Less than a month after Sydney coroner Mary Jerrum referred a provider of naltrexone implants to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission, the Christian Democrats’ Reverend Fred Nile revealed he wants them used as compulsory treatment for opioid addicts.
Naltrexone implants are not backed by any convincing evidence but the rapid opioid detoxification [ROD], opioid blocking properties they offer appeal greatly to anti-drug crusading Christian evangelists. Long opposed to harm reduction measures and evidence based treatment of addiction, such as methadone maintenance, far right Christians and conservatives see naltrexone implants as a moral masterstroke. Muscling into the action in recent years are the profit-focused, such as Sydney’s Ross Colquhoun, director of Psych ‘n’ Soul.
I’ve previously written about Dr. Stuart Reece, who features in the video below with the same title as this post. His abuse of patients with naltrexone and Jesus saw 25 of them die in 20 months. His career is the epitome of callous faith based pseudoscience which uniquely targets evidence based harm reduction measures. When I posted on a faux “research” paper he had co-authored with other members of Drug Free Australia, I referred to an exchange on an email list hosted by the Alcohol and Drug Council of Australia. It was on this list years ago that I first read Ross Colquhoun defend naltrexone implants as “common sense”. Indeed his evidence free defence of implants led me to conclude that his “common sense” was the equivalent of the religious zealots’ “belief”.
Both individuals are signatories to Drug Free Australia’s so-called position statement which includes funding of naltrexone implants as an “urgent pro-active change to our illicit drug policies”.
Handing down scathing findings into three deaths, the coroner recommended that the HCCC consider proceedings against a doctor working at Colquhoun’s Pysch ‘n’ Soul, Dr. Jassim Daood. According to the ABC she noted, “a number of disciplinary cases have already been completed about some of the clinic’s other staff”. The scale of potential problems becomes clear when one considers the implants have never been approved for use, eager staff have little or no training and post-implant support regimes are entirely absent. For over a decade these implants have been available via the TGA’s Special Access Scheme, which is designed to allow patients access to otherwise unavailable drugs to treat conditions deemed potentially fatal in the absence of that drug.
In this case the Scheme is being exploited as a loophole whilst the implant option itself has left in it’s wake a litany of failure and fatalities. Colquhoun is unlicenced to perform ROD but ignored requests from the NSW Health Department in mid 2010. SMH wrote on October 20:
Despite this direction, Colquhoun resumed the treatments while still unlicensed between July and September of that year, only desisting when Grace Yates, a 23-year-old with a five-month-old baby, was given ROD and naltrexone at the clinic on September 29, 2010. She suffered a heart attack and died two months later, having never regained consciousness.
It’s worth considering this failed treatment option is likely to be expanded under a coalition government. As health minister in the Howard Government, Tony Abbott provided the funding for the launch of the evangelical Drug Free Australia from the Tough on Drugs/Assets of Crime kitty. Describing themselves as “Australia’s Peak Drugs Body” they failed to meet the conditions of the funding, choosing instead to sabotage related health policy basics. Without doubt they have proven to be to addiction treatment what the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network is to the management of vaccine preventable disease.
Abbott also sent $50,000 they way of Psych ‘n’ Soul in the same year, showing exceptionally poor judgement. There is little doubt with enemies of Harm Minimisation such as Bronwyn Bishop, Sophie Mirabella and Christopher Pyne on his proposed front bench, Australia’s strong evidence based approach to addiction management would suffer. As the coroner noted:
It appears that a patient only had to present at the clinic to be enthusiastically recommended for rapid opioid detoxification, no matter what their history or situation, without alternatives being discussed or considered or any information given out of the risks involved.
Another death related to the attempts at ROD Psych ‘n’ Soul is now infamous for, involved Michael Poole, 48. He was described as “delirious and delusional” after ROD and died at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney two days later. The third death involved James Unicomb, 23 who died from drug toxicity following a poly-drug overdose, which followed the ROD and occurred whilst an implant remained active. This lack of appropriate follow up of patients is perhaps the most appalling failure related to the practice of ROD and implants.
Rapid detox’ doesn’t treat addiction. It removes cravings and leaves patients open to the possibility of overdose. Often they are dependent upon high doses of benzodiazapines which raises the risk of opioid induced respiratory depression. As addiction is not treated, behaviour cannot be expected to change. It is for this reason follow up should form the most important aspect of rapid detoxification. It is for the same reason that implants have such a high failure rate in “curing” addiction.
