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Australian Drug Policy: ‘hypocrisy’ is not a strong enough word

By James Moylan

The 3.6 million dollar study testing the sewage in our capital cities for illegal drugs is simply more disinformation and bullshit. Let’s revisit the results from this study and consider them rationally.

The study indicates that in Australia the use of alcohol is equivalent to 1.2 drinks PER PERSON per day. Yet since this level of use is ‘at the lower Mediterranean end of consumption in Europe’ it is proposed that the levels of alcohol use in our society are not only entirely acceptable, but to be applauded. Yet the use of meth by 0.4% of the population is invariably described as being of significant concern.

What are the relative harms inflicted upon individuals and our society by the use of these two drugs?

Today the abuse of alcohol will cause 15 deaths and 430 hospitalisations. Same as yesterday. Same as tomorrow.

In 2010 (the last year there is collated information regarding these matters) there were 5,554 deaths and 157,132 hospitalisations which were directly attributable to alcohol abuse. We can assume that the statistics for death and disease have not changed much in the seven years since.

In 2011 there were 101 methamphetamine-related deaths in Australia. In other words; one death from the abuse of methamphetamine for every 55 deaths from the use of alcohol.

When you add to the death rate caused by alcohol abuse, those deaths that are caused by the abuse of tobacco products, then it can be demonstrated that the death rate from legal drugs in our society is at least 53 times more than the deaths caused by illegal drugs. How often do you see this fact being reported as part of a banner headline in our press?

The cost of alcohol-related harm in Australia, including harms caused by someone else’s drinking, is estimated to be $36 billion a year. One in five Australians aged 14 years and above drink at a level that puts them at risk of harm. Yet alcohol companies in Australia will nonetheless be allowed to spend an estimated $125 million this year on advertising.

So; today 15 people will die from abusing alcohol. Today the alcohol industry will spend $350,000.00 on advertising. Yet today the public will also pick up a bill for alcohol treatment, abuse, and harm, that will cost us all $9.8 million dollars. Just today. Same as yesterday. Same as tomorrow.

It is apparent that the drug war has failed the public. But, nonetheless, it has been, and continues to be, a runaway success for the alcohol and pharmaceutical companies, the media corporations, and organised crime.

By continuing to focus on the tiny percentage of deaths caused by illegal drugs our government enables the legal drug pushers in our society to remain respectable. By continuing to demonise illegal drugs the government enables the legal drug pushers to push the massive ongoing costs of dealing with the death and disease caused by their products onto the public purse. By continuing to demonise illegal drugs the mainstream media outlets can continue to pocket vast amounts of blood money without ever having to account for their actions. The public continues to pay the costs and the corporations and the media continue to pocket the profits.

Today nobody will die from abusing cannabis. However our courts will see more than sixty individuals charged with using, growing, or selling weed. This will destroy many otherwise law abiding lives.

Today there will be 15 deaths and 430 hospitalisations caused by the use of alcohol and at least 40 people will die from the use of tobacco products. However our courts will penalise nobody for these shattered lives, deaths, the resultant social destruction and the huge sums of public money that it will cost to sweep up all this wreckage.

Today there will be 55 deaths from alcohol and tobacco in our society and at least 3 deaths from the abuse of prescription drugs. However our media will continue to focus on reporting on a survey concentrating on the content of our sewage.

Illicit drugs kill almost 400 Aussies per year. Yes this is a tragedy for those involved.  However legal drugs kill at least 406 Aussies per week.

In other words; there is one illicit drug death for every 53 deaths caused by the legal use of legal drugs.

None of these facts are difficult to uncover. This accurate and authorised information is available to every journalist and politician in the country simply by plugging some information into the Google machine.

So why do we continue to see headlines that decry the massive impact of illicit drug use on our society? Why do our press outlets continue to peddle misinformation? Why do our politicians continue talk rot and fund ridiculous studies to examine and identify the cause of one in 53 of the deaths caused by drugs in our society? Even though the cause of the vast majority of drug deaths is apparent and obvious to anyone with eyes to see and a brain in their heads?

