Monday, 30 August 2010

The Ben Cousins Story - Experts vs. Bozos

It amazes me the flack that Ben Cousins has received over his documentary. Why? Ben simply tells it like it is. But this is where the controversy lies - the critics don’t want to hear the truth but an anti-drug message that makes them feel better. “Them” being mostly parents who always respond well to the usual tough messages about drugs but have no idea if the message actually works. The effectiveness of a anti-drug message is not the issue for “them” but whether it works in their eyes and makes them feel safer.

Ben’s story doesn’t paint a typical scenario of what most drug users would encounter because he is someone with special circumstances. Ben is an elite sportsman, a champion footballer and a pinup boy for the girls. Somewhat the opposite of what we perceive as a “drug addict”. Trying to dig out some sort of anti-drug message for the masses just won’t happen. If anything, it shows that someone who took nasty, illicit drugs was able to perform at peak conditions for so long.

This morning, I heard 3AW’s Neil Mitchell berate Ben Cousins after first declaring he loathed him for being a spoilt brat. What Mitchell was saying was that Ben’s story wasn’t what he wanted to hear. Ben didn’t collapse into a maelstrom of drug addiction hell or lose everything. Instead, Ben faced his problematic drug use and turned it around. This is what really irked Mitchell.

Ben Cousins is a likeable fellow who probably copped more media attention than he deserved. And like Michael Phelps, the American champion swimmer, he was ruthlessly dissected by the media for taking illegal drugs. But the real lesson was that their drug use had very little if anything to do with performing on the sports field (or in the swimming pool). No one would even know they were using drugs judging by their on-field display of superior sports skills. 

THE Ben Cousins issue could be looked at from another perspective. Here is a sportsman excelling in his game and everyone wonders how his drug taking took so long to uncover. Doesn't this show that one can use drugs and not have it interfere with one's work? People were shocked mainly because he didn't fit their idea of a drug taker. How do you know your solicitor didn't get high over the weekend? Or your child's teacher or your accountant?
--Alla Posa, Armidale (Letter - Sydney Morning Herald)

For 12 years, Ben Cousins took huge amounts of illicit drugs. During that time, he won a Brownlow Medal, captained a Grand Final winning team and won various sporting awards. Not a sign of an out-of-control drug addict, that’s for sure. The hard, cold truth is that many people do take these drugs and live a relatively normal life. The downfall happens when the drugs are abused for too long or if they are caught. Across Australia, millions of people take these recreational drugs and get up for work on Monday morning with little or no evidence of their weekend behaviour. Only small fraction of these people will ever have a problem with drugs but if they do, it can be life changing. And it’s these people we tend to focus on.

Critics Vs. Supporters
What do Neil Mitchell, Miranda Devine, Karl O’Callaghan, Jeff Kennett and other critics have in common? They wanted the documentary to be a anti-drug warning for kids. But the documentary was never meant to be an anti-drug campaign or one of the usual attempts to scare people into being drug free. It was Ben Cousins explaining his side of the story and how he saw it. He didn’t harp on about regretting what he did or try to appear as a disgraced junkie, instead he told it in his own words. Ben’s character is confident and he comes across as cheeky or smug but this is just his manner. To criticise the delivery of his story is just an attempt by self important, misguided moralists to undermine a documentary that didn’t fit their ideal for an anti-drug message. 

Mike Sheahan, in the HeraldSun had a go at the so called “experts” who criticised Cousins for being smug and a spoiled brat. He rightly asked what experience they had in dealing with drug addiction and if humiliating him was the right course of action. 

WHAT an amazing coincidence. Why is that so many of the people who have applauded Ben Cousins and his father Bryan in the past couple of days all seem to have had first-hand experience of drug addiction?

Extraordinary, really.

It's confusing. The "experts", those wise old heads with microphones and newspaper columns at their disposal on a daily basis, say it's all a nonsense. It's a spoiled brat showing off.

Surely THEY know, because they know EVERYTHING.

Yet people caught up in the drug spiral, those working with and on behalf of those caught up in the drug spiral, keep telling me the Cousins - father and son - are their new heroes, their inspiration.

That's not to suggest for one minute Ben is cured. Simply, he is battling a terrible addiction, and apparently going OK.

