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The war on drugs: which war … and what drugs?

The mantra “war against drugs” sounds great from a distance, but on closer inspection, it’s a misleading, sweeping generalisation. There are, in fact, many different, contradictory and inconsistent policies…

The different, contradictory and inconsistent policies on drug use control represent uneasy compromises driven by conflicting ideologies. West Midlands Police/Flickr

The mantra “war against drugs” sounds great from a distance, but on closer inspection, it’s a misleading, sweeping generalisation.

There are, in fact, many different, contradictory and inconsistent policies on drug use control. These represent uneasy compromises driven by conflicting ideologies in our society.

Conflicts arise over the perceived damage the drugs might do, the amount of effort required to control the drug, and how accepted the drug is within sections of our society.

Let’s look at each drug in turn.

Deadly smoke

Smoking causes 80% of drug-related deaths. Wiechert Visser Visser

Most – 80% – of drug-related deaths are a result of diseases caused by tobacco. Through changing social attitudes and legislation, we’ve been able to reduce the prevalence of smoking, reduce the harm from smoking and improve community health.

The conflict has been considerable, as the current high court challenge of the Australian government by the tobacco giants illustrate. And, we now have huddles of addicts stand outside public buildings, creating a cloud of smoke to welcome visitors.

At the bottom of the glass

The widespread availablity of alcohol makes it difficult to resist. The Vault DFW/Flickr

Alcohol, our favourite drug, is also subject to policy control. These have undergone considerable liberalisation in the last 20 years, but widespread availability is tough for alcoholics, whose recovery is made more difficult by being surrounded by supermarket liquor outlets.

There’s enormous political resistance to taxing alcohol according to alcoholic content. While this would slug the wine industry, it would reduce the overall consumption of alcohol and improve public health.

The rise and rise of opioids

Policies on opioids such as morphine (good) and heroin (bad) show major inconsistencies. If the person is addicted to injecting heroin, they can reduce the harm of their addiction by attending a needle and syringe exchange program. Such an enlightened policy has reduced the spread of blood-borne viruses, especially HIV/AIDS, although it has had less success in reducing the spread of hepatitis C.

But we’ve had difficulty with further harm minimisation strategies. Safe injecting rooms are controversial. The experiment at Kings Cross in Sydney has finally been declared successful enough to be an ongoing funded program. Users can attend a safe injecting room where they can inject a dirty drug within a clean and safe environment.

But how do users in Cabramatta (within the same greater metropolitan area) cope with no such facilities? And in Victoria, the injecting facility canvassed for Richmond has been blocked by the Victorian state government for no sound scientific reason.

Addicts sick of their injecting can opt for substitution pharmacotherapy. This option is supported by a considerable body of scientific evidence but decried by drug-free society advocates, who claim the approach is promoted by the medico-pharmaceutical cartel.

Addicts sick of their injecting can opt for substitution pharmacotherapy. Dirty Bunny/Flickr

Those who decide to use these drugs need to find a medical prescriber trained in the management of substitution pharmacotherapy, but there’s a shortage of trained practitioners, and it can be difficult to get on a program.

If someone can persuade any doctor that they have chronic pain rather than opioid dependence, they can have an even wider range of opioids – oxycodone, slow-release oral morphines and the like. The dispensing of these agents is much more liberal and patients don’t have to pay the dispensing fee. As one wag put it, “The only opioid dependent persons on substitution pharmacotherapy are those not clever enough to persuade their doctors they have chronic pain.”

It’s not surprising then, that in the last 15 years we’ve seen a huge rise in use of prescription opioids in the community. These drugs are prescribed and dispensed by doctors and pharmacists untrained in opioid prescribing.

Xanax and its relations

Drugs such as Valium and Xanax are all part of a family called benzodiazepines. Initially, these drugs were freely prescribed to treat insomnia and anxiety, because they were much safer in overdose than the barbiturates they replaced. But as the medical professions recognized their addictive potential, they became more careful in their prescribing. Now, a black market has opened up on these drugs.

Add to this the availability of drugs on the internet from potentially unreliable sources, and a whole new dimension of drug availability and control has developed.

And then there’s cannabis

Is the effort required to control cannabis use proportionate to the harm it causes? Torben Bjorn Hansen/Fickr

The debate on cannabis is becoming intense, with pro and anti-groups lobbying hard. Different states in Australia take somewhat different positions. The key question is whether the effort needed to control the drug is disproportionate to its harm.