The simple answer is that our politicians and our media outlets are the recipients of vast amounts of blood money that is paid to enable the legal drug pushers to continue to trade in misery and despair and depend on the public purse to mop up the carnage caused by their products.

I don’t drink. It is a dangerous drug. It kills thousands of people every year. Yet I am not allowed to smoke weed? Yet weed has never been shown to have killed a single person in the entire history of our civilisation. What is wrong with this story?

Until we move to policing drug use in our society in a manner that is based on an assessment of the actual danger and harm associated with each individual drug then we will continue to see a spiralling death rate from drugs in our society and we will continue to see the vast majority of those deaths being completely ignored by  our politicians and media. Apparently, as far as our politicians and mainstream media are concerned, 406 deaths from legal drugs every week is entirely unremarkable, yet 400 deaths from illicit drugs in a year requires constant, ongoing, coverage.

‘Hypocrisy’ is not a strong enough word. ‘Hypocrisy’ implies just an intellectual deceit. Whereas, the reality is that the wanton disregard for the truth being engaged in by our politicians and media is actively contributing to costing our society at least $9.8 million dollars a day as well as leading to the continued deaths of at least 58 citizens every day; today, tomorrow, and the next day (ad infinitum).

Not only that – this evil and deliberately fostered ignorance is being masked by the continued scapegoating and demonization of anyone who might want to use an illegal drug which – when the facts are considered in the clear light of reason and reality – are undoubtedly far less dangerous and cause far fewer deaths and social dislocation and cost than do the drugs that are being manufactured by legal pushers, advertised by the media, and are being pushed across the counters of legal establishments all across our society. Drugs that are being advertised to adults and children in an almost unregulated fashion.

So ‘hypocrisy’ is not a strong enough word. In its place we might instead substitute the sentence; ‘deliberate propaganda on behalf of vested interests who have absolutely no regard for public health, social well-being, truth, or the many deaths being caused by these toxic yet legal substances.’

More people will die this year from the abuse of paracetamol and aspirin than will die from the abuse of methamphetamine – but don’t hold your breath waiting for either our press or our politicians to inform you of this fact.

 

25 comments

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  1. jimhaz

    Funny isn’t it how Portugal has 85% of the population as Christian, and we only have 60%, yet they are more progressive.

    I think the hand of US Christians is holding us back – they are the ones who get the Bernardis and Andrews and Morrisons all stirred up and raring to make the country take steps back so they can step forward.

  2. victor parker

    how do they know if I half flush or full flush? wont that change concentration levels? I can see them rolling in the shit talking about how good they are.

  3. SimsonMc

    “Yet weed has never been shown to have killed a single person in the entire history of our civilization”

    I suspect (correct me if I’m wrong) 5,554 deaths and 157,132 hospitalisations wouldn’t simply be someone having a drink and then dying or being admitted into hospital. I suspect those figures would contain people getting behind the wheel drunk and having an accident or something just as stupid. So to say that no one has died from smoking weed I think is incorrect. I’m sure there are people who have died driving a car stoned or doing something just as stupid.

    Other than that, I thought it was a good article.

  4. Keitha Granville

    I would like to see the stats for the above – it may be that some stoned individuals have crashed and caused death, but I reckon alcohol is far and above anything else as a killer drug in road stats. And tobacco – how many kinds of cancer ??
    It is TOTALLY absurd that cannabis is still an illegal drug considering the benefits of non-THC cannabis for medicinal purposes ( and many many others who use it successfully to control anxiety, pain relief and a raft of other reasons).
    The tax benefits would be huge – I can’t see why it isn’t on someone’s radar. We know why actually, the big businesses involved in tobacco and alcohol have far too much influence on government.

  5. John

    The problem with marijuana is that anyone can grow it – there’s no profit in that.

