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Do drug users deserve to die?

  • 18 March 2019


Do drug users deserve to die? Maybe I'm just a bleeding-heart lefty, but I hope that most people would answer this question with a 'no'. Unfortunately, if you read the comment section of any news story on the recent spate of drug-related deaths at music festivals you will find a mixed response.

While I am generally left wanting by any comment section on the internet, the callousness of some regarding this tragic loss of life astounded me. Comments suggesting that drug users 'have it coming' are rife. 'They knew the risks' is the common cry. Within these messages is the tacit belief that anyone who takes drugs immediately forfeits their humanity and the associated privilege of life.

The decision to take drugs is a cost-benefit analysis, and it is often made by sensible, intelligent, people. Yet, in our public discourse politicians only ever want to demonise drug users.

Before we can demonise all currently illicit drugs and their users, we must first deeply examine our attitudes to alcohol. Alcohol abuse causes more harm than heroin and crack cocaine (when taking into account its effects on both users and others), and costs the Australian economy roughly $15 billion dollars a year. Yet, even our conservative Christian PM has no qualms about sculling a cup of beer to help solidify his credibility as an average bloke. If the illegality of a drug were proportional to its harm, alcohol would be gone from shelves while mushrooms, LSD, and MDMA would be available from the corner store.

But why do people take illegal drugs? It's the question politicians from our major parties seem reticent to talk about. They are reluctant to engage with this question, of course, because it would require them to admit that drugs can be fun.

Drugs can induce euphoria, relax, calm, invigorate and stimulate. They can cause hallucinations and trigger spiritual experiences. Drugs can enhance or dull our senses and free us from inhibitions. People take drugs because they find the experience of taking drugs pleasurable — just ask anyone who drinks booze! If we're going to discuss drug regulation we must openly acknowledge this simple fact, because it's the reason that prohibition doesn't work.

There are, of course, several very good reasons not to take drugs. These include but are not limited to: addiction and its flow-on effects, the triggering of mental illness, brain damage, adverse reactions from unmonitored use, and a lack of regulation