One can only imagine the profit made and moral crusading accomplished from treating now dead addicts who were essentially exploited, not treated. Of course, testimonials abound. Whether it’s those who adore Reece for showing them the way to Jesus or Colquhoun’s (third time lucky) performer in the below video, let’s not kid ourselves. The dead cannot speak.
Alex Wodak, director of Sydney’s St. Vincents Hospital Alcohol and Drug Service observed:
How they are allowed to be used for routine purposes in several states in this country beats me. It goes against all the normal regulations and I think the only explanation I can understand is that this is allowed in this case because they’re only drug addicts. […] We really need a national independent inquiry into the regulatory failure, the serious regulatory failure that’s gone on with Naltrexone implants for over a decade.
Indeed we do.
Naltrexone implants backed by zealotry but not evidence
First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s [pregnancy] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
US Republican Senator Todd Akin, August 19th 2012
Some doctors have told me that health outcomes are worse for gay and lesbian people, and gay activists themselves point to health problems. I mean this in the widest sense, not just HIV-AIDS but rates of cancer, alcoholism and other disease.
Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen, September 10th 2012
The author recounts hearing what appears to be a fairly unjustified anti-theistic rant directed at Christians, then poses some queries as to why such criticism is common. Common in various media and comedy sketches. Of course this applies also to drama, casual discourse, public debate and genuine lobbying for equal rights.
Perhaps the question should have been phrased differently, or presented as an observation. Christianity particularly, has practitioners adhering to many different practices, beliefs and intention. Regrettably there are those who ignore the privacy of faith and wield their version of Christianity as if it were authoritative. Or worse, an absolute truth or blueprint for life. Everyone’s life.
It is this constant song of demand that the only life we know be discarded in servitude or demoted to a test run that sustains a deep and painful wound in the Australian psyche. The strange mix of fundamentalism and patronising insistence that others must live by an unwelcome moral code is at once offensive and utterly absurd. The intellectual paucity upon which it rides is truly astonishing.
Yet it is the message of Christianity as put forward by those in a position to command media attention, those who lobby or horrifically as revealed in recent years, those who seek to indoctrinate our children at public schools. The scale of material wealth enjoyed by the institutions that protect and nurture this archaic message and sadly defend those known to have abused so many children is not lost on Australians.
That religious institutions based on Christianity and the faith of Christianity are not one and the same, is not always clear. This may explain why it’s seemingly “okay to bag Christianity”. On the most recent episode of Q&A on Australia’s ABC, Aussies were treated to some splendid bigotry and misogyny from Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen. Such views would and do disgust many Christians. He also spoke of the message of Jesus Christ and the positives associated with this. This view would be celebrated by all Christians.
Therein lies much confusion and the source for criticism of Christianity. It may not be Christianity in it’s entirety or individual Christians that are intended to be “bagged”. Yet the inordinate wealth, control and unwanted influence afforded truly unpleasant individuals based upon what is essentially a belief in magical beings, does not sit well with the progressive 21st century mind. Christianity remains a most irritating influence and/or manifestly detrimental force for so many that “bagging” or mocking, is not surprising.
The divisive and deceptive nature of many messages pushed out by Christian identities is reflected in the above comments. In both instances we see an appeal to authority. Toss in the claim some doctors have said this or that and apparently one has the opportunity to trot out whatever bigoted opinions one would like to be fact. In both cases it backfires because “doctors” in general say nothing of the sort.
Hence no proper research was attempted but the faux impression of having sought informed consensus is bravely put forth. Worse, these are smart men so this author will assume they knowingly lied. I hasten to add Jensen followed with, “I do not know whether there is sound evidence for this or not”. Which far from saving him should rightly raise questions about his access to Google or who on earth advises him. At the time, the claim had already been in the headlines for five days.
Hiding behind dodgy “research” is nothing new for Christian bigotry. The myth that homosexuality and paedophilia are linked has been the topic of bogus, offensive, pseudoscientific and at times bizarre reporting. Quite benign findings are breathlessly reported as evidence of children in danger from gay men. For example, one source from the US Family Research Council (Advancing faith, family and freedom) is cited:
In The Gay Report, by homosexual researchers Karla Jay and Allen Young, the authors report data showing that 73 percent of homosexuals surveyed had at some time had sex with boys sixteen to nineteen years of age or younger.
The wording seeks to convey that gay men have overwhelmingly had sex with teens, whereas “at some time” conveniently distorts consensual legal sex. Exactly the type of findings we’d expect with heterosexuals.