Cannabis' ability to precipitate psychosis in the vulnerable is increased with greater potency, although, for the bulk of users, the drug is a weekend escape from the pressures of life.

Stimulants of all sorts

Coffee is a daily addiction for many. JenK<3/Flickr

Many Australia cities now proudly boast that they’re sophisticated coffee cities. No one would dream of curtailing the streams of coffee, and for many it’s a daily addiction.

Cocaine is the rich man’s coffee. Driven professionals, seeking to meet impossible deadlines, find stimulants useful, as do those using it socially at clubs or music festivals. Speed is more downmarket, but both these drugs can have long-term detrimental effects. And people on these drugs can show considerable psychological instability.

Where to now

This brief survey shows the mix of different responses to different addictive agents. The unscrupulous will usually find a way of exploiting the vulnerable and social controllers will always want to impose their values onto the rest of society.

We have to live with the resultant compromises. The problem will not go away and open slather is not the answer. In the end, if users learn to internalise their own control and feel able to replace the perceived benefits of these drugs with safer alternatives, we can reduce the demand and dry up the profits of those importing, making and selling these agents.

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64 Comments sorted by

  1. Dale Bloom

    Analyst

    The best model I can think of is for teachers and lecturers to be drug free, to set an example for students.

    No smoking, 0.0 blood alcohol content, and no other drugs in the system, with voluntary testing.

    This is already required in many jobs now, and should be a part of the teaching profession and the medical profession, or perhaps any taxpayer funded job.

    Although, still thinking about a substitute for caffeine.

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    1. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Teachers already have enough incentive to be drug free: if they're ever caught with (illegal) drugs they lose their teaching licence.

      You might want to look into how America ("Land of the Pee") is going with most American's having to pee in a cup - students must perform this ritual to partake in extra-curriculum activities [http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2012/mar/26/schoolgirl_sues_pennsylvania_dis]. The cost of all this (financial and discriminatory) far outweighs any perceived benefits…

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    2. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      No drugs in the bloodstream, unless with a doctor’s prescription.

      Required now for all operators of plant, all operators of transport vehicles, and I believe, should be required for all government employees.

      Should have occurred many years ago.

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    3. William Ferguson

      Software Developer

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      This is either irony or baseless moralizing. Unfortunately based on your previous comments it's not irony.

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    4. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to William Ferguson

      No it is not irony. It may come as a shock to some, but whole worksites are now required to be drug free. Many factories and most mine sites are required to be drug free.

      The next time you get in a train/taxi/bus, the driver is required to be drug free.
      The next time you drive past a road repair crew or a construction site, all workers are required to be drug free. Those sites have frequent random testing for alcohol and drugs.

      A large problem for schools and particularly for universities is drug taking amongst the students, and eventually examples have to be set, and the best people to set examples would be the teachers. They should be required to be drug free.

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    5. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      "A large problem for schools and particularly for universities is drug taking amongst the students, and eventually examples have to be set, and the best people to set examples would be the teachers. They should be required to be drug free."

      Dale - are you able to provide evidence that drug taking amongst students is a more significant problem for universities than for apprentices for example?

      Or that students are being led to drug taking by the bad example of their teachers? You seem to be…

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    6. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      No No No Mr/Ms Grendels...

      I have seen them with my very own eyes ... teachers, librarians, yes even senior people in responsible positions like principals... sitting at tables, gulping down mugs of steaming tea and coffee - priming themselves for another onslaught on the granite minds of the kiddies in their addled care, sucking on Benson and Hedges and woofing into the odd Danish delicacy.

      Say no to drugs - let us drive such pathetic failed examples into the wilderness and pelt them with rocks until they repent.

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    7. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Most construction sites are now drug free, and condition of employment is that the worker is drug free.

      If an apprentice goes onto a construction site with drugs in them, they don’t work. They lose their apprenticeship. They have no job, and may find it difficult to get another apprenticeship.

      Didn’t you know that?

      Definitely social scientists should be drug free.

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    8. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      ("Mr" - not that I care or it matters, but thanks for the inclusiveness of your opening)

      Alas! Mea Culpa! I myself have drunk of the fruit of the Coffea Arabica - and in front of the impressionable young. I have also imbibed the drinks that contain ethyl alcohol in dilute form and thus am horribly stained for all eternity.

