BIG DRUG SEIZURES MEAN BIG TROUBLE
Four-time Walkley Award winning political commentator and Churchill Fellow, has returned to the fray over concern that the integrity of news dissemination is continually being threatened by a partisan media.
The AFP drug haul of a record three tonne of ecstasy (MDMA) and ice (crystal meth) was successful in “keeping billions of dollars worth of dangerous drugs off our streets”. If only that were true. Actually, the only success achieved was that of an AFP public relations coup.
Seizing that amount of narcotics from “off our streets” only proves the extent of the market for so-called “recreational” or “party drugs”.
Take ecstasy. A National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre report found the median age of ecstasy fatalities was 26, with the youngest victim 17 and the oldest 58. But a closer look at the statistics tells another story.
Despite multiple millions of ecstasy tablets taken in just one year in Australia, the centre found only 100 people had died over the past eight years (around 12 people per year) and it’s admitted that a combination of other drugs “was likely” a major factor in most cases.
In fact 75 per cent of all ecstasy deaths were found to have been caused by combining other drugs such as alcohol and marijuana (but it’s doubtful marijuana could have played any significant part).
So deaths from ecstasy (MDMA) alone amount to, on average, three per year.
"There are a lot of accidental deaths where MDMA is thought to have played a role . . . and this seems to be a more prominent and prevalent concern," the NDAR Centre's assistant director Louisa Degenhardt said. "A lot of bad things can happen when combining drugs because accidents happen when people are intoxicated with any drug."
This figure of three MDMA deaths per year compares to around 1400 deaths per year due to road accidents. Forget MDMA and road accidents, alcohol alone caused 5,554 deaths and 157,132 hospitalisations during 2010, according Dr Belinda Lloyd, head of Population Health Research at Turning Point.
Another major factor in ecstasy fatalities is quality. Immediately following a large drug seizure, a shortage is created and the price of the product soars, sending amateur back-yard manufacturers scurrying to satisfy a now lucrative market.
There are ample ingredients in any medicine cabinet and laundry to “manufacture” MDMA if you know what you’re doing, but many don’t, and in the rush to fill orders at $60-$80 per tab, ingredients like rat poison, cleaning agents and crushed glass have been used by unscrupulous “suppliers” when capitalising on a shortage.
So, how many of those three people per year who die from MDMA toxicity alone have actually taken something entirely different?
During periods of critical shortages many ecstasy tablets have been found to have comprised no MDMA ingredients at all. There lies the real danger, albeit a small one.
Historically, drug prohibition, including highly addictive alcohol, has failed, it has encouraged the criminal element into the supply chain, it has usurped policing resources and cost billions.
And there is no evidence at all to suggest ecstasy is any more addictive than a Nurofen tablet but accidents do occur mainly when a user tries to replicate the sensation felt with the initial dose by taking more. It simply doesn’t work that way.
The most pleasant sensation will always be the first time MDMA is taken and trying to recapture it by taking more usually ends up at the outpatients at the local hospital.
But whatever you do, never ever attempt to drive under the influence of MDMA. It will delay your reaction time by a full second.
Now, to the seized tonne of crystal meth (ice). This drug has taken over from cocaine in Australia. It is far cheaper, far easier to make, it is far more addictive and easier to conceal.
The reason so much ice is reaching Australia is that, like cocaine, it commands a price three times that of anywhere else in the world.
It can have personality- and mind-altering effects and if you become “hooked” (it’s highly likely you will) you can kiss your arse goodbye.
There is no coming back from it, and a frightening pandemic of destruction is now underway. Don’t try it, don’t even go near it!
As Tony Abbott says, “it’s a war that will never be won”. Containing it by prohibition will never work, people will always acquire what people want and cost is not a factor because an increase in price means an increase in burglaries or users becoming part of the supply chain, and that's a fatal combination.
Education can have an ameliorating effect but only if educators are honest.
The problem with AFP seizures is a lack of differentiation. Crystal meth is lumped in with MDMA and marijuana, yet their similarities are like chalk and cheese. One will make you happy, another will allow you to enjoy a good book and the other is likely to kill you.
When kids get around to trying ecstasy, as most will, they discover it’s not the demon authorities say it is. Therefore they believe the same lie has been told to them about crystal meth.
It’s far better to tell kids the truth in the first place.