I just can't work this one out. He simply offered his story. I didn't see any wild promises. What I do know is that an ongoing problem of any sort is much more likely to be solved by discussion.

Which is why it is so disappointing to hear people who should know better slamming the documentary.

OK, let's not worry about the message. Let's bake him for being "smug", for being a narcissist, for daring to thumb his nose at the system.

That's it. Let's have a public humiliation in Fed Square. That will make us all feel better that naughty Ben will do his penance. Can't have handsome boys from middle-class families who refuse to cry doing drugs, can we.

Let's not worry about the problem. Or the cure.

If awareness of drug addiction, and how it is best handled and treated, hasn't been heightened by the Cousins documentary, then the MCG is in Sydney.

Here's the issue. Those who know the subject best, either personally or professionally, all share the same view - good on Ben, good on his family for laying itself open for two million people to see.

I feel compelled to applaud Mike Sheahan who could have so easily fell into line with other fellow sportswriters and slammed the Ben Cousins documentary. But it seems that Mike Sheahan actually took a few minutes to access the documentary for what it really was and gave more credence to the real experts who have experience with this issue. 

I respect the opinion of Les Twentyman and some other people who have experience with drug addiction but Les and Paul Dillon are barking up the wrong tree. It is not an anti-drug documentary developed by someone in the AOD sector but a Ben Cousins story and his struggle with drugs.

Neil Mitchell 3AW

Over at 3AW, Neil Mitchell wasn’t the only bearded burbler making silly comments. Derryn Hinch, Mitchell’s fellow jittering mouthpiece and highly animated conscious crusader was also stuttering his way through his own criticisms of Ben. But in typical Hinch style, there was more than just Ben to hammer. There was drug addiction itself. And if that wasn’t enough, there was the complaint that all this damage to people’s lives didn’t include locking them up as well. Ironic really when Hinch himself has been jailed for making a stance against laws that he warranted as counter productive.

And I thought Bryan Cousins deserves a medal for doing everything a parent could possibly do to support a selfish, self-indulgent, flawed, drugged up Peter Pan son, who apparently has never said ‘sorry’ to his Dad, Mum, brother and sisters for what he put them through.


At not stage in all of this did I heard the word ‘illegal’. Cousins was breaking the law. He hasn’t revealed the names of his dealers.


The other point belaboured last night by well-meaning people was the argument that drug addiction is a health problem. An illness. A disease.

Bryan Cousins even said the AFL Three Strikes policy was right and zero tolerance was wrong because ‘you can’t make a moral problem out of a health problem’. People steal to support a habit. Is that just a health problem?

Drug addiction is not a disease. It can lead to illness and disease. Like cigarette smoking is an addiction. It can lead to diseases like lung cancer and blood clots.

Alcohol addiction is not a disease. It can lead to diseases like brain damage and cirrhosis of the liver.

I believe that if you neatly brand heroin or cocaine addiction as an illness then you are giving an addict an excuse. Conveniently forgetting that you snort the first line, inject the first muck of your own volition. It’s not compulsory.

Claiming Ben Cousins feels no remorse or the documentary glamorises drug use is just the opinion of those who expected a different show on Channel 7. It seems to be the Australian way to cut down those who have a drug problem even if they try to amend their situation. The feedback on 3AW and other media outlets has been mixed with many callers/readers slamming Cousins for throwing it all away or being a greedy rich kid who wanted it all and got what he deserved.

Cousins has contrasted how Americans were willing to ''high five'' him during his stay in a drug and alcohol treatment centre with an Australian environment in which his addiction was ''looked down upon'' by society. But the researchers said that the Brownlow medallist did not ''whinge'' about his lot and was simply explaining how he viewed his situation.

I’m sure that if Ben Cousins was not a sports star then the criticism would have been worse. Takeaway his high profile and Ben would be judged as just another druggie. What many of the critics overlook is that drug addiction is often portrayed by the media as a problem for the lower classes. A problem that plagues lazy dolebludgers, bogans and  unmarried mothers. Airing a show that has a champion footballer as the disgraced druggie might open the public’s eyes about a problem that has no boundaries and can affect anyone’s family. Whether this sinks in or not is another issue but at least it’s out there for discussion.