A number of recent studies and articles have attempted to discredit the gay rights movement by linking homosexuality to pedophilia. These writings have either cited articles in the scientific literature alleging to show that homosexual males are more inclined to molest children than heterosexual males, or they have attempted to demonstrate an inevitable trend toward toleration of pedophilia by employing the “slippery slope” argument.
However, the very scientists that are cited in support of the contention that gays are more likely to be molesters explicitly reject the idea that homosexuals pose a disproportionate threat to children. […]
In fact, the Judeo-Christian tradition and many other religious traditions tolerated and even affirmed pedophilic relationships for centuries. The contemporary taboo against such relationships developed only a little over one hundred years ago…
Over the past few months we have learnt of a number of reports regarding a paper we published in the International Journal of Epidemiology on the gay and bisexual life expectancy in Vancouver in the late 1980s and early 1990s. From these reports it appears that our research is being used by select groups in US and Finland to suggest that gay and bisexual men live an unhealthy lifestyle that is destructive to themselves and to others. These homophobic groups appear more interested in restricting the human rights of gay and bisexuals rather than promoting their health and well being.
Wallace might like to buttress his bigotry with the solidly debunked “gay obituary study” published by the head of Family Research Council (a documented Hate Group) Paul Cameron, with Playfair and Wellum. Choosing only obituaries these guys “concluded” gay men die at 43. I’m sure this came as quite a shock to all the living gay men from the same generation over 43 years of age. Especially as the sample had no living subjects and further skewed it’s results by sampling only urban openly gay men.
Today, with antiretroviral drugs mean life expectancy from the time of diagnosis with HIV is over 40 years. So, these chaps had to zero in on a particular time period and ignore living subjects. Average age of death from AIDS was around 40 years. 20% of gay men would die of AIDS in the period before drug treatment. According to Steven Ross, even if we crank that up to 50% Cameron’s mean lifespan of 43 years requires healthy gay men to die at 46. Said differently, if healthy gay men died at 70 those with AIDS would need to die at 16.
Then there’s the group of bigoted evangelicals I personally enjoy catching out in their abuse of science. The conservative anti-drug lobby continues to produce junk science arguing measures to control blood borne virus spread have failed. They remain at the forefront of efforts to undermine the methodology of expert panels who conclude illicit drug prohibition tactics in present form are quite damaging. An assorted group of Christian fundamentalists bent on faith based practices, it is quite sad to see them attack Christian run faith based charities.
When Drug Free Australia published an attack on research supporting Vancouver’s safe injecting site under the guise of science, Mark Wainberg, professor of medicine and director of the McGill University AIDS Centre concluded in part:
In my view, the allegations that have been made by ‘Drug Free Australia’ are without merit and are not based on scientific fact. In contrast, it is my view that the work that has been carried out by the team of Thomas Kerr et al is scientifically well-founded and has contributed to reducing the extent of mortality and morbidity in association with the existence of the safer injection facility. . . . The University of British of British Columbia should be proud of the contributions of its faculty members to the important goal of diminishing deaths due to intravenous drug abuse.
Thus in all three examples the demonstrable abuse of existing science or presentation of pseudoscience to justify or defend outright discrimination is clearly demonstrated. The quest for abstinence – forced if need be – in all it’s forms certainly leads to bigotry.
Clearly the discrimination and abuse levelled at members of the LGBTI community has a demonstrable impact on health and lifestyle. For gay Christians or those raised in Christian families the effects of bigotry can be negatively life changing. If Wallace was honest he would admit that his identified lifestyle problems of drug abuse, self harm and suicide would reduce without his bigotry.
If HIV is of genuine concern he would accept stable, monogamous relationships and of course marriage, reduce the risk of not knowing the HIV status of a partner. Instead he prefers to cite a Danish study that found brief relationships of around 18 months. He might not let on this was a sample of young men aged 18-21 years. In fact same sex civil unions are rather boringly unlikely to differ from the general population.
Wallace’s claims are surely demonstrably false. What is more shocking than Jim’s predictable bigotry is his attempt to link choice to sexual orientation. In arguing that smoking reduces lifespan by up to a decade and we educate children not to smoke, he’s suggesting we should similarly educate about the dangers of the “gay lifestyle”.
In God We Teach follows the story of a high school student who recorded his history teacher proselytising for Jesus.
