use in 1995 and stated:
Occasional cocaine use does not typically lead to severe or even minor physical or social problems … a minority of people start using cocaine or related products, use casually for a short or long period, and suffer little or no negative consequences, even after years of use
-World Health Organisation Report

Sadly, this report was just too truthful for the "War on Drugs" mindset of the US and UN. The US threatened to withdraw funding for all of the WHO’s research projects and interventions unless they "dissociated itself from the study" and withdraw the publication. The report was shelved and never released. So now we are left with articles from the trash media and the constant lies and exaggeration from anti-drug zealots. No wonder we have a drug problem.

In June 2009, an excellent article by Ben Goldacre detailed the WHO cocaine report and the subsequent coverup in the Uk newspaper, The Guardian. This is a must-read article: Cocaine study that got up the nose of the US.


Related Articles:
Housewives Turn To Cocaine Abuse In Queensland - The Courier Mail
Cocaine study that got up the nose of the US - The Guardian
Journalist Should Be Ashamed
Cocaine - Australia’s Next Drug Epidemic?
CourierMail - The Media Scourge