Our society is none too keen on "junkies". Even in the context of death, the term is applied as a deeply derogatory label in tabloid headlines. Public opinion surveys show that the majority of people regard drug addicts as dangerous, unpredictable and, crucially, having only themselves to blame for their predicament. And it is this latter aspect that seems key to the extreme stigma associated with drug addiction.

Many people have little sympathy for drug addicts because they took illegal substances in the first place. People believe that if drug users really wanted to, they could just simply stop taking drugs. Such attitudes betray a lack of understanding of the nature of addiction.

What would any drug issue be without a comment from that old anti-drug, anti-harm minimisation work horse, Miranda the Devine? Devine thinks drug addiction is a failing of weak individuals who run away from personal responsibly. Like Hinch, she dismisses the notion of drug addiction being a health issue but simply, a bad choice made by bad people. I must admit, I don’t consider drug use a “disease” but for many users, the compulsion to use drugs is an attempt to self medicated a deep problem. People use drugs for many reasons but a small group are actually born with a predisposition to self medicate. These people usually have a combination of several factors including a chemical imbalance in the brain, 66 known genes and other physical medical conditions that make it harder to quit drugs than most. To write them off as just being weak, selfish or childish doesn’t cut it anymore in the 21st century. Those days are gone along with burning witches and chaining up mental health patients. 

Despite all the gratuitous public service announcements about the evils of drugs, Channel Seven's two-part documentary on AFL's most famous drug abuser, Ben Cousins, did more to glorify cocaine, ice and six-day-benders than any nightclub VIP room.

There was very little remorse from Cousins, 32, who plays his final game for Richmond tomorrow. But there was a lot of self-pity, blame-shifting and the fatuous idea that he is afflicted by a ''disease'', rather than that he is simply a spoiled, selfish, childish man.

So, did the documentary, Such is Life: The Troubled Times of Ben Cousins glamourise drugs? Did Ben “get it” as asked by Neil Mitchell? Was it just a bunch of excuses?

I think Mike Sheahan correctly answers these much asked questions:

As for glamourising the use of illicit drugs, spare me. If you are of that view, did you see Cousins twitching uncontrollably under the influence of illicit substances?

Did you see him shamed and humiliated in public in Perth?

Do you remember him as the most famous name in West Australian sport being stripped of the captaincy of his football club, then sacked, then deregistered by the AFL?

Did you see him helping carry the coffin of his friend and fellow drug victim, Chris Mainwaring?

Did you listen to the 911 call in the US, when he had to be rushed to hospital by ambulance? Did you see him almost break the spirit of his parents, Stephanie and Bryan, and sister, Melanie?

Glamour, eh?

Related Articles:

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

SA Government - More Dodgy Figures & Dangerous Rhetoric

I have written before about South Australia’s willingness to sacrifice their constituent's wellbeing for a misguided and dangerous drug policy. With total disregard for people’s safety and ignoring the readily available evidence, the Rann government blazes ahead with backward thinking policies under the guise of being "Tough on Drugs". What the government doesn’t tell you is that their ignorant strategies often result in a worst situation for much of the community and they never have the desired results. 

In fact, they often make public announcements that their strategies are working by submitting misleading data and sensational headlines. Any examination of their so called “victories” will usually reveal an utter failure to meet any measurable success. 

These passive alert drug dogs and their handlers have clearly been working hard. They’ve made a significant dent in the drugs trade on our streets
-- Police Minister, Michael Wright

Drug Sniffer Dogs
For example, the latest media release by the police minister claims that the drug dog squad has “made a significant dent in the drugs trade on our streets” and puts up the figures to prove it. The problem is, the amount of seized drugs is minuscule and should be embarrassing if anything. It’s disturbing that a Police Minister will use such puny amounts of seized drugs and announce it’s evidence of their success. To make it worse, the minister bangs on about how far and wide these dogs have been unleashed on the public. Adelaide suburbs, rural centres, airports, railway stations, music festivals, dance venues and national highways is a lot of territory covered in12 months for only 19 arrests.

So how many illicit drugs were seized by the drug dog squad in 12 months? First the all important hard drugs: 6 grams of heroin and 38 grams of cocaine. Then the mid range drugs: 62 grams of amphetamine, 20 ml of GHB, 3 grams of ketamine. How about the soft drugs: 7.3 kilograms of cannabis, 540 ecstasy tablets, 8 LSD tablets. Misc: 28 tablets of dexamphetamine and 47 pieces of drug paraphernalia.