In Kearny New Jersey, student Matthew LaClair recorded teacher David Paszkiewicz preaching about Jesus. An avowed “anti-Darwinist”, who places god before all and concludes academic freedom includes the freedom to preach and not teach, at one time Paszkiewicz informs his history students:
He (Jesus) did everything in his power to make sure you could go to heaven. So much so that he put your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you and is saying ‘please accept me, believe’.
You reject that and you belong in hell.
During a high school christian club meeting Paszkiewicz allows students to articulate the fundamentalist view that immorality thrives through “endorsing” evolution. One student suggests that people would, “… grow cold and empty. You grow cold to people with disabilities. You grow cold to an after life. There is no after life. Why not do what you want? Why not steal? Why not assault people?”.
Paszkiewicz calmly tells the student attendees;
The world doesn’t understand this but believers do. Teaching Darwinism, is something that’s going to take peoples eyes off of god, especially Jesus Christ. […]
It may be against the law to teach Creationism as fact, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
With the town backing the wayward teacher, Matthew LaClair does what clearly had to be done to defend the right to public education and the separation of church and state.
Paul; your writings are amusing, but you have only 183 followers! My 14 year old daughter has three times that on a silly facebook page!
In the spirit of genuine laziness and as one of the “waspish witch-hunters of political medicine”, I’ve reproduced my response to a comment on the About page written by a giant in the art of selective topic pertinence.
Your daughter has a bigger number than mine. On Facebook! Well, I’m sure that every one is a dedicated and true friend engaged in a deeply meaningful personal relationship. Or… maybe quality isn’t what matters, if I’m to take the meaning.
Yes I agree chiropractic will be around for years to come. Chiropractors will tweak and change to keep in line with shifts in superstition and trends in gullibility to ensure they maintain a large slice of the health scam market. They will also fight and defend like skilled con artists and fraudsters to hold onto the empty title of “doctor”, being only too aware of the psychology that drives the gullible to their doors. Mimicry of actual medicine and misuse of technology is vital to the illusion.
Also I agree on the history. Palmer certainly wasn’t the first person to rattle and dance, poke and prod whilst intoning godly laws about the human body and human health. He was however the first to market his touchy brand of magic as “science” and made liberal use of the most modern tools at his disposal.
I note your journey to last century to exhume the Wilk case. A splendid diversion. Yet since then, not only was your daughter born but chiropractic shifted into a fundamentalist ideology that denies every rule of medical science and the very laws of nature itself. Of its own accord it has become the “go to discipline” for glowing appraisals of alternatives to medicine and solemn condemnation of conventional medicine.
More so, it has again of its own accord inserted itself in serious health debates way beyond the beliefs ensconced behind the battlements of its extra-dimensional reality. The vaccination issue. Pre natal, neo natal and extended post natal proclamations designed solely to scare vulnerable and gullible new parents to sign those lucrative “treatment contracts”. Paediatric chiropractic – perhaps more amusing than you realise if not for the conclusive demonstrations of inefficacy.
To my knowledge the only scheme to actually provoke symptoms of Munchausens Syndrome By Proxy it is responsible for creating nervous wrecks and genuine psychological patients of innocent parents. The invention of “syndrome” after “syndrome” and the terrifying warnings of what awaits those who do not succumb to regular “maintenance”.
SCIENTISTS spent $374,000 recently asking people to inhale lemon and lavender scents to see if it helped their wounds to heal. It didn’t.
The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the US also outlaid $700,000 to show that magnets are no help in treating arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or migraines.
The centre spent $390,000 to find that old Indian herbal remedies do not control type 2 diabetes and $406,000 to prove coffee enemas do not cure pancreatic cancer.
It’s the same story around the globe. One by one, weirdo treatments are being exposed as bunkum.
Why are people so gullible, handing over their hard-earned cash for unproven alternative therapies? […]
Latest research says dietary supplements and megavitamins, acupuncture and chiropractic are of little use – and may even be harmful. […]
Chiropractors have now been discredited by every reputable medical organisation from the Royal Society down, yet people still spend up on these bone-crunchers and state and federal governments seem unwilling to shut them down.
Recently I reported on two experts on alternative medicine who reviewed all the evidence and concluded chiropractic was “worthless”.
“Harmful, worthless, discredited by every reputable medical organisation from the Royal Society down”. Keith, mate! And that’s coming from proponents of alternatives to medicine.