    But the smart companies are gaming the system to create profit. In the US Insys has “developed a drug based on a synthetic ingredient, THC. Called Syndros, the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in July for treatment of AIDS and cancer patients’ symptoms.”

    I saw somewhere that Monsanto is looking at GM pot and that its legalisation in Colombia has led to a US big pharma company taking over ‘medicinal supply’ with a consequent fall in the prices small farmers are getting.

  6. James Moylan

    SimsonMC: the figures that are quoted come from a paper called ‘Alcohol’s burden of disease in Australia’.
    http://www.turningpoint.org.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/EMBARGO-FARE-Alcohol-Burden-of-disease-Report.pdf

    In this paper they do include accidents and misadventure in the fatality figures so your criticism is likely correct in general terms – however note that I did say that ‘weed [not accident or misadventure] has never been shown to have killed a single person in the entire history of our civilisation’ which is strictly correct. However you are right to point out that my words may be misinterpreted. This was certainly not my intent. My comments regarding nobody having died from weed was simply meant to indicate that the toxicity of alcohol and weed are not comparable.

    Yes I am sure that some people have died from misadventure or accident whilst stoned but there is also no doubt that these numbers are simply not in the same ballpark (or even the same city the ballpark might be in) when compared to the numbers that die due to misadventure or accident whilst drunk.

    For this response I actually tried to find some stats to quantify how many people might be dying from misadventure or accident whilst stoned but the numbers are so low that they are not evident in the literature. (And you can be sure that the government would be shouting them from the rooftops if they were significant.)

    To assist anyone who wants to disambiguate the numbers presented then I provide the next few summary points that follow the citing of ‘5,554 deaths and 157,132 hospitalisations’ from alcohol use.

    “There were 157,132 hospitalisations attributable to alcohol in 2010, including 101,425 for males and 55,707 for females.

    In males, injuries were responsible for the highest proportion of alcohol-related deaths (36%), followed by cancers (25%) and digestive diseases (16%). For females the highest proportion of alcohol-attributable deaths was for cardiovascular diseases (34%) followed by cancers (31%) and injuries (12%).

    Injuries and neuropsychiatric diseases were categories responsible for a substantial proportion of alcohol-related hospitalisations, each being greater than 10% of all alcohol-attributable hospitalisations for 2010.”

    Good to see that you are reading critically mate. The rap across the knuckles is accepted as being fair comment.

  7. margcal

    In “The Candy Machine: how cocaine took over the world” by Tom Feiling, the author poses the all too plausible theory that in the US – which we so slavishly follow – currently illegal drugs can’t be legalised because there is too much profitable business and jobs, one way and another, that would lose out if those drugs were legalised – think (private, i.e. for profit!) prisons, law enforcement agencies, and all the rest. So it comes down to money and the small % sitting on top of the cash mountain. If it’s legal, it won’t be made illegal, and vice versa.
    Personally, I’d like drugs to be prescribed so users know what they’re getting, they can be warned off but not refused, and they then wouldn’t have to break into my house (slim pickings here but things get damaged in the process) to support their habit.

  8. Warwick

    Hmm, another one of those ‘you can use statistics to prove anything you want. 98% of people know that’ situation. Comparing alcohol related deaths to meth related deaths is not a level playing field. Tobacco and alcohol are much more readily available to whoever wants it. I wonder what the death rate from meth would be if it was as readily available as alcohol or tobacco. Pop down to the local bottle shop to pick up your baggie of meth on the way home from work, or down to the shops to get your meth with the bread and milk. I think if that was the case then meth related deaths would probably exceed those from either alcohol or tobacco. I agree the ‘war on drugs’ doesn’t work, but making it open slather would do more harm than good, in my humble un-educated, never been on the end of a meth pipe opinion. Maybe education, improvement in the provision of social services or any other program to encourage people to steer clear of the shit altogether would be a better approach.

