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Analysis and Comment (34)

In most developed countries, including Australia, gay and bisexual men dominate numbers of new HIV infections. In most developed countries, including Australia, gay and bisexual men dominate numbers of new HIV infections. Aleksandar Stojkovic/Flickr

Know the epidemic: responding to HIV in three key communities

The number of new HIV diagnoses in Australia remains the highest in 20 years, according to data released today by UNSW’s Kirby Institute. While rates have remained stable over the past two years, the number…
The use of crystal meth among Australians continues to increase and remains at a high level, according to a new report. The use of crystal meth among Australians continues to increase and remains at a high level, according to a new report. AAP/NSW Police

Ice age: the rise of crystal meth in Australia

The 2012-13 Australian Crime Commission (ACC) Illicit Drug Data Report, released earlier this week, provides mounting evidence that crystal meth is becoming a large-scale problem for law enforcement and…
Substitution isn’t a solution. Substitution isn’t a solution. Paul Faith/PA Archive

Stories about ‘legal high’ deaths are bound up in media hysteria

The past few weeks have seen something of a media feeding frenzy around the supposed massive increase in deaths from “legal highs”. Closer inspection of the facts, some of which needed to be extracted…
Many more Australians want to build the ‘body beautiful’ and we want to do it in a hurry, increasingly through the use of performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs). Many more Australians want to build the ‘body beautiful’ and we want to do it in a hurry, increasingly through the use of performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs). shutterstock

Muscling up: are steroids an emerging criminal threat?

High-profile claims of links between elite sports and organised crime in Australia – such as those outlined in last year’s Australian Crime Commission (ACC) report – have put performance and image enhancing…
Except for medical reasons or if you’re a horse. Except for medical reasons or if you’re a horse. The Justified Sinner

Classifying Ketamine – what it means if K moves from C to B

Sometimes it seems you’ve only got to turn around and there is another drug in the news. Now we are told that ketamine should be upgraded from being a Class C drug to a Class B drug. Why does this matter…
Media commentators have linked alcohol use with sexual assault. Media commentators have linked alcohol use with sexual assault. FLICKR/Monkey Boy42

Mia Freedman et al are wrong: being drunk doesn’t cause rape

Controversy over rape, alcohol consumption, and responsibility reignited last month when US columnist Emily Yoffe penned an article provocatively titled College women: stop getting drunk. But the link…
In contrast to War on Drugs rhetoric, many young people report that illicit drug use is manageable, pleasurable and creates social opportunities. In contrast to War on Drugs rhetoric, many young people report that illicit drug use is manageable, pleasurable and creates social opportunities. Poldavo

What do young people gain from drug use?

The idea that illicit drugs could hold value in the lives of young people is bewildering to most people, who tend to assume that illicit drug use is necessarily destructive. This becomes even more distressing…
‘I’m not so much anti-establishment as pointing out the obvious.’ ‘I’m not so much anti-establishment as pointing out the obvious.’ Imperial College London/Layton Thompson

David Nutt: ‘I was sacked, I was angry, I was right’

The John Maddox Prize for standing up for science is awarded to individuals who are judged to have “promoted sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest” and especially those who have faced…
Lack of British chemistry. Lack of British chemistry. sally_monster

Why meth hasn’t broken bad in the UK

The final episode of the award-winning American TV show Breaking Bad aired last night. Set against the backdrop of illicit crystal methamphetamine production, the series highlights the huge problem parts…
First you’ve got to work out what’s in it. First you’ve got to work out what’s in it. Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab

Fast market for legal highs poses challenge for scientists

Legal highs that are novel psychoactive substances (NPS) have flooded Britain over the past few years and their use has increased drastically. NPS are cleverly constructed designer drugs often structurally…
Lights, camera, police action. Lights, camera, police action. PA

There’s still too much haze around cannabis psychosis

Sourcing unbiased information about the health effects of using cannabis has always been difficult. Government-sponsored propaganda was evident as far back as the 1930s in the film Reefer Madness, which…
Only a small proportion of Australian drug users buy their drugs online. Only a small proportion of Australian drug users buy their drugs online. Shutterstock

