Pubdate: Thu, 30 Dec 1999
Date: 12/30/1999
Source: Canberra Times (Australia)
Author: Jon Scott Graham

WHETHER or not heroin should be trialled in Canberra is a contentious
matter: however, whether it should be legalised at all is equally
complex and controversial.

If heroin is legalised, individuals at an impressionable age will
realise that if they begin to use the drug there will be a time when
they can satisfy their heroin craving safely, and without being
stigmatised or incarcerated.

On the other hand, if it is not legalised, young people will continue
to die at an alarming, increasingly high rate. It is a choice between
the lesser of two evils.

Until reactions to these fundamental issues are canvassed by the media
and brought to the attention of community groups and health
professionals, the debate will remain in limbo.

Under the circumstances, it is becoming more and more clear that the
introduction of heroin trials in some of Australia's worst-affected
areas is the least that can be done to stop young Australians having
their lives cut tragically short.

Nevertheless, even this solution is fraught with problems. Drug users
and dealers the distinction between which is less clearly defined than
is widely thought may gravitate towards areas where legalised shooting
galleries are established, creating urban ghettos similar to those in
America and the UK, where life expectancy is short, infant mortality
is high, and violence and criminal activity is rife.

Heroin is a dangerous drug. Bearing in mind the problems that are
associated with alcohol which is not as addictive or lethal as heroin
the matter should be approached with careful consideration, and a
greater degree of tolerance and compassion.