Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ben Cousins prompts a good debate on prohibition

A recent series of letters in The Sydney Morning Herald contains succinct rebuttals of prohibition. SMH readers tend to think a bit more deeply than the average Joe, so these letters offer little hope that the public in general is waking up. Still, I am sure the following conversation would not have appeared a few years ago. Things are moving on.

30 August 2010

Devine misses the point on Cousins drug story
I was appalled by Miranda Devine's article on the Ben Cousins' documentary and her opinion on drug addiction and those afflicted by the disease (''Seven's weak tackle on Cousins'', August 28-29).

However, the tragedy is that the most Australians would agree with her. Whatever your opinion of Ben Cousins, he has done a great thing in getting people talking about addiction.

Drugs are a serious problem in society. If people are genuinely concerned and fear for their children becoming another statistic, they should not listen to opinions of journalists but to those who have lived through the experience. None of the addiction specialists who shared their views on the documentary condemned Cousins, and these are the people we should be listening to.

I was in active addiction for nearly 25 years and was deeply offended by Devine's comments. Over the years I've had to deal with the death of many of my friends at the hands of drugs. I'm sure their parents would be comforted by Devine's wisdom that ''they were not afflicted by a disease. They were simply narcissists who took drugs because it makes them feel good.'' Until people understand that addiction is a mental health issue and drug abuse is symptomatic of underlying mental disorders we will continue to watch our children die. The children being sexually abused and neglected today are tomorrow's drug addicts.

Alison Fitzgibbon Broadmeadow

The replies start, 31 August 2010:

A choice disease
Alison Fitzgibbon (Letters, August 30) says ''addiction is a mental health issue and drug abuse is symptomatic of underlying mental disorders''. Really?

Then how does she explain that very first time? Is it mental health disorders that prompt a young trendy to pop a pill in a nightclub? I don't think so. As for drug addiction being a disease, with the possible exception of sexually transmitted diseases, I can't think of a single disease that gives a person complete choice over whether to be exposed to it.

Daniel Lewis Rushcutters Bay

Record hauls, spectacular busts, a multi-year and multi-agency investigation costing millions, and yet the estimate is that the supply of illegal drugs has dropped by merely 10-15 per cent (''Guns and poses: inside the drug lords' deadly world'', August 30). Yet more evidence, as if more were needed, that prohibition only enriches dealers, spawns violence and crime, and corrupts police.

The solution? Legalise it. All of it. Regulate it tightly and tax it heavily (like tobacco and alcohol). We have given prohibition a good long go. No one can say we haven't tried. It has totally, utterly, absolutely failed. Time to try something else.

Shannon Roy Cherrybrook

• Replies to replies, 1 September 2010:

Drugs include Christian crack

On ''recreational'' drugs, I take an either/or position: either prohibit all drugs, including alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, or legalise and control all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis. Nothing gives me the pip more than people pontificating about the evils of ''drug use'' while downing a schooner, smoking a ciggie or when hyped-up after their morning espresso.

My brother, a fundamentalist Christian, would no sooner drink, smoke, snort or shoot up than jump off a cliff. But at least he has the good grace, and sense of humour, to refer to coffee as ''Christian crack''. By his own admission, he can't get by without it. A drug is a drug is a drug.

Peter Cain Kingswood

Daniel Lewis (Letters, August 31) has no idea what he is talking about and should be thankful for it. Yes, that very first time can be the result of a mental health disorder. Not for everyone, but not everyone becomes addicted. If someone is clinically depressed and his friend says, ''These pills will make you feel amazing'', he has the choice to say no, but would he? I don't think so.

Anyone who is sure they would has never been depressed, or has received the proper treatment for it. Do not think that just because someone is a ''young trendy'' they do not have problems.

Those who support failed zero-tolerance policing, scrapping heroin injecting rooms, blocking harm minimisation legislation and sending the mentally ill to rot in jail cause far more damage than a pill at a festival.

Sam Fields Seven Hills

Daniel Lewis misses the point. The mental health issues lie not in the impulse to start, but the ability to stop.

Tim Austin Epping

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