Yes, that’s it. Less than 0.001% of drugs used in SA over a 12 month period. And this is what the police minister boasted, “the highly trained and skilled canines had achieved outstanding results during that 12 month period”

It’s breathtaking that the millions of dollars available to tackle problems like street violence and personal safety is spent on chasing drug users. The minister in charge completely overlooks all the evidence that drug users has very little to do with these issues. Research clearly shows that it’s the legal drug, alcohol that is by far the main cause of violence in the entertainment precincts and all the drug dogs on the planet are not going to help while booze flows freely.

The Rann Government is committed to protecting South Australians and ensuring safety in our dining and entertaining precincts. Police will always execute drug-detection operations in hotspots well known for drug use and dealing with the violent consequences often resulting from those actions
-- Police Minister, Michael Wright

And what’s with the introduction of drug dogs at train stations and the Adelaide airport passenger terminal? Hoping to catch a drugged out, violent troublemaker boarding a train or a plane just doesn’t make sense. Unless, of course, the real plan is to scare the public with a menacing display of unapproachable and surly looking officers wearing paramilitary uniforms being led by police dogs. 

In addition to sniffing out and seizing such a significant haul of drugs, these animals also serve as a very effective visual deterrent to any would-be drug dealers and takers
-- Police Minister, Michael Wright

Monica Barratt, Research Fellow at Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre in Melbourne, wrote an excellent article that asked the question, Do drug dogs deter use?. It seems the answer is no. Monica did what the SA government should have done and searched for evidence that drug dogs are effective. It’s a worry when a state government with huge resources, hundreds of staff and our safety in their hands fail to research an issue that has such far reaching effects. Especially when Monica Barratt can simply do it for a blog.

Clearly if MDMA dealers are not being caught, then the stated aim of employing sniffer dogs (to catch dealers) has not been met so far. Even most users would not get caught, given that they will either hide more effectively, choose different venues like house parties over large music events, or buy drugs inside the venues rather than from a known dealer.

we return to examining the media mentions of drug busts assisted by sniffer dogs. There, I believe, we find our answer. Sniffer dogs assist police in making more arrests, and these arrests become newsworthy for the general public, who in turn believe the police are doing ‘something’ about ‘drugs’.

Benefits Vs. Problems
The important question though is what benefits are these new, tough drug laws and strategies achieving? A reduction in drug use? Safer streets from violent drug gangs? Fewer teens taking up drugs? Arrests of drug dealers? Are they well thought out policies based on evidence and advice from experts?

A media release from Police Minister, Michael Wright in February 2010, mocked the Liberal opposition leader, Isobel Redmond for being "Soft on Drugs”. It seems, her conclusions based on scientific evidence were somehow running down “the good work of our police men and women for petty political purposes…”

Back in December 2006, Isobel Redmond rightly said, “I mean certainly the information is that ecstasy doesn’t seem to be as big a risk as a number of other drugs.”

The police minister, Michael Wright twisted her scientifically sound statement by saying she was, “downplaying the risks of taking ecstasy”

And just like reading from a politician’s handbook, Wright added, Ecstasy, like almost all illicit drugs, is a lethal substance that ruins lives and tears families apart.

Isobel Redmond was right. Ecstasy(MDMA) in it’s pure form causes very few problems and very little harm compared to other drugs including alcohol. The main problem with ecstasy is the contaminants that ruthless manufacturers cut it with. Ironically, the Rann government threatened some medical groups with legal action for setting up pill testing booths at music festivals to determine what users were buying. These illogical decisions were the epitome of an expedient government who were far more concerned with votes than people’s lives. The simple truth was that telling people that ecstasy was evil and arresting users was not having any impact but a small group of concerned doctors and nurses did manage to get the message across - the real danger is buying street drugs without knowing what’s in them. Scientifically testing pills and showing what was in them, made much more headway than the government’s lies and exaggerations ever did. But as we now know, Rann has an agenda and it has nothing to do with reducing harm, it’s about winning votes and appeasing the conservative, anti-drug lobby.