      I have not besmirched my honour with tobacco however...

      My issues with the war on drugs are many - this week however it is the total economic failure that it represents. There have been a number of cost benefit analyses in various jurisdictions, but apparently these are politically unpalatable.

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    9. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      "If an apprentice goes onto a construction site with drugs in them, they don’t work"

      Really?

      so out on yonder suburban housing estate you are going to tell me the builder is paying for their apprentice to be drug tested?

      Not.

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    10. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, your proposal to limit drug testing to only teachers, lecturers and other employees currently subject mandatory and random drug screening is just typical of the sort of lilly livered anti-drugs campaigners who have so far failed so abysmally to end this scourge. A real campaigner would go for the throat and start with both chambers of the NSW Parliament. After all, who wants drug affected policy makers? And who could trust politician's fibs about their less than exemplary private lives? Not…

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    11. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Grendels,
      There is often a lot of competition for an apprenticeship, and tradesman often put on an apprenticeship for a trial period.

      As a test, they can suddenly spring a drug test on the apprentice. If they don’t pass, its out.

      For a mine site, a job applicant has to have done their generic inductions and a health check. If they don’t pass the health check, they can’t even apply for a job. Randon drug tests are frequently carried out, and the whole workforce can also be tested in one day. This has been occurring since at least 2001 in QLD mines.

      Are you involved in social science? Didn’t you know any of this?

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    12. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      When oh when will we see sniffer dogs and wee bottles - those hallmarks of civil society - in the laboratories of this once great nation Mr Grendels???

      We must hound the malefactors in their homes, on public transport and in their workplaces .... particularly those engaged in lofty intellectual work where a mind addled with intoxicants like tobacco, caffeine and last night's bundy and passiona can lead to false positives and negatives all over the paddock.... leading to wrongful convictions, the Appellant Courts and even the Full Bench itself.

      Remember - eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. Not to mention constant surveillance and scrutiny. It's the price we all must pay - especially other people.

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    13. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      It'll surprise you but not disappoint you Dale to learn that in NSW the Department of Family and Community Services (nee DOCS) is a leading arm in teh War on Drugs. Despite having an official policy of harm minimisation (as if that were possible) the Department frequently subjects MOTHERS, that's right, the heart of the nation, to urine and hair sampling after they have signed an agreement to abide to a drug free life and agreed to random testing. Then, the young, proud warriors of teh War on Drug Users, all of them armed with the best credentials you could get - a degree in Soc Sci. - remove their children if they breach. Talk about a benevolent and caring state.

      A sure sign of a drug using man is someone with a shaven head. That denies the possibility of a hair screen. Look around you Dale. They're everywhere.

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    14. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Anthony Nolan
      There is no correlation between baldness and drug taking.

      There is a correlation between drug taking and workplace injury.

      That is why more and more companies are wanting drug free workers, because a company can decrease their workers compensation premiums by having a drug free workforce with less accidents, and the company has less chance of litigation because of accidents.

      It is possible that areas such as the education system will be the last areas to require drug free employees as a condition of employment, and be randomly and regularly testing those employees.

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    15. Grendelus Malleolus

      Senior Nerd

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Actually Dale I did - it was my field of research for many years.

      Were you aware that testing has been demonstrated to have only a very marginal influence on improving workplace health and safety and that by far testing for alcohol rather than illicit drugs is the most significantly beneficial approach?

      Mostly this is because while a test for most illicit drugs can detect if you have used the drug within its signature window, it cannot provide an indication of impairment whereas with alcohol a blood alcohol reading is a fairly good indicator of impairment.

      That is not even considering the legal implications of testing nor the Australian Standards that apply to any testing program.

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    16. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      "There is a correlation between drug taking and workplace injury."

      Correlation, but no causation that I know of. There is also a strong correlation between risk-taking behaviour (which could lead to workplace injury) and drug taking.

      Very hard to establish causation.

      As long as testing is fair (i.e., only detects impairment - recent use) then I'm not all that against it if costs are justified.

      In any event, it is surprising the number of drug testing comments that appear in an article that has nothing to do with drug testing. Vested interests, perhaps?

