Pubdate: Thu, 23 Aug 2001
Source: West Australian (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 West Australian Newspapers Limited
Author: Alex Wodak
Bookmark: (Treatment)


I WAS privileged to take part in the Community Drug Summit in Perth 
last week. Speakers with very different opinions from quite different 
backgrounds were given an opportunity to present their arguments.

Delegates, who also seemed to represent a wide range of views, 
listened to the arguments of both sides and then voted on the 

The Drug Summit has helped to clarify the kinds of policies that WA 
will have to embrace if the problem of illicit drugs is to be reduced 
to manageable proportions. Most recommendations were passed with 
overwhelming support. Sizeable majorities supported even the more 
controversial recommendations.

There is almost universal recognition that what we have been doing 
has not worked. Most agree that simply doing more of the same will 
not work. Until it is easier for drug users to get into treatment 
than to buy drugs, we will not make any progress. What stops us 
providing enough attractive, evidence-based treatment is the view 
that illicit drugs are first and foremost a law-enforcement problem. 
But it is clear that we cannot arrest and imprison our way out of the 
mess we are in. In all the years we have been relying on law 
enforcement, a once-small problem has grown to mammoth proportions.

Last week, Iran recognised that relying on efforts to cut drug 
supplies was getting it nowhere. So Iran has now started a methadone 
program, even though this was anathema to it until very recently.

Nothing is more precious to us than the lives of young Australians. 
Surely young people are more precious to us than any ideology? We 
must do whatever it takes to keep our young people alive because 
while there is life there is always hope. We will also have to work 
hard to make life more attractive to young people so that fewer 
people are interested in taking drugs.

Dr ALEX WODAK, director, Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent's 
Hospital, Darlinghurst, NSW.
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