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Ecstasy, on the other hand, contains a hallucinogen derived from a
synthetic similar to chemicals found in LSD, as well as smaller percentages
of phenethylamine and amphetamine. The hallucinogen in ecstasy produces
a feel-good sensation, providing the user with a sense of empathy that
established its reputation within dance-club culture as a ‘love’ drug.
Hallucinogens found in ecstasy release serotonin transmitters within the
brain’s reward circuit, resulting in a powerful altered state of consciousness.
Like LSD, it is simply not the sort of drug that can be consumed each day.
You cannot live on ecstasy; you would g o crazy within a month. Restricted
to weekend usag e, it will take a few years for your brain to short-circuit,
then atrophy. In the meantime, research by experts such as Professor Daniel
Fatovich, shows you will get dumber by the day.
I FOUGHT THE LAW
The mythic ‘war on drugs’ is being staged on two fronts: the political and the
personal. Education and public awareness programs similar to those devised
to combat the dangers of smoking have proved to be most effective when
targeting individual members of society. All experts agree that drug use is a
health-and-safety concern and should be seen as a medical problem rather
than a political issue. Success is incremental; it will take time and effort, but it
is working. The same cannot be said for the political battle.
Tom Percy, QC, is a national director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
He is heartened by statistics that sug g est young people are rejecting drugs,
but says existing legislative policy is failing in reg ard to entrenched criminality.
“The war on drugs is not only failing; it is lost. Thirty years ago, seizures
involved ounces, and then kilos. Today, we are seeing seizures in the tonnes.
Increased penalties, seizing assets and creating crime commissions has
simply not worked. Prohibition places the drug industry in the hands of the
underworld, and as we know, the ‘Mr Bigs’ are rarely apprehended.”
Percy sug g ests leg alisation is the only credible alternative, leading to
a dramatic reduction in crime, but admits it won’t happen overnight. “It
must be done by degree. It [legalisation] is a political minefield. It requires a
long-term political program based on education and sensible debate.”
While discussion on drug reform remains in limbo, there is fevered debate
surrounding approaches to treatment options. In simple terms, there are two
opposing views; harm/risk management versus abstinence. Zero-tolerance
advocates like Western Australia’s Dr George O’Neill have introduced
methods including Naltrexone implants for treating alcohol and opioid
dependencies, while harm/risk management proponents support programs
based on methadone treatments, among other options.
Naltrexone has shown promising results in individual cases where patients
remain compliant to treatment plans, but is considered a high-risk option
for those unable to remain within treatment guidelines, with greater risks of
mortality and reduced likelihood of long-term success. Reports of overdoses
and deaths while on Naltrexone have led to calls for much closer super vision
of patients and stringent research into the treatment’s efficacy and safety.
Methadone and other risk-manag ement plans are thought to be safer in
practice, but statistics indicate they can prolong the life of drug use: that is,
patients may be on Methadone for decades. Many counselling experts now
ABOVE and INSET Police raid a hidden lab in Perth, and remove
paraphernalia related to the manufacture of drugs.
WHERE TO GET HELP Alcohol and Drug Information Service 24-hour free confidential phone service. Call (08) 9442 5000, toll free
1800 198 024, email ADIS@health.wa.gov.au Parent Drug Information Service Supporting parents and families. Call (08) 9442 5050, toll free 1800
653 203, email firstname.lastname@example.org School Drug Education and Road Aware 151 Royal Street, East Perth. Call (08) 9264 4743, email sdera.co@det.
wa.edu.au Holyoake Drug and Alcohol Counselling Service, 75 Canning Highway, Victoria Park. Call (08) 9416 4444, email reception@hol yoake.org.au .
advocate a range of treatment plans, including the cautious use of Naltrexone
to combat the scourge of addiction. Yet we are no closer to reform.
Politicians avoid the subject for fear of being seen to advocate drug use.
Meanwhile, our prisons overflow with addicts who turn to crime to pay for
their habit. Figures sug gest that drug-related crimes account for a third of all
inmates in WA prisons. Taxpayers foot the bill, which is not limited to police
and prison budgets. Property theft and damage, and medical and insurance
costs accumulated as a result of drug-related crime, add further weight to calls
for reform. At present, we are caught in no-man’s land, and crime rates soar.
If we cannot bring ourselves to prohibit legal poisons, nor leg alise illicit
drugs, we must moderate and educate. Tackling drug abuse and addiction in
all its forms is a complex task that requires a serious, multi-faceted approach
across a broad range of issues, programs and community initiatives. It is a
job for parents, teachers, politicians, media, police and judiciary, medical and
psychiatric professionals, social and sporting organisations, and anyone else
who considers themselves to be a responsible member of modern society. It
is a human problem, and we are all, every last one of us, human. S
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