      It would be nice to see Julia and Tony share some pot then have a long giggle instead of their current bickering. Hyperpriming, in moderation, would be a very useful political tool. Yeah yeah, pigs flying, I know!

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    17. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      Danny Hoardern
      “It would be nice to see Julia and Tony share some pot then have a long giggle instead of their current bickering.”

      No thanks.

      And don’t go programming in areas such as process control, where many people may have to trust their life on your code working per specifications.

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    18. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      It's not a correlation between baldness and drug use, Dale. A shaven head is a strategy to avoid having sufficient hair on the head for a drug hair test. Didn't you know that?

      Anyhow, inspired by your stalwart moral righteousness on the subject of recreational drug use I'm able to say, from observation of driving on the F2, that there is clearly a correlation between dangerous driving and testosterone. Swab them, I say, and prescribe some antidote hormone to keep the world a safe space for people with little drawings of families on the backs of their SUVs.

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    19. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Mr Nolan...

      When oh when can we have a simple cost effective test that detects moralising wowsers who make rules for others to follow and demand that the war on drugs - well some drugs - be a total war - no prisoners, no surrender, non passaran! No cost too great - no stone unthrown!

      I realise that we regard some substances as addictive - but I don't think anything is as addictive - or so damaging - as habitualised normative thinking.

      Can we have an antidote for that too please?

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    20. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Still pushing the barrow for shaven headed men then Ormonde? You would claim that the state of your bonce is secondary to testosterone, I'm sure. But people like me and dale know better. I'll have you swabbed both ways boyo should you ever come out of hiding.

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    21. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      "And don’t go programming in areas such as process control, where many people may have to trust their life on your code working per specifications."

      What a rude thing to say, even assuming I go to work under the influence. You might want to research cannabis, hyperpriming and creativity.

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    22. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      Danny Hoardern
      There is no “hyperpinning” required in many areas of the workplace. There is discipline, accuracy and risk management, or someone can be easily killed.

      If you want to take drugs, stay away from areas such as process control or anything to do with operation of equipment, because you could easily kill someone.

      Also stay away from cars, and do not drive them.

      In fact, stay away from people.

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    23. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Wow, someone has their knickers in a knot!

      Nowhere in my post did I state that hyperpriming is a required in any workplace. I see you're too high up on your moral high horse for logical reasoning.

      "Also stay away from cars, and do not drive them. "
      Sir yes sir!!!

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    24. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Grendelus Malleolus

      Dale's going to blow a fuse ... many high schools now have their own espresso machines!! (I've seen the "boot-up" procedure for those things - make de-sal plants look like a piece of cake).

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    25. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Alcohol is a natural by-product of human metabolism - that's why the "no drinks" level is 0.02, not 0.00.

      But no doubt this little scientific fact won't get in the way of Dale's argument - facts never have before.

      Neither will the question of why start with teachers when, as Peter helpfully states, the lawmakers would be a more logical first step, because logic doesn't hinder his ideas either.

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    26. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Don't you all see it? Dale is self-described as a "laboratory analyst". Laboratories do drug screens....follow the money....

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  2. Ron Chinchen
    Ron Chinchen is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

    The issue regaridng illicit drug use is a difficult one because there are no totally successful solutions. But as someone who worked in this area for over three decades I can unequivocably say that the present prohibition style of addressing the problem, doesnt work and probably actually contributes to the problem.

    As long as you have a market for a substance, you will have those willing to sell it, as long as good profits are to be made. Maintaining these substances as purely illegal for use…

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  3. Lewis Rassaby

    Dr

    GPs need to be made accountable for their prescribing habits. I have been in three large group practices in the last ten years. In each there were rogue prescribers, unable or unwilling to distinguish between chronic pain and addiction and irresponsibly prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines. These prescribers are initiating and fuelling "legal" addictions in a large segment of the patient population. By comparison, the illegal addictions represent the tip of an iceberg. In addition to the…

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  4. alexander j watt

    logged in via Twitter

    The Blueprint for Regulation by Transform Drug Policy Foundation (available at http://www.tdpf.org.uk/blueprint%20download.htm) is one model that considers different possible regulation regimes for drugs of differing activity and strength. Missing from the above are the psychedelics and also coca leaf - used traditionally in south america (as well as being the source of cocaine) coca is behind Bolivia's agitation against international drug laws.

