Perpetuating Drug Use – Australia

Harm reduction, which has been the central focus of drug policy in this country since 1992, by its very definition does not focus on getting drug users off drugs. ‘Harm reduction’ is defined by the International Harm Reduction Association as ‘efforts to reduce the health, social and economic costs of mood altering drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption’.Alarmingly, leaders of the harm reduction movement want Australia to move on to the next step, getting rid of the prohibitions against drug use, prohibitions which the Australian
community support so strongly.

Dr Alex Wodak, Australia’s most prominent proponent of harm reduction both nationally and internationally, responsible for introducing it to Australia in 1985, wants currently prohibited
drugs made legal for personal use. He says,

“In many countries it is time to move from the first phase of harm reduction – focusing on reducing adverse consequences – to a second phase which concentrates on reforming an ineffective and harm-generating system of global drug prohibition.”

Dr Alex Wodak; Paper presented to the 15th InternationalConference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm

Many leaders of the harm reduction movement in Australia are seeking government support for new harm reduction interventions which show little interest in getting users off drugs,
but rather perpetuate their drug use while spending large amounts of tax-payer funds for programs to keep them safe while their use continues.

Injecting rooms
The Kings Cross injecting room does little to get users off drugs, with less than 4.5% of clients being sent to detox or rehab. Rather it spends $2.5 million per year saving clients from overdoses. The 2003 evaluation showed there was 36 times more overdoses in the
injecting room than on the streets of Kings Cross, despite injecting room clients injecting 97% of the time on the streets of Kings Cross rather than in the room. Proponents are working for multiple injecting rooms in every Australian city. Injecting rooms are very ineffective in reducing drug use.

Heroin On Prescription
It is not legal in Australia for the government to provide heroin to heroin users, with methadone being substituted instead. However many harm reductionists want an expensive program providing heroin on prescription to heroin users. Heroin on prescription focuses most on maintaining a user’s addiction. Other agendas that perpetuate drug use are the decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis, the legalisation of raw cannabis for medical purposes, and pill testing at RAVEs.

“They feel a lot more safer, definitely because they know they can be brought back to life straight away. They know that they can, like some people go to the extent of using even more. So in a way they feel it is a comfort zone, and no matter how much they use if they drop they just get brought back. What users look for is in heroin and pills is to get the
most completely out of it as they can, like virtually be asleep but awake for 4 – 5 hours. For instance to get that you have to test your limits. And by testing your limits that is how you end up dropping.”
desire for a society free of illicit drugs
I became addicted and it took seven years for me to realise that I had to stop .In those seven years . . . I would get windows of opportunity to get out. I would feel like I could go to rehab or detox and everything like that but, when I would get on the phone to get in contact with [a treatment agency],there would not be a place available. The feeling of ‘okay, I’ve had enough, Ican get out’ would disappear. I would go back into it.

Christopher, transcript, 7 April 2007 p 68 – cited in Winnable War on Drugs, House of Representatives Standing
Committee on Family and Human Services. p209

With early inquiries in September 2006, and desperate to rid himself of drugs, Tim was assessed and approved for suitability to participate in a drug rehabilitation program at the Woolshed Drug Rehabilitation Community, Adelaide. Elated at such an opportunity he diligently marked off the list of preparatory requests made, he telephoned regularly as required on 22, 26 and 29 September, and 3, 6, 10, 13, 17 and 20 October for a period
extending five weeks, hoping and waiting desperately for a placement, for an opportunity to learn how to live without drugs.

Throughout this time, Tim had returned to live with us. He had stated that it was a particularly difficult time as not only did he have to deal with the long-term effects of taking drugs and withdrawal, he had to deal with the loss of autonomy in living in his own place of residence. He felt unable to apply for employment outside of the family business, because of his commitment to securing a placement at the Woolshed. Rehabilitation could take as long as six months, with then ongoing support required. On Sunday, 22 October 2006, in a desperate bid to end his pain and suffering, Tim committed suicide in our family home. I have been informed by the Woolshed that there is only accommodation for 24 participants, with up to as many as 34 waiting for a bed at one time for periods as long as 12 weeks. As of 24 May this year, 30 people were waiting. Tim could wait no longer.

Drug Free Australia Ltd

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