Monday, June 30, 2008

Peak drug body supports Injecting Centre

The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) has revised its position on the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross. 

You can read its summary here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Illegal, immoral and fattening

The media circus has run stories about 'studies' recently that 'may be linked' to the following 'truths':

Australians are the fattest people on earth. They are drinking more and contracting more sexually transmitted diseases, but they are also living longer. Sydneysiders are among the unhappiest people on earth but the city is also the world's most liveable. Two glasses of wine per day helps you live longer – yet no amount of alcohol is safe.

Meanwhile we are told smokers of the 'hard drug' cannabis are running around in a psychotic state with no teeth, shrunken brains and lung cancer. Makes you wonder why on earth they bother.  (But only if you ignore the studies that show psychosis has not in fact risen over the decades along with the rise in pot smoking, that cannabis seems in fact to reduce cancer, does not make teeth fall out and does not shrink your brain.)

I hadn't heard the saying for decades but a friend the other day joked: 'Everything I like is illegal, immoral or fattening.' It's enough to make Bronwyn Bishop roll in her casket.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bad ice and hillbilly heroin make a joke of prohibition

A possible new kind of 'ice' and news stories about 'hillbilly heroin' underline the ineffectiveness of prohibition in controlling drug use or minimising harm from drugs.

A local retailer is most upset because both an employee and a relative appear to have been badly mentally affected after briefly smoking something sold to them as 'ice'. He claims there is a new chemical variety on the streets which has sent both people into acute psychosis, hearing voices and acting irrationally. The employee is now retrenched and the relation, a young mother, is in danger of losing her two children. 

Meanwhile ABC Radio's AM this morning reported on the abuse of pharmaceutical opioids such as MS Contin, quoting a Kings Cross drug dealer who dresses respectably and 'doctor-shops' for prescriptions. The painkillers are then onsold to addicts for injection. They may prefer heroin but tolerate this 'hillbilly heroin' because it lasts longer and costs a lot less.

Such drugs currently make up 46% of injections at the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, with heroin down to 36%, while 'ice' accounts for only 6%.

Meanwhile the US reportedly has developed 'killer funguses' to spray all over the planet in order to wipe out the opium poppy and cannabis. The stupidity is that, all things being equal, the natural drugs being targeted are less dangerous than the artificial drugs described above, and even if the Yanks did poison the planet, people would just switch to other more harmful alternatives – the 'balloon effect'.

And the 600 kg of pseudo-ephedrine which disappeared from under the noses of several international police forces in the recent Mark Standen case demonstrates how the high profits of drug-trafficking under prohibition will always beat the police who can be either outsmarted, corrupted or both. That's a potential $21 million worth of ice out there wreaking havoc in one case alone.

Under a legal and regulated model only the safest drugs of any variety could be licensed, and possibly rationed, and priced low enough to make the black market unprofitable and irrelevant. 

Harm would be reduced and we wouldn't risk poisoning the planet with weapons of mass destruction. And another $21 million worth of ice would not even be in the pipeline.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nanny state in untrammelled triumph

The nanny state is out of control. A BBC 'big cat' docco showing on ABC just carried the warning:

"The following program contains footage of animals hunting and eating prey in the wild"

I've seen this on TV all my life, without warnings, and I don't seem to be unduly traumatised. In fact if I see another lion chasing a zebra I'll die of boredom.

They didn't have wimpy Australian Story synthesiser washes in the background, or interview a friend of the prey in tears. But it's coming. Mark my words.

This is on the same day that NSW health minister Reba Meagher ordered an approved drug education pamphlet to be pulped because, after advising schoolchildren not to take drugs, it advised those who did to use moderation. (The cover is pictured.)

Unacceptable! No, the message cannot vary from the unrealistic 'just say no' mantra, to please the 'purse-lipped paragons of public virtue'.

"They will let people die to stay in government," says Bill Crewes.

So kids whose first-hand experience blows the moral panic propaganda out of the water, and who reject unrealistic rhetoric, end up with NO sensible advice. Great result. I see them as the prey and the self-righteous idealogues as the predators.

PS: the whispering presenters of the docco have named one of the lion cubs 'Toto'. (Excuse me while I regurgitate.) The episode finished on a cliff-hanger shot of Toto being stalked by a predatory baboon, no less. Oh no! 

At least it makes a change from lions and zebras.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Henson panic fizzles out

It seems no charges are to be laid against Bill Henson, and the Classifications Board has given his work a 'G' rating (ABC Radio this morning). 

Yet the 'purse-lipped paragons of public morality' said the case was 'clear' against Henson. Here's a little tip on interpreting spin: 80% of the time when a politician uses the word 'clearly' you can be sure the issue is not clear at all.