Like all magical claims chiropractic has been sternly examined and found wanting. Claims of efficacy crushed under the simple application of RCTs and its claims of safety evaporate before a monumental collection of research into death, permanent injury and disability or injury and complications with frequent cases of lengthy recovery. To be sure this happens in medicine also but to those already on death’s doorstep, significantly ill, disabled or in need of life saving surgery. And they are well informed of the risks that apply to a strictly evidence based choice.
That chiropractors scheme and trick people who are absolutely perfectly healthy – indeed many fatalities in robust health, the prime of life – to believe they need attention is itself a grave insult to common altruism and a thunderously immoral application of psychology. That healthy and vital people can be killed or injured and experience levels of morbidity that equal high impact vehicle accidents is a statement about chiropractic no-one can ignore.
Again addressing your mine’s bigger than yours argument I note the “fast-dwindling group of activists” reference. Of course nothing could be more inaccurate. Advocacy for science based medicine and skeptical defence and examination of consumer rights in health and beyond, is at an all time high. But it is not quantity that matters, and your obsession with quantity reveals your lack of appreciation for quality.
It is evidence that matters. Including evidence explaining what drives the interest in so many health scams we have seen rise up of late. The search for Truth is indeed vital, but skeptics and other scientists will accept the evidence as it comes. This happens to include that which explains the manipulation of individuals to believe the equivalent of magic is fact. Should the evidence indicate an increase in the future this too will be sought for further elucidation.
To comment on evidence gleaned from the methods that can be trusted to inform us of our world is not to be waging war. Much less a “self created turf war” as you put it. Of course people will continue to believe in fallacy and illusion. Magic has been a feature of our species for countless thousands of years, yet today we can discern the mechanics by which false displays are executed and the primary role of the believer themselves.
Many things will persist with health scams. Wars, cults, belief in the supernatural and our disposition to internalise superstitious belief to name a few. People are hard wired to believe in fantasy. Yet in a democracy I would not have it any other way for it reflects on my freedom. Your real concern should be with a.) the lack of evidence for chiropractic and b.) the ultimate goal of regulators.
Seeking to impede exploitation of fellow community members when evidence irrefutably confirms this, is the democratic right of skeptics and science advocates. When perpetrators of scams confirm malignant intent by misrepresenting evidence it becomes a moral obligation – a duty to our species.
Of course, with real freedom we find expression and belief should not be inhibited. In this light the freedom to be stupid is your democratic right.
I too have found great amusement in this exchange.
I fear however, your return to the lives of schoolgirls on Facebook is perhaps well justified.
The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children, and we are all letting it happen
Senator Bob Carr (Foreign Affairs Minister), Mick Palmer (former Federal Police Chief), Nicholas Cowdery (former Director: NSW Public Prosecutions), Geoff Gallop (ex W.A. Premier)
On April 3rd this year Aussies woke to news of “the most significant challenge to drug laws in decades”, as reported by Fairfax media below. Or download MP3 [41sec]:
Interesting then that Bronwyn Bishop looks set to sit on the Front Bench of Australia’s next Federal Government. In 2007 Bishop chaired a House of Representatives Senate Inquiry into the impact of illicit drug use on families. Dreamed up by John Winston Howard to give an airing to the extreme right wing anti-drug movement whilst simultaneously heaping shame upon the brilliant minds driving the policy of Harm Minimisation, it was an appalling example of a predetermined agenda.
For many years prior it was axiomatic to those involved with illicit drug policy and the impact of organised crime that prohibition was a failure. The War on Drugs is a war on people and it surprised no-one that Bishop entitled her all singing all dancing moral panic final report “The Winnable War”. It was rejected by every D&A policy, funding and health service of any standing. Indeed by many more with pretty much no standing.
Drug Free Australia (DFA) and a range of conservative anti-drug lobbyists held it in high regard. Ann Bressington, who squeezes anti-vaccination, anti-fluoride, anti-Harm Minimisation and Festival of Light fundamentalism into her day, was delighted. Then again, Ann verbally coached a witness through his submission to say he “escaped harm minimisation, not addiction”.
Bishop had given succor to one of their fundamentalist favourites, and on the same day attempted to batter one of their sworn enemies for his devotion to health policy, science and evidence. Perhaps I shall recount one exchange with the G.P. who used naltrexone, sedatives and the bible in bringing about the death of 25 of his heroin dependent patients in 20 months [summary]. Now an “expert” in naltrexone related fatality with Drug Free Australia (I kid you not) he said then:
I was interested to discover that the actual historical site of Sodom and Gomorrah has recently been found in Israel. On the bottom right of this slide are pictures of sulphur balls that have been found there. So consequences matter, and they can destroy a civilisation quickly, as we saw with yesterday’s tsunami and so on.