    It is necessary to separate out the moral stance - drug free is an ideal which each individual should all try to attain - and the practical one - which is that drugs are part of human society, and the realistic goal for society is harm minimisation, not abstentation.

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  5. Ron Chinchen
    Ron Chinchen is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

    Unfortunately the various testing for drugs and alcohol at work sites and universities would require almost daily testing to be successful. Most random testing, as I experienced in the public service, ends up being carried out on average to each person about once every three months. Its becomes too expensive to do regularly.

    Further most testing is by way of breath testers, which at present are only seriously effective with alcohol. To test for drugs you need urine samples and the costing to…

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      Heaven forbid that we should let trivial issues such as cost and effectiveness enter into our considerations in the war on drugs Ron Chinchen. This is the language of defeatism!

      In any war - when one is surrounded and the enemy is hammering on the gates - the unanimous view of our generals will be to do more not less... more sacrifice, more effort, more resources. Losing is the price we pay for not doing enough!

      It will not be enough until we have reduced all the coca producing countries…

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    2. Ron Chinchen
      Ron Chinchen is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      A pragmatist my friend. The costs of effective testing for heavy illicit drugs as a means of stopping all drug use in work places would be prohibitive and for little benefit.

      You see the majority of your addicts are unlikely to be working and in fact are probably not even registered for the dole (take it from one who worked in the area). How do you test for those people who are your greatest danger because these are the people who are probably presently breaking into your garage,house, business…

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    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      What???? Sniffer spaniels snorting around the shorts of the High Court ... random breath tests for politicians hauling their bloated frames back to the chamber after a long lunch... where would it all end Mr Chinchen?

      No those clambering up onto the moral high ground always look down - never up, or out or forward for that matter. It's all about controlling the behaviour of our lessers, the undeserving rabble who subsist on welfare and hang about on corners looking scruffy and menacing.

      Such scrutiny is not designed for decent folks like us. After all we can control ourselves. We wear suits. And uniforms.

      Prohibition is not control - it is the admission of a loss of control. It passes control to gangsters and the corrupt. Always.

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    4. Ron Chinchen
      Ron Chinchen is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      What on Earth are you talking about Peter? I mentioned nothing about sniffer dogs (which wouldnt work if they've used the substance), agreed that the rich and shameless would avoid being tested while the average joe blow would cop the requirement. I also indicated right at the start that prohibition doesnt work. I agree totally with your last comment. I suggest you read my first item in this forum before aiming an attack against someone who seems to be agreeing with you on those points and as I indicated (look at my prior employment) worked in that area for over 30 years. I think I know a little about the subject from more than a lay or academics perspective..

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    5. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      Sorry Ron, I was being facetious. I agree with your views completely.

      I find the moralising - exemplified by Dale - that is attached to drug prohibition rather disturbing... more a psychological issue than one of sensible policy.

      Sorry if I confused the discussion. I'm absolutely certain that in your working life you would have seen far far too much of the consequences of criminalisation to be suggesting anything so silly as sniffer dogs patrolling the High Court... but it seems this is where Dale and the first stone throwers are heading... let's assume guilt, no one is above the law, no cost is too great.... there's a madness to it.

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    6. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter,

      Fair go - you confused Ron, and apologised for that. But please don't apologise for being facetious. To some of us it's an art, and we admire the work of a fellow artist. Your facetiousness is sublime - and frankly more worth the effort than trying to reason with people like Dale.

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    7. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      Meanwhile I look forward to your suggestions to Dale as to how a 0.00 blood-alcohol content for teachers can be achieved (given that alcohol is a metabolic product).

      Dialysis machines in the classroom maybe? Expensive - of course! Risky - extremely! But worth it if those nasty metabolic by-products are to be eliminated from educators in the mighty name of Zero Tolerance!

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    8. Ron Chinchen
      Ron Chinchen is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, no apology needed. I wasnt used to your particular humour and misread the item. Now that I know your style, I'll know what to expect in future. I though your comments were a little out of the box and should have recognised the intent. be as facetious as you like Peter...I'm now ready for you.