Shedding light on online stores for illicit and synthetic drugs

Fears that online drug marketplaces are flooding communities with illicit drugs may be unfounded, according to the first Australian survey of such websites. While the survey found the number of online…
High demand for cannabis has led some people down the ‘synthetic drugs’ route - but are these drugs actually trusted by the users? High demand for cannabis has led some people down the ‘synthetic drugs’ route - but are these drugs actually trusted by the users? Schorle

Synthetic cannabis: even regular drug users don’t trust it

For decades, cannabis has remained the most popular illicit drug among Australians. The strong demand among cannabis and other drug users for methods to evade detection and legal trouble has made online…
Australia has one of the highest rates of illicit methamphetamine use in the world. Australia has one of the highest rates of illicit methamphetamine use in the world. Image from shutterstock.com

Explainer: methamphetamine use and addiction in Australia

More commonly known by the street names speed, ice or crystal meth, both amphetamine and methamphetamine belong to a group of stimulant drugs called amphetamines. Australia has one of the highest rates…
Members of the Olympic men’s 4x100-metre freestyle relay team James McEvoy, James Magnussen and Eamon Sullivan at a news conference in Sydney yesterday. Members of the Olympic men’s 4x100-metre freestyle relay team James McEvoy, James Magnussen and Eamon Sullivan at a news conference in Sydney yesterday. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Treatment, enhancement or recreation – why sports and Stilnox are a bad mix

It was a bonding session that involved prank phone calls, knocking on doors late at night and other acts of “harmless fun”. The men’s 4x100m Olympic freestyle relay team made it sound like they were boys…
We might pay more for cocaine in Australia but the social and economic costs of its use reach beyond our shores. We might pay more for cocaine in Australia but the social and economic costs of its use reach beyond our shores. Corbis

The true cost of cocaine

According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Australians are now the world’s eighth highest per capita users of cocaine. Cocaine use within the wealthier echelons of society is so unremarkable…
AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou (centre) has flagged a rise in positive test results, but changes to drug policies won’t necessarily help. AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou (centre) has flagged a rise in positive test results, but changes to drug policies won’t necessarily help. AAP/Joe Castro

AFL summit sends wrong message on illicit drug use

The AFL’s approach to illicit drugs was championed as a world leader of drugs-in-sport policy when it was implemented in 2005. It was fair, humane and had been effective in reducing match day and out-of-season…
Researchers found early and persistent cannabis users showed an eight-point decline in IQ compared to those who hadn’t used cannabis in this way. Researchers found early and persistent cannabis users showed an eight-point decline in IQ compared to those who hadn’t used cannabis in this way. Jonah G.S.

Teen cannabis use lowers IQ, despite claims to the contrary

A study published today in the scholarly journal PNAS questions the conclusion of a paper from last year that was widely seen as greatly strengthening the evidence that regular cannabis use beginning in…
Trials show ketamine acts more quickly than other antidepressants because it affects different parts of the brain. Trials show ketamine acts more quickly than other antidepressants because it affects different parts of the brain. JLM Photography

Special K: ketamine’s road from tranquilliser to possible antidepressant

The drug ketamine has been used for medical purposes since it was developed in the 1960s, but it is perhaps more widely known for its illicit use as a hallucinogenic tranquiliser. Now we’re beginning to…
The finger has been pointed at Collingwood player Dane Swan in the latest drugs in sports ‘scandal’. The finger has been pointed at Collingwood player Dane Swan in the latest drugs in sports ‘scandal’. AAP

AFL drug policy is the best and fairest

Here we go again. Another high profile sportsperson has been implicated in the latest drugs in sport “scandal”. This time the finger is being pointed at Collingwood Brownlow medallist Dane Swan. The same…
The products marketed as “legal weed” might cause more harm than the real thing. The products marketed as “legal weed” might cause more harm than the real thing. prensa

Legal highs: what should we do about synthetic cannabis?