Some of the SA government’s new drug initiatives included banning the equipment used in the manufacture of illicit drugs and the possession of more than 60 listed “precursor” or ingredient chemicals. Although they may seem like worthy causes, in reality, they changed the pill market from the relatively safe drug ecstasy(MDMA) to pills made with crude ingredients like amphetamines, sleeping tablets, MDA and the highly dangerous PMA(para-methoxyamphetamine). What really made this a tragedy is that several people had already died from PMA in the mid 1990s which the government knew about.

PMA has been linked to a number of Australian deaths over the years. Six people died in South Australia between September 1995 and January 1996 after taking PMA, either alone or combined with MDMA. All indications are that the users believed they were taking MDMA alone and did not realize that PMA was present in the tablet they used.

Pill testing is just one failure from SA’s drug policy. In their February media release, the Rann Government boasted that their new drug initiatives were “designed to cripple the illegal drug-trade”. But as we have seen, when scrutinised, these initiatives have actually caused more damage than good.

Below is the Rann government’s anti-drug initiatives:

• Banning the equipment used in the manufacture of illicit drugs; 
• Banned the possession of more than 60 listed “precursor” or ingredient chemicals 
• Trebling the expiation penalties for possession of cannabis; 
• Banning the sale of drug paraphernalia; 
• Introduced tough new Hydroponics laws to crackdown on the cultivation of hydroponically grown cannabis 
• Introduced drug detection dogs

Drug Paraphernalia
When opposition leader, Isobel Redmond opposed the ban of drug paraphernalia, Rann publicly berated her for trying to “save the bong”. But what Mike Rann and Michael Wright didn’t declare was that Redmond was basing her decision on medical advice and scientific evidence. The claims from the Wright, Rann and Ann Bressington (MLC), that drug paraphernalia “sent the wrong message to the community” and “normalised drug use” were simply wrong. In fact, all evidence shows that removing access to certain drug paraphernalia like industrial quality smoking pipes can cause major health problems and even death for users. Interestingly enough, research also shows that banning drug paraphernalia does not deter drug use, send the wrong message or normalise drugs. In other words, the Drug Paraphernalia Bill was pointless except to provide a public display of being "Tough on Drugs”.

Toughening Cannabis Laws
SA was once the most progressive state in Australia for drug laws. It reflected the future path for Australia based on our Harm Minimisation policy and common sense.  ACT, WA and NT were all influenced by SA and their successful cannabis policy. Sadly, the Rann government jumped on Howard’s "Tough on Drugs" push and took the state back to the 1950s. Many people are still wondering how the countries most progressive state became a relic for failed, conservative drug laws in the span of just one government. And a Labor government at that. 

History is not going to be kind to the Rann government. As drug policies around the world are being scrutinised more closely, the governments that try to reverse important changes to outdated drug laws will come under increasing pressure. No longer is it just a matter of declaring a state is "Tough on Drugs" and the public nod in quiet approval. Research and reality is empowering people to see through the tired old rhetoric that we once took for granted. 

Attorney General Michael Atkinson, Police Minister Michael Wright and Premier Mike Rann have a lot to answer for. Their continuing drive to force failed and dangerous drug laws onto the community is costing lives and ruining families … much more than drugs themselves. It takes a tough politician to reject the current strategies and anti-drug propaganda but these 3 stooges along with a complicit parliament have helped create this situation. With the help of Anne Bressington MLC, they have repeatedly abused and mocked anyone who dare put up scientific evidence as part of the debate. This has led to many politicians, who feel the drug war is causing damage to society, not being able to say anything for fear of being labelled radical or even worse, “Soft on Drugs”. For rational thinking folks, this degrading of science for the sake of scoring political brownies is reprehensible. Sadly, the bullshit goes on, dangerous drug policies continue and Police Minister, Michael Wright will continue to exploit a gullible public.

News Release
Hon Michael Wright
Minister for Police Minister for Emergency Services Minister for Recreation, Sport & Racing
Thursday, 19 August 2010

SAPOL’s three passive alert drug detection dogs have snagged hundreds of illicit pills, sniffed out more than 7 kilos of cannabis and detected dozens of pieces of drug paraphernalia over the past 12 months. Latest figures indicate that police drug dogs were deployed 205 times in metro and regional South Australia, resulting in the arrests of 19 people in the 2009-2010 financial year just ended. Police Minister, Michael Wright said the highly trained and skilled canines had achieved outstanding results during that 12 month period.

