‘Silver bullets’ and scapegoating aren’t going to fix the drug-related problems we’re experiencing as a society. Making drug use as safe, positive and ethical as it can be is going to take all of us: individuals, communities and governments.
Most drug use is ‘non-problematic’ so most people who use drugs are clearly doing something right. Examples of responsible drug use will always be the most efficient way of making drug use as safe, positive and ethical as it can be. Safe environments and opportunities for education are fundamental too, especially for young people.
People who experience abuse, isolation and stress are more likely to engage in harmful drug use. Safe and healthy communities that support the wellbeing of people are the best antidote to drug-related problems. Building those communities is crucial.
Programs that promote safety among people who use drugs - like needle and syringe exchange - have shown great success in preventing drug related problems, and should be widely accessible. Treatment and rehabilitation for people experiencing substantial drug-related problems are essential too, and the long waiting lists to access these services must be addressed.
We need to get the laws right. Arresting 100,000 drug users every year hasn’t solved any of our problems, it doesn’t prevent addiction or promote wellbeing, and most Australians agree it doesn’t make sense. We should stop trying to arrest our way out of our problems, because we can’t.
What we can do is properly regulate the market that thrives despite law enforcement getting the bulk of Australia’s drug budget. Big drug busts drive up prices and profits. Production chains and contents are opaque, and retailers play by their own rules. A great deal of danger comes from not knowing – and by law not being allowed to know – what you are buying. Regulating prohibited substances would enable broader and more effective control over production and sale. US states that have regulated recreational cannabis have also shown they can save on law enforcement costs while raising taxes that are plowed back into health and education.