Thanks to 'anonymous' on a post below for the link, and the comment: "When will Rudd realize that when a PM's personal view is made public it becomes a public view ?

For a private view to remain private he should just SHUT UP. "

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

ABC joins uncritical panic over cannabis

"Psychiatrists have known for years that there is nothing soft about the drug cannabis," gushed the reporter headlining her story on the ABC's AM program this morning.

She was talking about a study of 15 men who had smoked at least five joints a day for ten years. The men showed a shrinkage of certain parts of their brains and, not surprisingly, had reduced memory performance. The results were compared to minor brain injury trauma (like boxers get, legally, all the time).

This seems typical of recent output from the prohibition industry – reductive research setting out to find harm (otherwise they don't get funded), using a tiny sample and guaranteeing headlines from uncritical media, resulting in professional kudos. It creates alarm in the uninformed public and is used by prohibitionists to justify their position, no-one apparently noticing that all this drug abuse demonstrates that prohibition is not working.

Five joints a day for ten years might be similar to drinking two bottles of vodka a day or perhaps eating ten carrots a day, both of which would probably cause harm to the abuser. This does not justify gushing headlines that carrots 'are not a soft drug'.

And where would they find 15 guys who consumed that much pot? They must be very unusual people, almost certainly among the 4.5% of the population who are unemployed. I'll bet they also smoke tobacco and drink, although the researchers say they matched the control group for other factors. I would guess they have other precursor problems, and I'll bet this minor study had not scanned their brains before the ten-year period, either. And how did they conclude, from this atypical sample, that 'any amount' of smoking put the person at risk?

As I write the researcher, Marat Yucel from Melbourne University, is on 702's Morning Show trotting out a lone 20-year-old ex-smoker, who was not even in the study but is part of a tiny minority who had a bad time on it. Standard tactics. But it will look good on Yucel's CV.

At least AM quoted Gino Vumbaca from ADCA who cautioned about the small sample used in the study.

Ah, Yucel just admitted that all the smokers in the sample were unemployed and the control group wasn't. So the study could equally have concluded that unemployment shrinks your brain. And now as I listen he's COMPLETELY lost it, comparing drug law reformers to people who say tobacco is harmless because a tiny number of smokers live for a hundred years, while 90% plus of cannabis smokers never experience significant problems, the complete reverse evidence base. Host Deborah Cameron missed that glaring fallacy, though.

Meanwhile the potentially $120 million worth of ice lost by police (see previous post) remains out there on the black market and the media are ignoring this massive failure of prohibition. Their news sense is definitely lost in the moral panic.

PS: A kind commenter posted this link from a New Scientist blog which largely reinforces the analysis above.

PPS: Here's a concise piece discrediting many of the prohibition myths peddled by the media.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Senior cop arrested: Alex Wodak vindicated

Today's arrest of top NSW policeman Mark Standen on charges relating to the import of 600kg of pseudoephedrine vindicates Dr Alex Wodak's recent comments that prohibition of drugs leads to police corruption.

His statements were hotly contested by senior police (previous post here).

Mr Standen's arrest jeopardises several major current investigations. Truly, the harms of prohibition far outweigh the harms of drugs (which prohibition fails to prevent in the first place). The import could have contributed to the manufacture of $120 million worth of ice, calculated on prohibition profit margins.

However don't wait up for our government to announce any serious research into the true costs of prohibition. Wrong agenda.

A little-reported aspect is that the drugs have disappeared, apparently 'stolen' from a ship en route to Australia. Oops. So much for the ability of prohibition to reduce supply.

Meanwhile The Sydney Morning Herald has declined to publish Dr Wodak's reply to Miranda Devine's most recent prohibitionist opinion piece, leaving her biased words unchallenged. A fellow blogger has published the long version of Dr Wodak's reply here.

Pictured is a genuine street sign adjacent to St Vincent's Hospital, where Dr Wodak heads the drugs and alcohol unit. I'm guessing there used to be an ice works under the south-east-facing escarpment. So turns the wheel of history.

PS: If anyone offers you 600kg of speed down the pub, just reflect on the efficacy of prohibition and say 'No'. 

PPS: It seems Mark Standen has been previously charged over drugs. Oh dear. Prohibition is just SOOOO good for Police integrity, isn't it! Meanwhile much reporting on this leaves the impression that the potential $120m worth of ice was recovered. But it still hasn't and the media seem to be ignoring this little crack in the edifice. Their wording is clever: just saying that Standen has been 'charged with importing the drugs' sounds as if they had been actually imported. Hmmmn. I would have thought it a much bigger story than Kevin Rudd having a 'butler'. Or has the stuff been siezed and the cops are just onselling it? Surely not. I can't imagine the prospect of $120 million profit being any threat to police integrity. I trust them.