Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Media addicted to drugs panic stories

The media are addicted to scare stories about drugs. In 1934 it was a 'Snowstorm' as Melbourne newspapers beat up a circulation-boosting panic about a cocaine epidemic – despite their inability to find anyone who had actually abused the drug. However it was enough justification to form the first Australian Drug Squad.

This morning ABC radio, in between all the alcopops stories, reported a new  threat from heroin. It reported political instability in South-west Asia has allowed the supply of heroin to double. Apparently overdose rates in Victoria are rising and Australia is an attractive market because users are willing to pay high prices. It's panic stations in case we return to the bad old days of the 1990s with three people dying each day from overdoses.

This could be portrayed as further evidence that prohibition has failed, even as Antonio Maria Costa extolls its successes at the UN. But, as usual, this 'woolly mammoth in the room' was not mentioned, the stories fizzling out with insipid calls for the government to do some unspecified thing  about it. 

Apparently the government is "focusing too much on alcohol". But, hang on, the same people have been lobbying hard in support of the alcopops tax which looks like failing in the Senate anyway. Sheesh, what's a poor government to do?

Hint: we know that medically supervised injecting centres prevent deaths from overdoses, so if those deaths are really the concern, why not build a few more centres, as recommended by the 1999 NSW Drugs Summit? Injecting centres work, prohibition doesn't. It's unarguable.

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