Lettersby Dr Patrick Cranley, Marita GandolfoNews Weekly
, October 21, 2000
Drug abuse: there is a solution
I must agree with the thesis promoted by David Perrin (News Weekly, October 7).
As a general practitioner with a large drug abuse practice - 27 years experience and 4,500 individual cases - I have seen the situation deteriorate.
The whole philosophy of drugs in Australia must change.
The media and many politicians appear to have given up on the idea of a drug free nation.
This is in stark contrast to bodies like European Cities Against Drugs (ECAD) which is monthly adding new cities to its membership.
In Australia, through needle exchanges and injecting rooms, politicians (often the same ones leading the anti-tobacco campaign) and community leaders promoting (or closing their eyes to) the use of cannabis and the widespread promotion of methadone, we are sending confusing messages to our young.
We must stop promoting the idea that it is OK to experiment with drugs. All drug abuse is dangerous. Over 90 per cent of my patients with heroin problems started first with marijuana, pills or inhalants.
Many, if not most, use drugs to run away from problems: personality, abuse, unemployment, Attention Deficit Disorder, assaults (physical and sexual), family breakups (over 60 per cent of my patients are from broken or dysfunctional families), or the stresses of growing up in our socially discordant world.
Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting the remarkable House of Grace in Haifa, Israel, and one of Don Emilio's Community Encounter centres in Amelia, Italy. While contrasting, both were drug free, both were long-term (one to four years) both had good success rates and (compared to prisons) were relatively cheap to maintain once established.
I agree completely with David Perrin that prevention is best and money spent on education is well invested, but programs must be "Say No, No, No to Drugs" rather than grade substances into "hard" or "soft", or spend money on harm reduction rather than complete avoidance.
One group that has largely been ignored by society is the families, friends and neighbours of drug users. In many cases, close family members become isolated, dropping out of their social contacts through shame of their addicted relative. The Cross Roads Community in WA is attempting to involve this group with quite remarkable results. But the whole community should be helping to share the burden of this cancer in our young.
One final point must be made. Long-term rehabilitation is the best and cheapest treatment for the unfortunate victim of drugs, but to be effective, sizeable out-of-town properties are essential. In Western Australia various proposals on this model have been stymied by local councils with either unrealistic demands or strong refusals.
If governments, Federal and State, are genuine about helping those addicted, this situation must be changed and active assistance - including, where necessary, the overriding of councils - must be offered. Otherwise, children will continue to suffer and die.
It does not matter what drug is abused, the human dignity and value of the victim must be preserved and the reality that each victim is someone's child - and the next one may be your's or your neighbour's - must be accepted.
Dr Patrick Cranley,
Leederville, WAHarry, you're a gem
I'm a mother of four young boys and have read with interest the differing views of the new Harry Potter books craze.
Wanting to instil a love of books into my children, I am always interested to know what good books are out there, so I decided to buy the first two novels of Harry's adventures.
I've read the first book. What a great read.
The book, don't forget, is "make believe". It is imaginary and what a great imagination to create these series of stories. The magic essence in the storyline makes it enjoyable to read.
Who wouldn't want to be at boarding school and have all your favourite foods appear from nowhere onto your plate, and once you're as full as can be, for the scraps to just disappear into thin air.
No kitchen duty! Wouldn't we all like that?
Of course it doesn't happen in real life, but we can still imagine, can't we?
The mischief and adventurous nature of Harry Potter makes it great fun to read too. Harry does get into a bit of strife and bends the rules a few times, but not just for the sake of bending them, but often to help out a friend. I'm sure as children most of us imagined we could fly - some of us tried off the back yard shed just to test it. I don't think we really believed it would happen but it was worth a try.
The message in the story isn't just about being witches and wizards. It's about friendship, loyalty, courage and a bit of mischief and adventure thrown in for good measure. It's also about good conquering evil.
I felt that there was a message that the meanest and toughest boy in the school is usually the least courageous when the chips are down.
And the boy weakling who always fumbles his way through things, can sometimes stand up and be the most courageous in the face of adversity for the sake of his friends.
A good message I think for those kids who get picked on in the "real world" and have to face tough bullies every day at school.
I think we'd all improve our imagination if we stuck a Harry Potter, or for that matter, any children's classic, in our children's Christmas stockings this year instead of a mind-dulling, unimaginative Game Boy or Nintendo!