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    9. Sam Liebelt

      Drug User Organsiation

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      Ron Chinchen, You seem to be making a sweeping generalization of capabilities to work while dependent on drugs, especially heroin. I'm surprised because i have to agree with most of what you have said so far. Once dependent, often the only thing heroin/opioids do to a person is to assist them to function as normal, maybe with a nice warm feeling in the back of the throat, and not end up in withdrawal.

      But maybe you have only been exposed to those that don't work and that are caught up in the criminal…

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    10. Ron Chinchen
      Ron Chinchen is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

      In reply to Sam Liebelt

      You are quite right Sam. You will of course note that I said the 'majority' of addicts. I am quite aware that there are people out their medicated professionally with morphine based and increasingly THC (the primary substance in marijuana that is a very successful pain killer) based substances because of medical complaints and that they survive and contribute well in the community. The primary reason is that they are on carefully monitored stable pure doses (at least not including the junk put…

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  6. J Hancox

    logged in via email @msn.com

    I'm not sure what the author means by this statement:

    "if users learn to internalise their own control and feel able to replace the perceived benefits of these drugs with safer alternatives"

    I thought that the whole thing about addiction was that it takes away the ability of the addict to control their use/abuse of the drug in question? I've never seen a real alcoholic learn to "internalise" their control over alcohol and have only one or two social drinks and be able to lead a normal life…

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  7. Lewis Rassaby

    Dr

    Someone said '...zero blood levels unless with a doctors prescription' and I have spent the last two days laughing. In fact I havent laughed so much since since a well meaning nurse gave me a badge that read 'Trust Me...I'm a Doctor'

    You guys really don't get it do you. Illegal drugs, the testing for, the war on e.t.c. e.t.c. are TRIVIAL compared to the vast amount of addictive shit that my profession prescribes.

    For God's sake stop the egoism and GET REAL!!!

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    1. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Lewis Rassaby

      "Someone said '...zero blood levels unless with a doctors prescription' and I have spent the last two days laughing".

      Sounds like you were high on opiates Lewis!!

      I hope you're not doing any lecturing, otherwise you'd have to write yourself a note excusing your shameful stimulant use.

      If you're NOT doing any lecturing however, feel free to take whatever you like, because Dale (font of all wisdom on TC) is only pushing for zero tolerance for teachers, not medics, ambos etc.

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    2. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Lewis Rassaby

      It may be egotism, or it may be a vested interest. I have a feeling 'that someone' either works in a lab testing people's pee (more business please!) or 'that someone' has to perform the dignified procedure of peeing in a cup and thinks everyone else should too.

      Rumour has it that trolls also exist on the Internet.

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    3. Lewis Rassaby

      Dr

      In reply to Lorna Jarrett

      Oh, I get it now...its a party. You're having fun. Why didn't I see it. I'll go home and have a good cry.

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    4. Lorna Jarrett

      PhD, science educator and science advocate

      In reply to Lewis Rassaby

      I'm having fun?? See where it says "PhD candidate"?

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  8. Alan Gijsbers

    Head of Addiction Medicine at The Royal Melbourne Hospital

    What a spate of heat and light! before we get into specific aortas (Ay orta do this, ay orta do that) we need to work out what are good policies and what are bad policies. Clearly expensive policies difficult to implement and resented by the community will never take off. legislation too far ahead of where the community is at will fail. By the same token courageous political leadership will enable the implementation of policies the community might initially be reluctant to accept. A good politician…

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    1. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Alan Gijsbers

      Hopefully without sounding too aortastic, the case for regulating cannabis like wine:

      300,000 Australians use cannabis on a regular basis, and 15% of Australians tried it in 2010.

      We now have scientific proof that cannabis is safer than alcohol [http://jop.sagepub.com/content/26/2/213].

      We will see fewer traffic deaths. US states that have legalised medical marijuana have 9% fewer road fatalities - attributed to a decline in alcohol sales in these states [http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-11/uocd-ssm112911.php

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    2. Alan Gijsbers

      Head of Addiction Medicine at The Royal Melbourne Hospital

      In reply to Danny Hoardern

      Danny, This is a start. However a lot more work would be needed. How would you turn your advocacy into meaningful policy, which could then be supported sufficiently for it to be passed into law? "Regulating cannabis like wine..." What in practice does than mean? 1) How would you control Sativa as opposed to Indica? What regulatory practices would be needed to enforce such a move? 2) How good is the evidence for cannabis for pain? Is it at the level that it could be put on the PBS, or at least pass the TGA? If not what would be required to make the evidence base strong enough to convince these bodies? 3) Do you see the regulations occurring at State of Federal level? 4) How would you create the political will to implement these policies once these policies have been defined? There are many hurdles between a good idea and legislation/regulation, can these hurdles be overcome?

