The drugs issue is a major problem in Australia. A simple solution cannot be found to solve this great problem because there are so many decisions, thoughts and sacrifices that need to be made. All sides of the issue must be considered when making such a large decision. To find a solution, several tests, meetings, interviews and research need to be made, to name a few. Extreme care is needed when challenging such major issues, all aspects of the problem need to be considered.
Zajdow describes drug abuse as being a social, legal, health, economic and ethical issue (1999, p.44). This great problem therefore involves not only one department, but also many other departments. These include the police, who offer their power and resources, Justice, who has the resources for jail, Health, which offers treatment programs, and Education which provides drug education to the community. Without these departments, the issue would be too complicated for the Government to solve on their own. However, as indicated by Knowles, these departments were bidding for more funds to strengthen the resources they provide (2000, p.1).
The drugs issue as a social concern:
There are an estimated 25,000 heroin users in Victoria (Hodder, p.10). This is a very large amount of people on drugs, in the last 10 years it has been shown to increase and therefore the drug issue is becoming a major problem to all the people in Victoria.
Some people argue that the drug users aren’t the heroin victims. One writer notes, ‘The parents of the user who steals from them, abuses them, physically, emotionally and mentally, the siblings who suffer the loss of care and love but who also get abused and used by the user, the kids of the user who learn that the parent’s desire for smack is greater than the desire to be a parent,’ are the real heroin victims (Fitzgerald, 2000). This problem therefore effects not only the user but the society living around them as well.
The drugs issue as a legal problem:
The Government needs to draw the line somewhere. In Sweden the Government was giving out free heroin, in order to keep the drugs free from being impure. However, Margaret McKay (2001) declares that if we follow in same steps, soon we will be giving out not only free heroin, but also other illegal substances as well. It will then lead to problems with other drugs as well.
The drugs issue as a health problem:
The drug problem has become a large hassle to the people in Victoria. Syringes are found all over the place, such as in public toilets, on beaches and in train carriages, to name a few. Syringes are very dangerous, and are a major threat to society. People and tourists unwillingly have to deal with watching the drug handling in Melbourne’s Central Business District.
Staff in the CBD are too afraid to work due to annoying drug addicts. Finlay argues that the users are making the area and the stores unsafe. The drug trade has been occurring both inside and outside the store premises. This is dangerous to the staff because on occasions the addicts have fallen asleep or have become violently aggressive.
The drugs issue as an economic problem:
With safe injecting rooms, how could the Government be sure that addicts would be using these rooms? The money they will be spending needs to be carefully spent, as taxpayers wouldn’t want their money going to waste.
Many retailers are preparing or considering leaving their stores located on Melbourne’s Bourke Street, due to the worsening of heroin trade. (Finlay, 2000) The area is unsafe for all the people around the city. The way this problem is going, retailers are forced to locate their stores in other places if they want to continue making business without drug hassles. The drug trade is taking over the retail trade.
The drugs issue as an ethical problem:
The problem is also a moral issue. The Catholic Church teaches that drugs are wrong, because they harm the body, dull the mind, diminish self-control and ultimately can kill.’ (Pell, 1999) The Catholic Church would therefor disagree to the idea of legalizing heroin. Instead of the government helping addicts keep injecting, they would rather have them help these users come off the substances. Again, this is another point the Government needs to take into consideration.
The drug problem is also a moral issue. If heroin is legalized or Safe Injecting Rooms are created, children will be given the wrong message and this is certainly not what the government would or should be intending to do. It can be seen that in recent years, more young children are beginning to come in contact with drugs. The Government would not want today’s children to grow up to become tomorrows drug addicted adults, which in time will cause an even larger issue.
Ways used to help tackle the problem:
The Victorian Government needs to look at how the other Countries are tackling the problem, and whether they are successful or not. In Sweden it is a criminal offence to use hard drugs, however, addicts can avoid being charged if they agree to undergo treatment. If the Government were to take on this tactic, they would have to provide greater resources for detoxification and rehabilitation. (Pell, 1999)
It was found that by simply having a drug cleanup in one effected area would not solve the drug problem. The police were involved in a clean-up in one certain area, but they, ‘then had a massive problem at Fitzroy and Flemington as the dealers shifted locations’ (Knowles, 2000). You couldn’t focus on one area itself, but need to confront the problem as a whole; not turn a blind eye on other suburbs.
Public forums and many discussions need to be made in order to help solve this issue. In her interview, Professor Hamilton (2000) discusses how everyone in the public is given a certain time to have their say. This issue involves everyone; all sorts of expert opinions are needed. Both the negative and positive sides need to be taken into account. Not only should the addicted have their say in what happens, but the people around them aswell. The issue does not effect only the user, and it therefore shouldn’t be left entirely upto them to decide what happens. You can’t simply withdraw users from the drug, as they are very dependent on the substance. This is why it is such a major problem.
Safe Injecting Rooms are one of the strategies the Government has come up with. However, helping people inject the drugs, will send the wrong message across. Although Safe Injecting Rooms may provide users with a safer environment, it isn’t doing much as to get people off the drug. Another problem is that no one would want this type of room in the community they live in. Finding an area to set-up is therefore a major problem in itself. They cant just open up a room where there aren’t people living, because the heroin users wouldn’t bother to travel so far as to access these rooms.
There is no doubt that the drugs issue is a social, economic, ethical, health and legal matter. In one way or another it effects them in different ways. In order for the issue to be problematised all departments, including Health, Education and Legal need to be involved.
Zajdow, Grazyna 1999, Harm Reduction For Whom? Arena Magazine.
Knowles, Robert 2000, Interview.
Hodder, Rachael, August 1st 2001, Drug Rooms On Agenda, Herald Sun.
Fitzgerald, A. M. February 14th 2000, Just Who Are the Heroin Victims? The Age.
Mckay, Margaret, August 19th 2001, Would You Put Your Kid In A Leper Colony? Herald Sun.
Finlay, Sally, April 15th 2000, Retailers Quit City as Heroin Moves In, The Age.
Pell, Dr George, November 24th 1999, Everyone Must Do More, Herald Sun.