COVER STORY: Wrong way on drugs: new book
by News Weekly
News Weekly, June 17, 2000
The book is available from News Weekly Books
A new and important book, Drugs Dilemma: A Way Forward, was launched by Mrs Inga Peulich, State Member for Bentleigh, at Victorias Parliament House on Tuesday, June 6. Other prominent speakers at the launch included Mr Paul Gray, a high-profile columnist from the Herald Sun and Major Brian Watters, Salvation Army and the Prime Ministers National Council on Drugs.
Drugs Dilemma, is edited by Dr Joe Santamaria, former head of the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Research Institute. Its contributors include Athol Moffit, Jill Pearman, Elaine Walters, Sharon Pollock, Dr Lucy Sullivan and Dr Santamaria.
As argued in the preface, [t]his book seeks to redress the uneven presentation of the drug policy debate, particularly with the Harm Minimisation model which has received more than its share of advocacy in the media. This book presents the case for the other side of the debate and espouses a model based on demand reduction, harm prevention and the rehabilitation of drug addicts to a drug free state of existence.
Drugs Dilemma argues for a newer approach of harm elimination through demand reduction based on four principles:
The first principle is to identity and clarify what is the problem that we need to address. In this instance, it is the widespread use of mind-altering chemical substances known as drugs.
Mind-altering means substances that act upon the brain to alter mood and cognition and to expand, some would say distort, our perceptive faculties
What this means in practical terms is that such individuals have difficulty in paying attention, in concentrating, in focussing their minds, in retaining information in the memory centres, of processing information and linking it with other information; of making judgements and decisions, partly because the information in the brain, if it is still there, is distorted and jumbled, so that normal cognitive capacity is diminished.
All the mind-altering drugs have this capacity in varying degrees, quite apart from the problems of dependence, physical disease and psychotic episodes.
Moreover the drugs alter behaviour and skilled performance which impact on the wider community, particularly on families. This happens long before the later physical complications.
The second principle is to determine the direct and indirect causes of the problem which in the case of drug abuse are complex and diverse. The object of this principle is to remove or neutralise the causes and to prioritize the order of appropriate actions.
The third principle is to reduce the size or dimensions of the problem the numbers using or who have ever used these substances (prevalence) and the numbers who start to use them (incidence).
The greater the prevalence and incidence, the greater is the number of regular or chronic users and the greater is the problem for the society. Primary prevention aims at reducing the incidence rate and subtracting numbers from the prevalence rate so that the size of the problem is reduced to manageable proportions.
The fourth principle is early detection and intervention in cases with a drug taking problem.
Within this concept there is a subheading known as Prevention which is divided into three levels primary, secondary and tertiary.
Of particular interest is primary prevention which recognises not only the need to reduce numbers but also to tackle the problem of at risk populations, that is those groups in the community who, for a variety of reasons, are likely to start using mind-altering drugs.
Drugs Dilemma: A Way Forward will be a valuable and sought after resource in the ever-increasing drug debates particularly in offering an alternative to Harm Minimisation.