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    3. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Alan Gijsbers

      G'day Alan and thanks for the direction.

      "How would you turn your advocacy into meaningful policy, which could then be supported sufficiently for it to be passed into law?"
      Policy should be created by a group of experts (perhaps requiring sponsorship as in the US), and a clearer case could be presented to such people. We have at least 3 US pieces of proposed legislation that may help in drafting proposals to this group: http://regulatemarijuanalikewine.com/regulate-marijuana-like-wine-act-2012

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  9. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    How about a generic, functional, outcomes-based approach? (Appropriate for our times, no?)

    I propose a workplace-ready test that measures function, not chemicals. Place each worker at the beginning of a shift or session or work day at a computer that tests whatever is crucial for them - reaction times, recall, problem-solving - whatever. If they are adequately functional, they work. Doesn't matter whether they have taken caffeine or alcohol - it matters whether they can do the work.

    Surely that would go down well in the workplace....wouldn't it?

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Not on your life Ms Ieraci... your highly functional suggestion is missing the magical ingredient - the moral indignation and proscription that lies at the core this moral crusade against other people using other drugs.

      Singling out and targeting the inept and incompetent would be most unsatisfactory. I think we would all be safer with the inept and incompetent safely off at work rather than breaking in to houses to feed their slovenly habits. I would prefer my TV to be pinched by someone with skill and finesse rather than some unemployable bumbler.

      Your amoral suggestion would barely inflame the passions of the true zealot ... or perhaps ignite them all too much given that it would in many cases be they themselves who would be making up the kindling.

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  10. Ron Chinchen
    Ron Chinchen is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired (ex Probation and Parole Officer)

    It seems that a lot of the talk is about cannabis/marijuana in this forum and the question of testing on workplaces and I believe there is a lot of misinformation and fear associated with the drug. I am not here relying on research but purely extensive anecdotal experience in this area involving hundreds if not a few thousand users. But I am no chemist or expert regarding the substance...I just know a lot empirically. And what I have found is this

    1) Marijuana is a very commonly used substance…

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    1. Danny Hoardern

      Analyst Programmer

      In reply to Ron Chinchen

      Great comment Ron

      "Much of the cannabis now available is hydoponically produced and certain chemicals are added to enhance the effect. This can cause health problems and increase the likelihood of addiction."

      This is another good reason how regulating cannabis will reduce harm. Could you imagine what would happen if a fast-food chain with 300,000 regular customers had no food inspectors? People would be sick! Replace 'fast-food' with a drug and that's the situation we're in now.

      "There…

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  11. trippe fontaine

    logged in via Twitter

    I guess in order to accept that the war on drugs is effective one has to damit that a bunch of coach ridden bong-smoking stoners have been winning a fight they probably didnt even know was going on from the comfort of their own living. All against the 'greatest army on earth'. What?

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  12. Philip Dowling

    IT teacher

    A good article.
    Dealing with facts and numbers is not usually popular.
    Asking challenging questions is even less popular.
    It puzzles me that so many have answers, when they do not appear to be able to ask questions.

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  13. John Hopkins

    Social Engineer

    We are ALL born with an IRREFUTABLE RIGHT, to consume ANY product that WE deem fit. This moronic "War Against Drugs" is in fact a "War Against VERY BASIC Human Rights". The filthy scum who perpetuate & ENFORCE these idioitic "War", are "War Criminals" & the filth will, one day, have to pay for these crimes.

    The "War Against Drugs" is SOLELY responsible for our current Fiscal Crisis.

    The scum in police forces who are involved with enforcing this filthy, Morally Criminal War against us, are the…

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  14. John Hopkins

    Social Engineer

    I like this article, it's funny. "Morphine, Good, Heroin, Bad"? Heroin IS Morphine. The correct name for Heroin (Which is a Bayer brand name NOT a drug name) is DiacetylMORPHINE. Heroin IS Morphine. Neither Morphine HCL NOR Diacetylmorphine HCL cause ANY damage to the body.

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