Miles Hunt reflects on Annual Remembrance Day, an international event recognising lives lost to drugs and alcohol.
Monday was International Remembrance Day – a day to remember all those that have died from drugs and alcohol. ‘Many unnecessarily,’ as Tony Trimingham of the Family Drug Service said at a remembrance service held at the Memorial Tree in Lawrence Hargraves Reserve, Kings Cross.
Tony recounted the trauma he went through with the death of his son Damian 18 years ago from a heroin overdose and the ongoing loss he still feels. “It’s not just the loss of his life, and those years he could have had, but also the hole it left in our lives”
And others at the gathering talked of loved ones that they had lost. Flowers were laid at the Remembrance Tree in the corner of Lawrence Park. Ceremony organiser Maureen Steele said that she hoped that a plaque or a park bench could be placed near the tree with a sign remembering all those had died from drug related deaths.
Chris, a local drug user, made a moving speech saying that ‘most of those that have died could be still alive if they had been given the tools and education to take the drugs more safely.’
He is right and so many of the evils from drug use are manifestations of the illegality of the drugs. Isn’t it better to reduce the harm from that drug use by regulation and better education, rather than failing through denial, prohibition and a brutal criminalisation? We all know the results and they are devastating – not least to the friends and families of those that have died from preventable drug related deaths. Not least to the more than one thousand Australians whose lives will be lost this year.
The cost-effective harm reduction strategy of providing a supervised injecting centre in Kings Cross has dealt with thousands of overdoses, and there have been no overdose deaths there. There is more that can be done – including making Naloxone more available to drug users and their peers and families. Naloxone reverses the effects of an opiate overdoes and can save lives.
People who die from drug related deaths are sons and brothers, daughters and mothers and they like everyone else have a place in our society. It is not hard to imagine that if a thousand people, including hundreds of young people, died each year from any other cause, then right across the country there would be plaques and memorial trees, ceremonies and moments of silence.
Listening to memorial speeches it’s not hard to agree that overdose deaths should be prevented. We must reduce the harms from drugs and we must act now. Every day that passes, three more lives are lost. Our laws make drugs much more dangerous than they need to be, and leaves users far less equipped to deal with their dangers.
Those that have died before should not have died. Sensible drug policy could avoid this senseless loss of life.