Too giggly on alcopops to tackle hard drugs
Australia has the highest rate of ecstasy use in the world. Frightening isn’t it? So what’s being done about it? Like many other policy issues, the PM declared war on drugs but it is more a phoney war than a real one.
Since being elected the Government has failed to take any significant action on this major health and criminal problem. Instead General Rudd and his loyal lieutenants have sent the troops into the goldmine by introducing a new tax on pre-mixed lolly water rather than sending them to the front line and fighting the real war on illicit drugs.
With my best Kevin Rudd impersonation, I will ask myself a question, ‘is addressing the problem of binge drinking in our young people important? Absolutely. But is it the number one health challenge? I think not’.
The Rudd Government has taken its eyes of the most significant and dangerous health issue facing young Australians, illicit drugs. Instead it has taken the easy route and pursued a tax grab dressed up as a health policy.
There is little doubt our young people face challenges with illicit drugs like never before. This is not only a health issue; it has devastating effects on Australians, families and communities.
Drugs are cheaper and more accessible than at any time in our history. Ecstasy tablets can be bought for as little as $15, five years ago the going price was $55. This isn’t based on third-hand rumour, official government reports released last year confirm this. The Courier Mail found nightclub patrons can buy potentially lethal tablets for little more than a couple of beers.
In times past the cost of serious drug consumption was largely prohibitive and underground, but those days are no long gone. Drugs are now mainstream in nightclubs and pubs, not just at rave parties and festivals. The same survey into ecstasy use showed that 69% of people used ecstasy at nightclubs. Next time you see the queues forming outside nightclubs, remember that statistically more than two out of three patrons who are using ecstasy take it in nightclubs.
So not only are young people faced with peer group pressure, they are also faced with economic pressures, making the decision to dabble so much more attractive.
The availability of such dangerous substances at cheap prices not only risks the health of young Australians but causes violence, assault (in many cases sexual), increased mental illness and dangerous behaviour such as driving under the influence.
During the recent Easter road blitz the South Australian police found 1.49% of drivers checked, tested positive to illicit drugs. The fledgling testing system only identifies cannabis, methylamphetamine (speed, ice or crystal meth) and ecstasy.
There is no safe level of taking these drugs and their effects are frightening. You do not know what is in them, nor where they are made. There is no standard for production. They are often produced in the back sheds of suburbia for criminal syndicates with little care for the outcome to the end user. There is no post sale service for this product.
The effects on the health of the consumer are substantial in the short term. While designed to give a ‘buzz’ for a number of hours what they can do to the body is horrific. An overdose can result in psychosis, vomiting, convulsions, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and in many cases death.
Long term abuse of these drugs has significant mental health impacts creating a potential ‘lost generation’ of young Australians due to drug use.
Add to that the vicious bashings, sexual assaults and break-ins that occur due to illicit drug use and you start to see the community wide impact of these substances. Talk to any cop on the beat that has to deal with the outcomes of illicit drug use and they will tell you straight just how much trouble this scourge is causing. The total long term damage to Australian families is unknown and unmeasurable.
This is not to underplay the dangers of binge drinking. It is a real problem for young Australians and should be addressed. But it should be addressed seriously and not under the guise of a tax grab.
Binge drinking should be addressed but not at the expense of the more challenging issue of illicit drug taking by young Australians.
Addressing this problem takes a serious commitment and resources with a mixture of education, law enforcement activities and health responses.
We need more police on the beat to target the criminals infiltrating our bars and clubs peddling their human misery. We need an increased emphasis to find those responsible for producing and distributing these drugs onto the streets. We need programmes and interventions to help rebuild the lives of those who are caught up by addiction and finally we need better education programmes for our youngsters.
It is not good enough for us to say ‘oh well young people will always experiment’. We can and should do more to crack down on this great challenge facing young Australians.
A tax on lolly water doesn’t do that.
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