“These passive alert drug dogs and their handlers have clearly been working hard. They’ve made a significant dent in the drugs trade on our streets,” Minister Wright said.

“The dogs have been pounding the pavement in Hindley Street, Semaphore and Glenelg, but they’ve also been busy in country areas, including Mount Gambier, Naracoorte, Renmark, Whyalla, Port Augusta, Ceduna and Victor Harbor.”

Drugs located and seized during dog deployments have included approximately: 
• 540 ecstasy tablets 
• 8 LSD tablets 
• 7.3 kilograms of cannabis
• 62 grams of amphetamine 
• 3 grams of ketamine 
• 38 grams of cocaine 
• 20 ml ‘GHB’
• 6 grams of heroin 
• 28 tablets of dexamphetamine 
• 47 pieces of drug paraphernalia including an ice pipe and cocaine kit

“Routine patrols, as well as operations, have also been conducted at the Adelaide airport passenger terminal and railway stations at Noarlunga, Adelaide, Keswick, Woodville, Salisbury and Elizabeth,” Minister Wright said.

“Large scale events and festivals have also been targeted by the drug sniffing dogs. They’ve patrolled ‘dance music’ concerts at Bonython and Rymill Park, the ‘Big Day Out’ concert at Wayville and the Clipsal 500.

“In addition to sniffing out and seizing such a significant haul of drugs, these animals also serve as a very effective visual deterrent to any would-be drug dealers and takers.

“The Dog Operations Unit currently has three dogs trained to detect drug odours of all kinds, including heroin, amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine and their derivatives,” Minister Wright said.

“Drug transit routes coming in and out of the State were also under the microscope over the 12 month period.”

The PADD dogs were deployed to National Highway One (Port Wakefield); Eyre Highway (Ceduna, Kimba and Port Augusta); Dukes Highway (Keith); Princes Highway (Monteith); Stuart Highway (Glendambo and Marla); and the Riddoch Highway (Naracoorte)

In total, deployments of the drug dogs in the past year have resulted in:
• 19 arrests 
• 344 reports 
• 167 drug diversions

“The Rann Government is committed to protecting South Australians and ensuring safety in our dining and entertaining precincts. Police will always execute drug-detection operations in hotspots well known for drug use and dealing with the violent consequences often resulting from those actions,” Minister Wright said.

Public Response
Much of the media reported on the Police Minister’s latest media release but I failed to see any scrutiny of the figures put forward. Every article I read. painted a positive picture of the police catching nasty druggies with the aid of some loveable pooches. Is this what we now expect from the media? Surprising though, there were many comments on the AdelaideNow website where readers saw right through the media release and the misleading figures put out by Police Minister, Michael Wright. When readers of AdelaideNow start questioning the honesty of the police and their so called success from catching those much hated druggies, you know that something is not quite right.

Drug Dogs Get A Pat On The Back
August 2010

DRUG detection dogs have sniffed out more than 500 ecstasy pills and 7kg of cannabis over the past financial year.

Figures from SA Police show the three "passive alert drug detection" dogs were deployed 205 times across the metropolitan and regional areas and were instrumental in the arrests of 19 people.

Police Minister Michael Wright said the dogs made a "significant dent" in the SA street trade.

The dogs have located:

* 540 ecstasy tablets
* 7.3kg cannabis
* 62g amphetamine
* 28 dexamphetamine tablets
* 38g cocaine
* 20ml of GHB
* 8 LSD tablets
* 6g heroin
* 47 pieces of "drug paraphernalia" including an "ice" pipe and "cocaine kit".

"The dogs have been pounding the pavement in Hindley St, Semaphore and Glenelg, but they've also been busy in country areas including Mt Gambier, Naracoorte, Renmark, Whyalla, Port Augusta, Ceduna and Victor Harbor," Mr Wright said.

The dogs have also been deployed at Adelaide Airport, train stations, at dance music events, the Big Day Out and Clipsal 500.

from the above article
(My favourites are in blue)

Some Guy
I got sniffed on the train a week ago on the way home by a police dog. Since when has this been acceptable to be harassed by police while travelling to and from work for no reason? While I don't condone illegal drug use this surely sets a bad precedent if innocent individuals get bothered while going about their daily chores.

