Prohibition of drugs has failed and it is high time to admit it.
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There is really no argument to be had on that front. The Australian government is pouring more taxpayer dollars into stopping illicit drug use than ever before, yet figures released last month show that the problem is growing exponentially.
In fact Australia is ranked second in the world for amphetamine use per capita, only trailing Slovakia.
The first ever National Wastewater Drug Testing report, showed that Methylamphetamine, or ice, continues to remain resilient to all current efforts to thwart it, while cocaine use in NSW and specifically Sydney is also out of control.
Now for the big question. With the evidence out of the bag that every region in every state and territory is battling drug problems what are they going to do about it and didn’t they already know this?
When national law enforcement is left to wade around in human faeces to track drug use, does that mean they are all out of answers? Do they know that the battle is lost, even former Victorian police chief Ken Lay admitted during his time in control "We can't arrest our way out of our problems."
So is it time to take a different approach, maybe even a radical approach to what is undoubtedly a radical problem, or should we just continue to bury our heads in the sand and stay the course that has so far failed to show any decline in drug use ever.
While healthcare stakeholders will get full access to last month’s toilet data, surely it is time to treat the epidemic as a healthcare problem and not a legal problem, especially for personal users, those that are not profiting from their involvement in drugs.
Portugal made the decision to decriminalise all drugs in 2001 and the data from the 16 years since should be invaluable to places like Australia, who seem stuck for ideas.
While drugs in Portugal are still illegal, being caught in possession of a small amount results in a small fine and referral to a treatment program, without an arrest or criminal record.
Since then HIV infection has dropped across the board, overdose deaths have dropped across the board, and the dramatic rise in use feared by many has failed to materialise.
While more research is needed on that front, the one fact that does remain is that whatever Australia is doing is not working and it is time we poured our energy and resources into something that might.
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