  9. corvus boreus

    SimsonMC,
    I guess the main crucial difference would be that it is possible, indeed relatively easy, to lethally overdose through excessive ingestion of ethanol (a metabolic poison due to it’s toxic actions upon various major organs), whereas there has been (as far as I know) no recorded case of death being directly attributed to a lethal reaction from consuming cannabis.

    On the question of relative contributory factors in injuries and deaths through pointless violence and foolish misadventure (eg stupid driving), whilst the THC in cannabis has silly psychotropic qualities, effecting judgement, perception and reaction times, for it’s ability to mentally reduce the function of the frontal lobes whilst stimulating adrenal function, and the physical effects of general anaesthesia at a cellular level, my money would be on clumsy aggro juice (aka grog) punching way harder than whacky weed in the ‘societal consequences of intoxicated individual idiocy’ stakes.

    Ps, I would hasten to differentiate the issues of recreational ‘marijuana’ usage (a ‘highly’ debatable issue), from the far more serious and far less debatable issue of the current restrictions upon the legitimate targeted prescription of Cannabis (generally lower THC types) for it’s well documented medicinal and palliative qualities in treating some very serious medical conditions (eg some cancer types, chronic seizures).

  10. pierre wilkinson

    I have to query the almost $10 million per day costing as that represents a sizeable and presumably noticeable slice of our economy, even including the health costs?
    Otherwise, excellent article. In the States a Senator told Congress that he could destroy the drug cartels, eliminate most crime, stop the drug problem and lower the incarceration rate by one simple expedient: decriminalise/ legalise all drugs, control their manufacture and dispersal, register “addicts” so they can be tested for their drug of choice if driving and tax the whole shebang and make oodles of money.
    Naturally, he was ignored.
    Sad.

  11. Mark Flockton Foster

    Smoking causes diseases like cancer because burning vegetable matter creates smoke which is a combination of particulate matter and volatile compounds from combustion, neither of which should be ingested. I do not believe there is anything special about tobacco versus other vegetable matter, all of which when burnt and inhaled can’t ever be good for you. While one may assert that weed has never been shown to have killed a single person in the entire history of our civilization, I reckon it would be responsible for causing cancers, COPD and emphesema despite not being identified as causal.

  12. corvus boreus

    Mark Flockton Foster.
    Inhaling the concentrated smoke of burning anything is not going to be particularly good for your lungs.
    However, you are wrong when you say there is nothing special about tobacco.
    Many of the chemicals associated with the nicotine compound (particularly the nitrosamines) have known carcinogenic properties even if unburnt, hence forms of ‘smokeless’ tobacco (eg ‘chaw’) being regarded as having a serious contributary effect towards many forms of cancer, particularly of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas

  13. jim

    Thats it we need the media to be working for the good of the country not big corporations etc,

    The media is often at times even more powerful than the fiercest and deadliest of weapons.

    The AIMN has played an important role in restoring media balance in Australia, revealing facts which had been hidden by others, others with a grab all you can agenda $.

  14. James Moylan

    pierre Wilkinson:

    the estimate of $9.8 million dollars a day is based on the proposal that the abuse and use of alcohol is costing Australians 36 billion dollars a year. This is not a figure plucked out of nowhere and it certainly did freak me out when I initially encountered it and did the sums (36 billion divided by 365). Moreover this was the estimate of the cost in 2010 – 7 years ago.

    I was sceptical until I considered the research paper this figure is drawn from. It is a very carefully compiled and rigorous examination of the range and cost of the factors that must be taken into account in coming to a conclusion regarding the total cost of alcohol to our community – not just in monetary terms but also regarding health and social factors. As a researcher I was initially hesitant to quote this figure until I had read the paper. After examining the paper I can only deem the figure to be credible. I invite anyone who is sceptical to read the paper for themselves (I provide a link at the end of this comment).

