DRUGS CONFERENCE: by John BarichNews Weekly
Tougher approach on drugs urged
, July 30, 2005
A recent national drugs conference has called on the Federal Government to replace the fashionable, permissive approach to drugs, known as harm-minimisation, with the tougher approach of harm-elimination, reports John Barich.After so much recent news about the arrest of Australian drug couriers in Bali, and the 134 Australians who have been charged or found guilty of possession or trafficking in drugs in Asia, it was a striking contrast to attend a major conference in Australia with a strong anti-drugs message.
Promoting the theme, "A Fresh Start for All", the First National Harm Prevention Conference was held at Melbourne University on July 4-5.
Drugs experts from both overseas and Australia addressed an audience of over 100 activists committed to freeing people from the bondage of drug addiction. The conference was principally sponsored by the Coalition on Alcohol & Drug Education (COADE) Inc. and Drug-Free Australia.Lasting change
Jackie Pullinger - who has been rehabilitating drug addicts, street kids, addicted prostitutes and criminals in Hong Kong for some 30 years - gave convincing evidence of how spiritual renewal can bring about a lasting change in behaviour.
Almost all of her clients have had inadequate fathers, so her rehabilitation technique involves "re-parenting" the addict so that his stunted development as a human being is recommenced as if in uteri
. Her book Chasing the Dragon
has sold over 250,000 copies world-wide.
Another overseas speaker, New Zealander Trevor Grice - co-author with Tom Scott of the bestseller The Great Brain Robbery: What everyone should know about teenagers and drugs
(Allen & Unwin) - spoke against the fashionable, permissive approach to drugs, known as harm-minimisation.
He recommended a tougher harm-elimination focus directed at the young, backed up by a clear message that no one can "do" drugs safely.
Grice's book (which has recently been updated) is a cleverly structured text which helps to close the generation gap between teens and parents on the complex and awkward subject of drugs. It has up-to-date information on all drugs, both legal and illegal, that can lead to individual and social problems.
The book has three sections. Part 1 The Challenge
, details the problems parents are likely to encounter when the topic of drugs arises. Also included are life-stories from parents and family members of people affected by drugs, and suggestions on how teenagers can say "No" to drugs.Part 2 The Danger List
is an in-depth guide to all drugs, from legal substances such as alcohol to illicit drugs such as cocaine and cannabis. Part 3 The Hard Science
, explains physiological reactions in the brain that cause drugs to have both a positive and negative effect on the individual.
Professor Ross Fitzgerald, the academic and widely-read columnist, spoke of his own battle with alcoholism and drug-taking, and stressed that it is not possible to do drugs safely, therefore so-called harm-minimisation is untenable. He is currently writing The History of Alcoholism in Australia
Dr Stuart Reece, a Brisbane physician who specialises in drug detoxification, quoted studies showing that cannabis is a gateway drug. He also explained how some drugs affect our somatic cells and the adverse effect of cannabis on our DNA.
Ann Bressington - founder/administrator of South Australia's highly successful DrugBeat detoxification and rehabilitation program - described the typical behaviour pattern observed in addicts during their first three months after drug withdrawal.
This important knowledge, she said, enables a better application of efforts to help the addict prevent a relapse. Her DrugBeat centre is able to claim a 92 per cent success rate.
Ann Bressington's Shay Louise House for drug-abusers and their families is named after her own daughter who died in 1998 from heroin.
An expert on foetal alcohol syndrome, Sue Miers, used Canadian scientific data to show the effect of even minimal doses of alcohol on a baby in the womb. Only South Australia advises expectant mothers to abstain totally from drinking.
Gary Christian presented his review of Sydney's Kings Cross medically-supervised injecting centre. He concluded that it generally helped the illicit drug trade and therefore should be closed.Young people
David Perrin, executive officer of the Drug Advisory Council of Australia, stressed that, based on Swedish evidence, it is most important that anti-drug efforts concentrate on reducing the number of people taking up the habit. Young people must be warned of the risks of drug-taking.
Isabel Gawler, who has worked with Northern Territory Aborigines, warned of the dangerous effects of kava which is given officially to Aborigines.
The Salvation Army's Major Brian Watters AO - former head of the Australian National Council on Drugs, and currently Australian representative on the International Narcotics Control Board - gave a detailed presentation of the progress being made in Australia in the fight against drugs.
The conference called on the Federal Government to respond urgently to the 2003 Road to Recovery
report, and for all states and territories to replace harm-minimisation with the tougher harm-prevention approach.