Social issues

Drug abuse: more evidence against criminal prosecution

Funnelled into a destructive system.

BY Mathew Bell

As the world takes drug abuse into deeper consideration, we start seeing patterns. Minor possession, go to jail, get caught again and go to jail. Politicians after politicians promise to crack down harder- and drug use, particularly in WA, is at an all time high. With narcotic use costing the country 4.4 billion dollars a year, our current attitude towards how we treat addicts and casual users needs something new. It needs a “mature conversation”.

Influenced by Portugal, the President of the Australian Medical Association in WA has issued a call for possible decriminalisation. What this essentially means is fining people caught with small amounts of illegal substances and sending them to rehabilitation treatment instead of prison- therefore allowing users a compassionate second chance before they are torn away from family, fired from their jobs and funnelled into a destructive system.

In 2001, Portugal came up with a policy that would put its people first- a new law permitting citizens to possess small amounts of any illegal drug. The idea was focusing state resources on offering help, outreach and rehabilitation as opposed to punishment. As a direct result, heroin addiction has been reduced by 50% and drug induced deaths have fallen from 80 in 2001 to just 16 in 2012. Portugal doesn’t forget about drug dealers and smugglers however, their policy still maintains a firm standing within law and action.

Former Columbian President Cesar Gravizia, who led the forefront war against Columbia’s drug cartels, said that authorities must look for a solution.

“We know that just repression, just prohibition doesn’t work”.

Back in Australia, CEO of the drug and alcohol related Noffs Foundation Matt Noffs praised the AMA for bringing this subject into the public eye from a high level. Noffs said “it’s very disappointing that the new WA Premier, Mark McGowan, reacted in knee jerk fashion rejecting even the call for a mature debate”. He went on to say that frequently helping addicts in hand with funding and police has proven very successful in the past, and would benefit communities, law enforcement and even the Government wallet.

As a recovered meth user myself, I understand that addiction needs to be confronted personally. It goes much deeper than criminality- it’s a mental health issue, and often a form of self-medication that eventually becomes a daily or weekly routine. I ultimately broke through and realised what I had been doing to others and myself. Fortunately, I had an amazing family who supported me during those times. That’s something most people don’t have.

If I had gone to prison for this awful substance, I wouldn’t have finished university, I wouldn’t be grateful for everything I have and I definitely wouldn’t have adopted an incredible outlook on life in all it’s limitless opportunities. Albert Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I think it really is time to have a “mature conversation” about drug decriminalisation, and re-examine something that has been failing since the 1900’s.

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