    On top of the 16 billion dollars a year that are the direct costs relating to the individuals who drink (lost wages, loss of productivity, hospital costs, ongoing care, damage to personal property, etc etc) the authors of the study identified another 20 billion dollars a year associated with the effects of this drinking on other people and the society at large:

    “In terms of tangible costs reported by a representative sample of the Australian population, heavy drinkers have cost others around them in excess of $13 billion in out-of-pocket costs and in forgone wages or productivity. Hospital and child protection costs to the society due to another’s drinking sum to a further $765 million. In addition, there are large intangible costs, estimated at a minimum of $6 billion dollars. These negative externalities or ‘passive drinking’ costs of alcohol need to be factored into debates regarding implementation of effective alcohol policies.”

    Yet regardless of whether or not the actual figure is 10 million dollars a day or just half that amount (which would be an entirely uncontroversial estimate) the figure is still gob-smacking!

    For a wonderful summary of stats relating to alcohol use in Australia see: ALCOHOL ADVERTISING REVIEW BOARD Web page at: http://www.alcoholadreview.com.au/key-concerns/#3

    For justification of the figure of 36 billion dollars that is quoted on the page above see: ‘The Range and Magnitude of Alcohol’s Harm to Others.’ Laslett A-M, Catalano P, Chikritzhs Y, Dale C, Doran C, Ferris J, et al. AER Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Eastern Health; 2010. Fitzroy, Victoria: Available as a PDF at: http://www.fare.org.au/wp-content/uploads/research/The-Range-and-Magnitude-of-Alcohols-Harm-to-Others.pdf

  15. Roswell

    Remember the Alcopops Tax? Labor wanted alcoholic soft drinks taxed higher to discourage binge drinking by teenagers. Guess who screamed blue murder? The Liberals.

  16. James Moylan

    Warwick:

    you say that ” Comparing alcohol related deaths to meth related deaths is not a level playing field.”

    My response is that I simply do not understand what you mean by that statement. Of course we can compare the effects on both individuals and society at large regarding the use of different drugs. Do you mean that if we legalised meth then every man and his dog would suddenly feel compelled to use it? That is a statement that is belied by every bit of research that I have ever read.

    In countries where the use of cannabis has been decriminalised one of the very first identifiable effects is a reduction in the harms associated with the use of hard drugs, and alcohol, in these societies. It is called the ‘substitution effect’. More people use a less harmful substance than was the case before the reduction in penalties however many of the people who were using much more dangerous substances switch to using cannabis (or other less harmful but now decriminalised substances) so the overall harm to the society is lessened.

    If we eliminate the penalties attaching to the use of drugs and provide safe and legal access to cannabis, heroin, MDMA, and cocaine then the medical harms attaching to drug use in our society will fall – not increase. The costs associated with drug abuse in our society will fall – not increase. The use of some drugs will increase and the use of some others will fall. All the evidence seems to indicate that more than 60% of meth users began using the drug because they did not have access to their 1st drug of choice due to it not being available or due to it being too costly. The majority indicate that they would be happy to use another drug if it were safely and cheaply available (generally cannabis, MDMA, or cocaine).

    I am specifically advocating that we need to adopt a drug policy which is medically focussed and rationally based on an appraisal of the potential harms attaching to the use of drugs – not generalised assumptions that are based on moral precepts (as we seem to be doing now and as you seem to be doing in your comment). I am most certainly not advocating for the use of drugs but rather that we need to be rational regarding the use of drugs.

    See for example: Lucas, Philippe, et al. “Cannabis as a substitute for alcohol and other drugs: A dispensary-based survey of substitution effect in Canadian medical cannabis patients.” Addiction Research & Theory 21.5 (2013): 435-442.
    Available as a PDF at; https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/cannabis-as-a-substitute.pdf

    Or: MacArthur, Georgie J., et al. “Opiate substitution treatment and HIV transmission in people who inject drugs: systematic review and meta-analysis.” Bmj 345 (2012): e5945. (sorry I couldn’t find an open link to this work)

  17. Kronomex

    Oh No! Our nations sewers are drug addicts. Increase the war on drugs to save them or else they will become criminals to feed their habit.