This slide shows a tree with snakes, which to my mind is a lot of the stories that you hear from harm minimisation. Methadone, syringe giveaways, injecting rooms, medical cannabis, heroin trials all those are catered for by the same people. But, on the other side of the tree, you have all the downsides, the side effects, which are not talked about in this culture.
It is of extreme concern to me that medical science which is known and understood overseas is not understood and not talked about and given no airplay whatsoever in this culture.
These are old slides I made several years ago, charting a lot of these behaviours: this is condoms and the AIDS risk, charting the parallel between condoms and AIDS deaths.
Ms GEORGE (Senate committee member): Sorry, I do not understand. What are you saying – condom protection and AIDS deaths are correlated?
Dr Reece: Yes, condom sales and AIDS deaths. I am saying that there is a statistical association between the two.
Under Keeping Up The War On Drugs Bishop wrote in her report:
A significant amount of damage to families and the community has been avoided by the government’s uncompromising approach to the trafficking and use of illicit drugs. Drug industry elites who have repeatedly claimed that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed are simply wrong. […]
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and its partners have been highly successful in limiting the damage of illicit drugs in Australia. The number and weight of detections for selected illicit drugs are generally higher than before 2000…
Increasing drug seizures reflect increasing drug traffic. Increasing traffic reflects increasing and increasingly varied demand. Such demand indicates more use and we already knew more use was due to ineffective tactics globally. The snide term “drug industry elites” still has life in certain circles. Essentially it demeaned those who dealt in evidence alone and advised accordingly.
Australia endured the rejection of science by politicians for the very tenuous reason of hopefully securing votes. At the States and Territories health ministers’ conference in Cairns in 1997, the issue of a heroin trial – the latest step in Harm Reduction to show exciting success in Europe – was raised. Ultimately Michael Wooldridge, four states and the ACT voted for trials to begin. The result was 6-3 in favour.
Whilst credit is due for his continued funding of needle exchange programmes, Howard had not just a conservative eye but a retributive one. The success of Harm Minimisation under the previous government left him keen to change the essence of a policy that had seen Australia emerge as world leaders. Thus we copped his Tough On Drugs approach – a dismal failure. He immediately cancelled the trial on advice from his Evangelical adviser and first Chair of the ANCD, Major Brian Watters.
Watters was already making enemies in the ANCD itself, for merging his Salvation Army role with what should have been best practice. A Drug Free Australia Board member, Watters’ disdain for science and academics was manifest. He had spoken on an episode of Four Corners with John Howard:
WATTERS: I mean, the Salvation Army’s been doing it for 120 years. No good these academics telling us it doesn’t work.
HOWARD: And I feel in very safe hands, with the police on the one side and the Salvation Army on the other.
WATTERS: It’s the law and the prophets.
HOWARD: It’s the law and the prophets. That’s right.
So it continued. The “law and the prophets” looking after in-need Aussies. One of the most used phrases in the bible, it’s most significant aspect is that Jesus came to “fulfill” The Law and The Prophets. Then we got the faith healers and the purists. The Evangelists and the righteous. Anti-harm minimisation groups arose – DFA itself funded by [then] Health Minister, Tony Abbott. Others re-emerged keen to sink the conservative boot in to such sinful wickedness as clean needles, condoms and honest, open health education.
In 2007 The World Federation Against Drugs firmed it’s resolve in Sweden in striking mockery of the NGO Forum at the 50th Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Human Rights, Harm Reduction and Health Responses we heard from [then] UNODC Executive Director, Antonio Maria Costa, would be crucial to future global policy initiatives. Apparently not if conservatives could help it. Populated, perhaps unsurprisingly, by a number of biblical fundamentalists, evangelists and young earth creationists one might appreciate the uncompromising stance and anti-rights position that WFAD entertain.
DRUG Free Australia may not be a household name but its leaders claim a role in repelling further moves towards what they see as the evil of drug decriminalisation.
It fears the ”tough on drugs” regime of the Howard government is unravelling, with the abandonment of the school drug education strategy and declining use of community advertising campaigns. […]
‘Our view is that Australia’s illicit drug policy is too lenient, sending mixed messages to our youth,” [Jo Baxter] said.