John of Parafield
Great stats. But what is the cost of buying, training and keeping these dogs, and their handlers, to get this great result? And have they really achieved anything or did those who had all this stuff confiscated simply go out and buy more of the same?

And how much tax payers money of Adelaide was wasted?
So, I see more propoganda from the police today. A big dent hey? You have got to be kidding me! I attended 2 dance festivals and the Soundwave over the last year and let me tell you, you have made NO dent AT ALL. There were just as many people there consuming this stuff, as in all the years before. All you are doing is scaring the recreational takers from maybe having their stuff before they get to the venue, instead of trying to get it inside. You have not hurt the dealers and you have wasted police time and you have significantly wasted tax payers money. Problem is that people in society lap up the garbage from our police and governments. I bet the figures shown above would not even be a weeks work for some dealers. Why do we continually go down this path?

stan of flagstaff hill
that's not really a whole lot, but it's a darn sight better than I could do Sniffing about. And what sort of fines were levelled against these wrongdoers? some guy you're probably right however there are ones amongst us that also say they have no problem giving DNA. citing if you haven't done anything wrong you shouldn't be worried. I personally take exception to both of these scenarios.

Bullied and Lied to of sa the only state with no icac coz of Labor-why?
LOL what a joke. SAPOL must be trying to justify their budget! The amount of drugs taken off the street is NOT a dent and I take offence to our Police Minister only commenting on certain police news. He has NOTHING to say about the armed robberies just more propaganda. Drug use is a HEALTH issue not a police issue. It is government that make drugs "criminal offences" and they only do it so they can thump chests at election time.

ICAC now pls
These stats wouldnt even equate to one nights 'trade' in adelaide for many dealers. once again, perception is not reality.

get real
All drug sniffing dogs do is make users scoff their drugs, causing a risk of overdose, or to switch to drugs that can't be detected by dogs and may be more dangerous. Shame on the cops for using this tactic to look like they are doing something. Dealers arent on the streets or at festivals, you dont catch the dealers that way. Why dont the cops concentrate on making the streets safer by catching real criminals

Since when is drug use just a health issue? People commit crimes to support their drug habits. Read the whole article, this was the result of 3 passive alert detection dogs, not all drug detection dogs used by SAPOL. Just like any other policing, it is a little hit and miss but the results are pretty reasonable. I would hardly think that a dog sniffing the air around a person is harassment!

Peter Climatianos of Henley Beach
I am sorry to say but you are all clowns. Good work SAPOL and the dog squad for makking these loser junkies think twice about dealing on our streets and in our clubs. Lock up all the junkies i say.

Langdon of Adelaide
I would also like records to be kept on 'false positives'. How many innocent citizens have had their lives interfered with on the 'so called' probable cause of a dog sniffing them? Figures I have read suggest that there are many many more 'false positives' than there are actual discoveries of drugs after a forced search. I suspect if the police just stopped & searched selected people (illegally of course) over a one year period they would get many many more convictions. Personally I think its an invasion of privacy and the sooner we move to laws like in Holland where a person cannot be searched until charged and then only searched at the police station, the better for all concerned. Those sniffer dog figures are small fry - if we are going to allow illegal searches (as I feel any search based on nothing more than the interest of a dog must surely be) why not just block off all exists from a street or town and strip search everyone? One day someone will argue that there was no probable cause and they will win. (On a side note: I am 100% sure dogs cannot smell LSD as it has no odour).

100% Afro of Adelaide
Peter... as a few of the other people have already stated, dealers arent just roaming the streets and music festivals, the users are and the amount that these 3 dogs (deployed 205 times)in a year isnt that much at all! Put these dogs to use in neighbourhoods where suspected drug labs are PRODUCING the drugs and i can bet that they would find about 50x that amount and you would need to deploy them even LESS frequently than that! Just because you busted a bunch of bogans or snot nosed kids with some weed or pills on them doesnt mean you are making a difference to the drug dealers! I can bet that the stats you have provided here isnt even 1% of the drugs being dealt in Adelaide alone, let alone greater SA. This is a joke!