Synthetic cannabis is a lab-made product that mimics the effects of cannabis to give users a high when smoked. It has been sold in Australia since 2011 under various brand names, with a range of chemical…
Most overdose deaths are due to heroin but an increasing number are due to pain relieving prescription opioid drugs. Most overdose deaths are due to heroin but an increasing number are due to pain relieving prescription opioid drugs. Thomas Marthinsen

How to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Australia

Once again, overdose deaths from opioids are increasing in Australia. And once again, we are in danger of ignoring effective, evidence-based interventions. According to the National Drug and Alcohol Research…
The possession and use of cannabis and ecstasy should be decriminalised for Australians aged 16 and over. The possession and use of cannabis and ecstasy should be decriminalised for Australians aged 16 and over. garyowen

A new approach to drug reform: regulated supply of cannabis and ecstasy

Sixteen years ago the premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett, asked me to conduct an inquiry into drug policy. At the time, deaths from heroin overdoses were high and the use of cannabis and other drugs continued…
Benefits and risks have to be assessed when looking for medical uses of drugs. Benefits and risks have to be assessed when looking for medical uses of drugs. Harsh Vardhan

Human testing of illicit drugs – the highs and lows

Should governments make it easier to perform human research to discover medical uses of illicit drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy (MDMA) and LSD? Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London argued recently…
Neuroscientists are making great strides in addiction studies, even with a limited access to drugs. Neuroscientists are making great strides in addiction studies, even with a limited access to drugs. reidmix

Friction and addiction: the use of illicit drugs in Australian research

Criminalisation of many drugs of abuse has done little to deter their use. Recent estimates tell us nearly one in 20 individuals aged between 15 and 64 are experimenting with illicit drug use worldwide…
It’s difficult to detect impairment among doctors, but drug testing won’t solve all our problems. It’s difficult to detect impairment among doctors, but drug testing won’t solve all our problems. Best In Plastics

Dangerous addiction – should doctors be tested for drug use?

Doctors, just like the rest of the population, make personal choices about drug use. Some choose to use legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol; others take illicit substances like cannabis and amphetamines…
There isn’t much sympathy for convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia. There isn’t much sympathy for convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia. AAP/Mick Tsikas

Fair trade: Indonesians want justice for jailed teens if Schapelle Corby goes free

Schapelle Corby’s fate may be the centre of public attention in Australia, but not here in Indonesia where I currently live and work. The hot topic here for the past few days has been whether or not Lady…
Drugs smuggled into a South Australian prison. If jails can’t be kept drug free, what hope is there for wider society? Drugs smuggled into a South Australian prison. If jails can’t be kept drug free, what hope is there for wider society? AAP/Thuy On

Australia’s love affair with drugs

Australians have always loved their drugs – more so than any other nation in which those same drugs are proscribed and used under threat of native, criminal penalties. Drug taking is a national trait…
The internet has increased opportunities to buy illicit drugs and accelerated drug trends. The internet has increased opportunities to buy illicit drugs and accelerated drug trends. Presna

The internet poses unique challenges for drug prohibition

The Australia21 report argues the “war on drugs” has failed and we should consider other options for controlling drugs, such as decriminalisation or regulation. In addition to these arguments, an important…
Slain underworld figure Carl Williams, who made a living trafficking illicit drugs, is carried from his 2010 funeral in a gold coffin. Slain underworld figure Carl Williams, who made a living trafficking illicit drugs, is carried from his 2010 funeral in a gold coffin. AAP

Gangster-nomics: the nasty business of criminalising drugs

Policy making is supposedly influenced by scientific evidence, which in turn leads to better political, social and economic outcomes, depending on the issue at hand. One would like to think that in a moderately…
Development agencies can’t ignore the impact of illicit drugs. Development agencies can’t ignore the impact of illicit drugs. AAP

Dependent on development: why we’re losing the war on drugs

Around 6% of the world’s population aged 15 to 64 use illicit drugs – that’s 250 million people. It’s a rapidly changing population, with many different pathways to illicit drug use and new users constantly…
AAP joint. AAP joint.

Explainer: What is synthetic cannabis or Kronic?

Synthetic cannabis, known commercially as Kronic, K2, Kaos or Spice, was designed to circumvent drug laws and give users a “legal high”. But Western Australia banned the product earlier this month and…

Research and News (6)

Research Briefs (9)

Drug helps methamphetamine addicts

The drug topiramate can help methamphetamine addicts stay clean, according to a recent study. Topiramate doesn’t eliminate…

Marijuana impairs memory

Independent of its effect on neurons, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient (THC) impairs memory by affecting passive support…