Here’s a picture drawn by a child attending a DFA school education strategy (Hint: be drug free, go to heaven). Interestingly the Education Department in S.A. has a different view to Baxter on the matter. That article mentions a member of Youth for a Drug Free Australia, who is also head of The Recovered Drug Users League SA, Ryan Hidden.
He just happens to be the chap Ann Bressington coached to lie to the House of Representatives. But later Jo had him chatting to kiddies in school against Education Department instructions. A few weeks earlier he chose to dob in tobacconists the very day after Ann Bressington’s “bong ban” came into force.
Now… where did I read “mixed messages”?
Jo Baxter is Executive Officer of Drug Free Australia, Spokesperson for the S.A. “campus” of the evangelist driven Delgarno Institute is also vice-president of the World Federation Against Drugs. If you want an attack on human rights driven policy in Australia, Drug Free Australia is the group. If you want a “Heads Up People!” attack on the Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose main report also concludes prohibition has failed, the Delgaro Institute is the place.
But if you want to read an attack on the host of eminent Australians who produced the report raised in Parliament last April 3rd, Jo Baxter will even pop on her WFAD V.P. hat. So what do we get? Labelling the report compiled by 24 former senior state and federal politicians, experts in drug policy and public health, young people, a leading businessman, legal and former law enforcement officers, as “lacking substance” Jo begins:
The so-called ‘high level’ report on illicit drugs, suggesting that decriminalisation across the board, will solve Australia’s drug problems, lacks sound scientific basis and credibility and, as such should be discounted. The following a (sic) just some of the reasons:
First, it is not the ‘War on Drugs’ that has failed, but rather, it’s the failure of Australia’s Illicit Drugs Policy to satisfactorily address primary prevention.
For over 25 years Australians have endured a policy of Harm Minimisation, which has left a ‘train wreck’ in families and communities across the nation. […]
They have failed to recognised that, between 2000 and 2006, Australia had a ‘Tough on Drugs Strategy’ and our illicit drug use rates dropped significantly. The trend is now turning around. […]
Which is it I wonder? A Harm Minimisation train wreck or a Tough on Drugs victory? Harm Minimisation arrested the spread of HIV, Hepatitis B and harmful drug using practices. The surge in heroin use is well documented as due to immigration of a S.E. Asian demographic able to import large quantities and sell at reduced rates. If prohibition was working initially this would not have happened.
Instead criminal cartels blossomed and later shifted to manufacturing their own product indoors. If prohibition worked that would never have happened. It seems to me like Tough On Drugs actually oversaw the rise of many new classes of drugs and an actual shift in the drug using habits of our community more in line with criminal profit.
As always Harm Minimisation and Reduction have functioned to manage the fallout from prohibition’s failure.
Effectively Jo’s article is a repeat of what the Drug Free Australia mantra has been, no matter what the title, debate, paper or conference. A synopsis of what Bronwyn Bishop concocted in 2007. A reflection on their bogus research on Supervised Injecting Facilities, Needle Syringe Programmes, Medicinal Cannabinoid research and so on.
The global Drug Free movement is to illicit drug policy in the community, what creationism is to evolution in the science curriculum.
Given the demonstrable failures of prohibition, we are still reticent to discuss this issue vociferously. Clearly it is a topic that can be easily misinterpreted, accidentally misrepresented or used to cast mischievous accusations toward those who mount firm evidence backed arguments. Much of the confusion stems from the fear that drug use under relaxed laws will equate to greater use. Often this is expressed as if one believes use will be compulsory.
Yet needle provision did not lead to increased use. The return on investment is four dollars for every one dollar invested. As needles are returned potential virus reserves are removed from the community. Users reciprocate with services learning to manage health and exploit opportunity to cease using. New users are resourced and educated to develop the means to never risk cross infection. The entire community benefits and vital dollars are not spent dealing with preventable problems.
Still, the false belief that use is encouraged this way persists in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Similarly the notion of deregulation is seen as a “free for all”, quite bizarrely likened to alcohol. Perhaps understandably challenges to drug prohibition evoke images of the end of alcohol prohibition. With this comparison comes the assumption all drugs will be readily available and an integral part of culture. Businesses will provide and houses will be stocked. The roads will be full of talkative, super-horny, hallucinating, dozing, dancing, slurring and very hungry drivers heading for pizza.
