UPDATE DECEMBER 2012 Call to legalise Ecstasy.
"The present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm, there is overwhelming evidence ecstasy is significantly less dangerous than alcohol for the user and society generally.
'Alcohol was found to be most harmful to society and fifth most harmful to users, making it the most harmful drug overall. Ecstasy, on the other hand, causes almost no harm to society and scored very low on the harm done to the user, coming in at 17th overall' READ MORE
We need a scientific, statistical approach to drugs
October 10, 2007
In Britain, there is a proposal to assess drugs based on the risk they pose, writes Catherine Deveny.
I HAVEN'T taken a lot of drugs in my time, but, like most people my age (I'm 39), I tried almost all of them when I was in my 20s. I've taken less than most of my mates because drugs didn't do that much for me. And because I'm a tight-arse. These days I'm fairly dull. I don't need to drink to have a good time, I just need to be in bed by 9.30 with a copy of The Monthly.
I'm not saying that drug taking is right or wrong, I'm saying that recreational drugs are a part of life that has been with us for centuries and is here to stay. The situation is unavoidable, although it can be regulated. But we can do more about damage control. My mates in their early 20s tell me that "only bogans drink" and they prefer to take recreational drugs on a Saturday night. They mention drink-driving laws, the violence associated with drunks and calorie intake. They are not concerned about the long-term effects of drug use. Twenty-two, bullet-proof and "it won't happen to me". But the young folk do respond to balanced information and the experiences of their peers, both negative and positive.
Young people experiment with drugs. My kids will take drugs. What am I going to tell them? I don't know yet. But truth will be a large part of it. There'll be a policy that we will pick them up or pay for a cab from wherever, whenever if they are not fit to drive or if things get out of hand. No questions asked.
And then there are drugs in sport. We all agree that it's just not cricket for people who take performance-enhancing drugs to compete against people who don't. Runner Marion Jones' recent confession that she was off her head on rocket fuel was too little, too late. She should have been fessing up before they put the Olympic gold medals around her neck.
There should be two leagues of sporting competition. Clean and drugged. If athletes want to push themselves to human limits with the assistance of pharmaceuticals, bionics and blood transfusions, go for gold. But you compete on a level playing field against the other mega 'roid rage humans. If you want to play clean, play clean. But if you're in the clean team and you get sprung doing drugs, you're off to the drugged league. Forever. And I know which league most spectators would prefer to watch.
The Federal Government wants all Australian elite athletes tested for illicit recreational drug use anywhere, any time. And I don't understand why.
If it is about athletes being role models, why are other role models such as musicians, actors, politicians, writers, doctors and lawyers exempt?
Performance-enhancing drugs? Sure, test away. Zero tolerance. But recreational? If the Government wants to limit recreational drug use, which it doesn't, they'd be legalising the stuff. They are content to give the public an illusion of a "war on drugs", with reports of the drug busts in the news making it look like they are doing a good job. What they are doing is trying to look as if they are putting out a bushfire with a spray bottle. The Government is soft on drugs, heavy on hypocrisy and piss-weak on alcohol.
Recreational drugs are not our biggest problem. Alcohol is far more addictive and destructive. And we all know it. Drink-driving, family trauma and alcohol-fuelled violence are far bigger problems than recreational drugs. Tobacco causes 40 per cent of hospital illnesses, while alcohol is blamed for more than half of all visits to emergency rooms. Yet if someone dies because of recreational drugs, it makes the front page.
Early this year British medical journal The Lancet published a landmark study that found alcohol and tobacco were more dangerous than some illegal drugs such as marijuana and ecstasy. They assessed the drugs on three levels: "the physical harm to the user, the drug's potential for addiction, and the impact on society of drug use".
They questioned the scientific rationale for Britain's drug classification system and called for "a new classification of harmful substances, based on the actual risks posed to society". And we all know that's not going to happen.
Some recreational drugs are worse than others. And others are less addictive and harmful than alcohol. I am calling for an approach to drugs in our society that is scientifically and statistically based. The more damage a drug is causing to the user and the community, the tighter the control should be. And that includes alcohol.
According to Professor David Nutt, the bloke who ran The Lancet drug study: "All drugs are dangerous. Even the ones people know and love and use every day." Cheers.