    I really get sick and tired of being told that “We will win the war on drugs!” How many decades have governments been peddling this line of bullshit? Will we ever see a time when some party in power here wakes up and REALLY studies (look at Portugal for starters) what the effect would be if they legalised, oh, I don’t know, maybe pot to start with and considered what taxe…oops, excises, they could collect? At a rough guess, nope. Alcohol, with it’s massive tax revenues and profits will always be free of the taint of “evil drugs”, too much money involved. When you consider it gambling could also be described as a drug because of the endorphin effect effect it has on the brain. Will we ban gambling? Nope, with millions upon millions of dollars flowing in tax and profits all we will ever hear his lip service from governments and the private sector.

    All we seem to hear (when things are going badly, particularly since the LNP took over) about is “terrorism” and “evil drugs” and how the struggle to stem these tides of filth is ongoing and ongoing and on and on it goes with no resolution. Are refugees drugs?

  18. Max Gross

    Money talks. Evidence-based policies barely get oxygen.

  19. Faye

    Portugal decriminalizing drug use is fixing the problem from the outside, but only in a limited way.
    Illegal drug use is a message to us all. It’s a symbol of individual hopelessness and a call for help.

    The wider community needs to understand that it has created many of the underlying factors that feed the outcome of drug use. For example, govt policies that tend to create unemployment/under-employment, policies that sanction environmental degradation, policies that turn a blind eye to international tax avoidance, policies that allow poor banking practices to flourish, a MSM fake news environment representing the vested interests of the 1%ers, etc are all examples of a neo-liberal agenda designed to halt the growth of a progressive society. A truly progressive social-economy would see drug use disappear of its own accord.

  20. SimsonMc

    James Moylan – It wasn’t meant to be a wrap over the knuckles so sorry if it came across like that – It just seemed like that comment was comparing apples with oranges. Therefore being a previous user of both, I know that I have done stupid things on both which one might classify as a “near miss”

    corvus boreus – I agree that recreational vs medical use of cannabis are apples and oranges and it surprised me how long politicians dragged their heals on the issue of medical cannabis. No doubt in part due to the religious/conservative influences within the major parties and probably because no one was giving them brown paper bags of cash. In relation to recreational cannabis, my friend who is a Dr has talked about people presenting in ED with severe side effects from potent hydro gear. She has said that some have been pretty close to becoming a statistic. She has a nice little saying she tells her patients. Unless YOU grow it, don’t smoke it.

  21. Vikingduk

    Perhaps this drugs in the sewer could provide new business opportunities for that excitable innovator, Jobson Grothe, by reclaiming the sewerage for the drug residue. This could then give new meaning to oh wow, good shit man.

  22. Stuart Dobson

    There definitely needs to be some distinction between cannabis and other drugs. Other drugs can have serious side effects and impacts. Other drugs certainly have their dangers, but the level of demonization is definition out of proportion.

    Cannabis has a whole heap of benefits but it should not be legalised for these reasons. It should be legalized because it’s a relatively harmless recreational drug. I say relative because it can still cause issues, driving for one, also laziness and addiction (i know from my own experience), and don’t deny it’s addictive, anything that good is addictive by definition.

    But let’s be grown up about it. Acknowledge the risks as well as the benefits, regulate it where required, offer rehab, and lets get the police doing more important work.

  23. Paul Grieves

    I see Justin Trudeau is about to legalise cannabis in Canada soon. If it comes down to numbers and poor policy making then I can’t get past how Justin is a 45 and progressively thinking and Malcolm T is 62 and almost a whole generation away from Justin. It appears like we are held captive by old men with old and conservative thinking. We appear to continually lead by people who are “down under” and happy to stay that way while nannying all citizens – It’s time to “broom” them!

  24. Maverick Ryan

    Smash the ” war on drugs ” anyway possible

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