Pubdate: Wed, 29 Mar 2000
Source: Ipswich Advertiser (Australia)
Address: 331 Brisbane St, West Ipswich, QLD, 4305
Contact:  Bill Heck


RECENT articles and letters on drugs have mentioned harm minimisation.

This may have been a little confusing to some readers because there are two
entirely separate definitions of what this term means.

There are two schools of thought. Both agree that harm minimisation should
improve health, social and economic outcomes for both the community and the
individual and encompass a wide range of approaches, including educational
supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction.

However, the strategies differ in their fundamental approach to the problem.

Australia follows America's lead.

Drugs are strictly prohibited and penalties are severe.

To minimise harm we have needle exchange to prevent the spread of HIV.

We use counselling and education to try to cure drug addiction or to prevent

We use methadone as an artificial drug substitute to heroin and recently in
America and now here, drug courts to control and regulate addiction. To
date, it hasn't worked.

Europe has a different approach and one Queensland should consider.

Switzerland, Britain and the Netherlands accepted the reality that
prohibition had failed to control the misuse and abuse of drugs.

Harm minimisation there attempts to minimise the harm that addicts do to the

In an effort to stop the trade in drugs they have made heroin and other
narcotics available to registered users through special clinics and made
cannabis worthless as a commodity.

With specialised policing and community support it virtually stopped the
trade in illicit substances and the associated crime and homelessness. It

In Europe they have proven that it is a lot cheaper and much more effective
to deal with drugs through the health service than the courts.

Ask yourself, do you want to be more like America? Think about it.

Sadly, David Hamill says that if drug courts save the life of one kid then
"ordinary Queenslanders" will call it a success. I echo his sentiment, but I
think he is setting his sights pathetically low.

Bill Heck, Ipswich
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