No. The only relationship to alcohol prohibition will be the removal of the millions of Al Capone types and the violence, intimidation, corruption, ruined families and poisoned customers that inevitably evolve. The failure of prohibition can be seen in a top down, if not linear fashion. Yet the way in which it is finally dismantled is in my mind not completely predictable and remains a complex bottom up venture to be managed with flexibility.
Evidence across the world shows use drops or remains stable with relaxed laws. The Portuguese example has presented in over a decade, remarkable success. The advantages of removing extensive punitive measures and simple stigma become manifest in a few short years. Legal resources freed from the waste of hassling petty users are brought to bear on serious crime. Users, freed from the fear of severe prosecution and shame become proactive in seeking help.
Potential users become a smaller market as drugs become controlled by authorities and subject to medical oversight – not criminal endeavour. More so, the opportunity to get ones life back on track is a reality that provides huge motivation to avoid drug use and experimentation. Presently in Australia, by the time users need substantial help they may be alienated from society, ashamed, angry and overwhelmed by the prospect of “perhaps” getting a decent life back under way.
Decriminalisation means specified proscribed behaviour is removed from the criminal law and is dealt with under the civil law.
De-penalisation means reducing the severity of penalties.
Legalisation means that the specified forms of behaviour are no longer offenses dealt with by the law.
Regulation means establishing a strictly controlled legal market for drugs as is the case with pharmaceutical drugs, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages.
Deconstructing prohibition is not a licence to take drugs. It is a means to remove lucrative profits from criminals and steer in-need and at-risk Aussies toward a healthier and more hopeful future. Those able to see a way out of the present mess all hold a somewhat unique view. No one person holds the solution, but certainly as experts and visionaries, groups such as the Australia 21 Board are urgently needed to begin the process of improving Australian lives and saving tax payer dollars.
400 Aussies die from drug related causes annually and countless others suffer a range of related harm that varies from mild to severe interpersonal conflict, financial tragedy or horrific violence. Lives are cropped of potential and under the present system valuable, talented and vital community members slowly withdraw from society even years after they have ceased to use any drugs.
Stopping us from turning this mess around is the movement I opened this article with. Whether it’s same sex marriage, being an atheist or removing the stigma from elicit drugs a vocal and well organised minority conclude that they can do any and everything to impose their own moral values on the rest of the society. In effect however, knowing that they cannot successfully do this the outcome is merely to impede progress to equality and thus limit the freedom of others.
Hence we cannot really have this discussion without at some point acknowledging it isn’t resisted just on philosophical grounds. The continuance of the war on people and the fruitless prohibition of illicit drugs, regardless of means used, is the single aim of those who today are seen attacking Harm Minimisation and Harm Reduction.
Therein lies the problem. Whilst arguments are akin to anti-vaccination rhetoric: repetitive, evidence free, conspiratorial, personal and peppered with linking all related ills to the present policy, in this case conservatives do have political sway. Thus full and open discourse regarding the retrieval of control from organised crime must include the reality that the anti-drug movement is guilty in it’s own way of inflicting suffering, corruption and death on our nation.
More so, they know this well. The bulk of attacks on Harm Reduction revolve around creating the pseudoscience and pathological theories to argue HIV has not been controlled by reducing the personal exchange of blood and body fluids. Despite the exquisite correlation between Harm Reduction absence and HIV presence across the globe it is still argued that HR “enables” drug use, thus causes all negatives that go with it.
Discourse is poor because the reality is that no government would dream of even broaching the subject for fear of alienating the conservative vote. Dr. Reece states above that condom use parallels AIDS deaths and God’s wrath will follow Harm Reduction measures as a “consequence”. Rhetoric fed to parliamentarians about Injecting Facilities is nowhere near as absurd, looks genuine to the untrained eye and can influence decisions. We should expect the same polish in defence of prohibition.
Changes in equal rights now look set to take years. The public is well versed in who the bigots are in matters of marriage, abortion and euthanasia. For the public to be prepared to take on a gradual change in their world view as it pertains to drug use and abuse, those truly dedicated to abolishing prohibition need to expose the bigots and the saboteurs also. And yes, it may be that simply opening channels of discussion will be enough to do this.
The evidence is irrefutable. Prohibition has failed and it is killing Australians. We don’t just need discussion on the necessity for change. We need discussion on why there is as yet no change and instead a persistent silence. Every report on this issue and every report on Harm Minimisation success is attacked by anti-drug lobbyists such as Drug Free Australia.
When we do expand the discussion we must be prepared to lay the blame at their door.