BOOK REVIEW News Weekly
There is no such thing as a soft drug
, July 4, 2015
BE ALERT AND ALARMED. ILLEGAL DRUGS:
Power, Politics and Propaganda
by Elaine Walters
Price: AUD$30 (including P&P)
Reviewed by Julia Patrick
According to Elaine Walters, the present ice crisis and epidemic of illegal drugs were “entirely predictable and preventable”, and she is fearless in shining the light on those she considers responsible.
For years, she says, so-called “experts” and drug law reformers have manipulated the media and infiltrated bureaucracies and shaped government policy with misleading information she calls “nothing short of scandalous”.
Bold words, but Walters does not pussyfoot around in her new book, Be Alert and Alarmed, Illegal Drugs: Power, Politics and Propaganda. It is the story of her journey to alert the public about illegal (“designer”) drugs, along with some amusing anecdotes showing that this courageous and compassionate woman has a good sense of humour.
Her involvement in the drug scene was accidental: “Shocked and astounded” on hearing mothers on a radio program describe the horror of their children’s addictions, she started a support group in her own home.
It was the beginning of serious research, later a Churchill Fellowship to see how other countries handled the problem, and then an Order of Australia in 2000 for her work.
It has been an ongoing fight against legalising what she calls the “destructive and pitiless force of drugs” and concentrating on what she considers our number one priority: “preventing young people from using drugs in the first place.”
As a result she has faced public denigration and hostile opposition from the pro-legalisation lobby, but she is dedicated to her cause and does not give an inch.
Walters highlights the seductive power of benign and reassuring words in describing drugs. So marijuana (cannabis), in reality associated with schizophrenia and psychosis, is promoted as a “soft” drug, along with ecstasy and other party drugs that are in fact “gateway” drugs to addiction.
How, she asks, can mind-altering substances like heroin and cocaine be labelled “recreational” as if taking them were as harmless as reading a book?
Stupefying, addictive and psychoactive street drugs are harmful; why are they condoned at all? You cannot quantify “harm”, yet the “harm minimisation” tag implies it is OK to have a go. Yet this type of dangerous misinformation passes as government policy on drugs!
Walters dismisses the civil libertarians’ cry that drug taking is a personal right. Who, she asks, is defending the “right” of newborn babies to go through agonising withdraw symptoms as a result of being born to a drug-addicted mother? Or the families destroyed by a teenager on drugs?
“I know from my own experience,” she writes, “the uncontrollable, violent behaviour that can occur when a teenager is stoned. People have absolutely no idea what parents have to go through.”
Walters believes that public opinion will be the biggest factor in stemming the rising tide of drug taking. Social disapproval underpinned the success of the anti-smoking campaign; so why, she asks, can’t we do it with drugs?
She is a strong advocate of rehabilitation and agrees that marijuana can sometimes bring pain relief. But she warns that it must be strictly controlled; some experimental medical marijuana centres in the US have been, she says an “absolute disaster” and should alert us to the pitfalls.
The references and bibliography are meticulous and extensive, though a subject index would be helpful. And owing to the Q&A (question and answer) conversational style of the book, some of the information is unnecessarily repetitive.
Written for the general public, but especially for parents, Be Alert and Alarmed is informative, factual and a real eye-opener on what is behind the present drug epidemic.
Be Alert and Alarmed is available at Elaine Walters’ online store at www.elainewalters.org