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From preventable deaths to pills that kill

From preventable deaths to pills that kill

The Sunday Mail Exclusive “The Pills that Kill” suggests the response to the latest overdose of a young people who consumed a substance sold to them as MDMA involve improving education and greater collaboration of law enforcement agencies, while encouraging the public to “tell us who these pushers are.” 

The Queensland Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies CEO Rebecca Lang stated:

“It’s disappointing that the article doesn’t acknowledge we could be doing more than simply telling people drugs are dangerous and they should avoid taking them. The reality is these deaths would be largely preventable if we put the right information into users’ hands, instead of continuing with the mistaken belief that law enforcement action will be effective on its own.”

“While the current policy approach in both Queensland and nationally is harm minimisation, the focus on supply reduction far outweighs that on demand or harm reduction.  That’s left us in a position where the general public has heard the ‘just say no’ message so many times it’s problematic to even suggest we might change that message to ‘we want you to live’, which means we can’t have a pragmatic discussion about what else we could be doing that we know is working in other parts of the world, like drug checking.”

“Prohibition and policing will not end the demand for, or supply of any substance.  An unregulated market supports the very situation we’re trying to avoid, where suppliers are experimenting with ingredients and including at times highly toxic chemicals that can cause serious harm.  We need to shift our thinking to provide for a more nuanced approach.”

Ms Lang joins with colleagues such as as Gino Vumbaca from Harm Reduction Australia, Prof. Alison Ritter, Director at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Dr. Monica Barratt, Australian leader for the Global Drug Survey and Dr. Alex Wodak, a former Director of Alcohol and Drug Service at St. Vincent’s Hospital (and now President of the National Drug Law Reform Foundation) in calling for a shift in approach to zero harm.

Ms. Lang added, “Harm reduction is about more than introducing the option of drug checking or pill testing at festivals or in party precincts, it’s about making accurate, credible information regarding the potential harms of specific substances available to people who have already made the decision to use.  Parents of teenagers and young adults around the country should be assured that their Government is doing all they can to stop preventable deaths of young Australians. Instead they leave it to police to tell the us something is ‘five times stronger’ and has ‘high toxicity’, without telling us what they’re comparing it to and pointing the finger at event organisers who, like the police themselves, aren’t able to be everywhere at once.”

The Queensland Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies (QNADA) is the peak body for the alcohol and other drug treatment sector for Queensland.

For more information, anecdotes or comment, please contact Rebecca Lang on 0408669590.