Round and round and round we go! Where we’ll stop, nobody knows!!

And that’s Australia’s reactive, unscientific, vote pandering response to the issue of substance use, misuse and addiction.

Every time I see the familiar bust or raid on TV, I am struck by the complacent looks on the victims’ faces – they’ve done it all before and will do so again, the bored looks of futility on the faces of law enforcement, who know they’ll also be doing it all again and the drug policy chieftains announcing breathlessly that this bust will be the one that puts the squeeze on the Mr Bigs! It never does and it simply never will.

So when I saw the latest drug figures, up again, and the prohibitionists calling for more law enforcement, I get very angry!!!

This is what I felt compelled to write:

Dear Sir or Madam,

A commentary on the latest ACC report on illicit drugs in Australia recently stated, “In the latest Illicit Drug Data Report, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) reported over 76,000 illicit drug seizures and more than 93,000 illicit drug related arrests in the past year, the most this century,” Dr Jiggens said. “Over 23 tonnes of illicit drugs were seized. Australia’s streets have never been more awash with drugs. The ACC CEO John Lawler justified our war on drugs policy by calling this success. If this is success, what does failure look like?”

Given that the vast majority of Addiction Specialists both in Australia and Internationally, fully concur with the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s consensus definition of addiction and its call for an end to prosecution, incarceration, including without rehabilitation and cruel punishment of sick citizens, when will the National Drug Strategy cease its emphasis on Prohibition, Law Enforcement, criminalisation of non-violent users and aiding and abetting the stigmatisation and vilification of illicit drug users at the same time as increased access to alcohol continues to be facilitated. All available epidemiological evidence points to the inevitable failure of Prohibition and instead highlight its many destructive societal consequences.

The collusion of Prohibitionist governments with the rise of the vicious black market drug trade by maintaining policies that have been proven to ensure massive profits for criminal cartels, is incomprehensible and immoral. Repeating the same strategy year after year and presiding over several well reported international tragedies in which democracies are usurped by the corrupting power of the drug dollar, is simply unintelligent in the extreme, or is sanctioned for scandalous motives not revealed to the public.

My attempts to share my 32yrs experience as a doctor, 29yrs in Psychiatry, with senior politicians in my State, have been met with little or no interest, unwillingness to discuss the science involved or straight out rejection of any alternative ideas to tackle the reality of human substance use and abuse. The strength of conviction and belief expressed by some key decision makers, in the face of crystal clear evidence that they are wrong, borders on delusional.

My question really comes back to a genuine request for a rational explanation as to why Prohibition, a strategy destined to continue to fail and to lead to such pain, suffering and hardship, continues to win favour amongst political, law enforcement and community leaders who are currently my age or younger and whom I vividly recall once held quite different views, much more in line with the realities of human behaviour. Some overseas nations are abandoning these failed strategies in favour of education, regulation and rehabilitation and these new strategies are proving far more effective in decreasing the harms caused by Prohibition for the entire communities.

Is it true that politicians do not believe that the public can be educated to embrace decriminalisation of controlled quantities of currently illicit drugs? Do politicians here, unlike their Portuguese and Swiss counterparts, lack the foresight to co-operate in the bipartisan development of a groundbreaking, best practice, integrated drug education, community based, case managed rehabilitation pathway and in the dismantling of the overburdened, ineffective, criminal justice system that has devastated young lives and ambitions for no return.

I look forward to a candid response that may invite further constructive dialogue.

Kind Regards,

Jerry Gelb

Consultant Psychiatrist

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