Haper of NorthEast
Some Guy, you are complaining about the drug detection dog sniffing you and being an inconvenince on your daily chore of catching a train to work... or wherever you were going about your buisness. A train is a public transport and is readily used by persons whom may be carrying, dealing in or exposed to a drug substance. If you dont like it drive and don't venture out of your coocoon of a home. All the rest of you complaining about the use of the dogs, get over yourselves those whom complain are the ones offending and have a problem with the extra attention...

Lysistrata of Adelaide
What a world! Portugal and several other countries have legalised all drugs. Switzerland gives heroin to addicts because it is cheaper and more humane than running a police system dedicated to locking up people with an obvious medical problem. South Australia just wants to rack 'em, pack 'em and stack 'em.

Traveller of Manningham
Sik'em Rex!

barry of Ridgehaven
6 grams of heroin?!? Oh great effort guys. Keep on targeting music festivals so you can fine casual users of Ecstasy and Cannabis for revenue.

WattleWaffler of outaspace
What a load of pollie waffle, if this amount of drugs is considered significant then South Australia has no drug problem at all compared with any other place on the planet.

Darren of Adelaide
This is a Joke, These Dogs were at The Clipsal 500 Yes and Made a False Detection due to Panadene Forte i had on the saturday. After being treated like a Criminal and Surrounded by Police i missed the Last 9 laps of the race on saturday which i still am not happy about. The next morning my mate got stopped at the gate when all he had on him was his wallet a pack of smokes and a mobile phone and a bacon and egg roll. And Funily enough the dog left me alone the next day. What did we get for false detections just a simple "Sorry" My mate was lucky his was on the way in not in the closing stages of the Race where we pay good money to go and watch live instead of tv to get harrased by police when i was in the paddock area as well.

Penny of HoldenHill
i wouldent mind knowing were the rest has gone i recon the owners are teaching the dogs to well and the dogs are sniffing way to hard lol....stop snorting doggys lol befor u get done for drugs lol

kaye adelaide
great job sapol keep it up if people are stupid enough to catch public transport with drugs then i say stiff you get what you deserve ive watched the dogs and they dont "harass" anyone just the people who deserve it obviously the people who complain about about it are more than likely carriers them self

Bullied and Lied to of sa the only state without an icac thanks to labor
If the government believe so many of its citizens may be using drugs then perhaps they should take the war on drugs funding and channel it into health instead? The only winner in making drugs a criminal issue is government. So why are we allowing those meant to serve us - punish us..

Go the Doggies of Sydney
Sorry "Langdon of Adelaide" what proof do you have that dogs cannot smell LSD ... I bet none. I have proof a dog can detect LSD. Dogs can detect trace odour which means if you have handled/used drugs you may still be stopped by a drug dog. Dogs do not lie or discriminate. Simple don’t handle/use drugs and you will not have a problem and shouldn’t be worried. Good work SAPOL and the dog squad

Related Articles

Monday, 23 August 2010

Ketamine Magic - Recreational Drugs to the Rescue

Once again, the idiotic practice of banning recreational drugs outright has been exposed for delaying important research that may help millions of people. This practice, often initiated by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has seen the shutdown of research into drugs like cannabis, LSD, MDMA(ecstasy), ketamine etc. The sole reason is that people may abuse these drugs although no consideration is given for the real harms and instead, is determined by the perceived harms. The problem is that the perceived harms are dreamed up by bureaucrats, moral crusaders and anti-drug nutters. The many possible benefits are played down as an unacceptable risk compared to the danger of abusing these drugs, usually without any evidence to prove it. Just like stem cell research is hindered by religious groups, drugs that become popular for recreational use are quickly banned outright by anti-drug zealots for similar reasons. Stuff the science and potential to help hundreds of millions of sufferers - we can’t have people getting high and enjoying themselves. It’s just immoral!

The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: Implications for the treatment of mood disorders
After a pause of nearly 40 years in research into the effects of psychedelic drugs, recent advances in our understanding of the neurobiology of psychedelics, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin and ketamine have led to renewed interest in the clinical potential of psychedelics in the treatment of various psychiatric disorders. Recent behavioural and neuroimaging data show that psychedelics modulate neural circuits that have been implicated in mood and affective disorders, and can reduce the clinical symptoms of these disorders. These findings raise the possibility that research into psychedelics might identify novel therapeutic mechanisms and approaches that are based on glutamate-driven neuroplasticity.

Now, the really good news. Last week, researchers from Yale University reported that a horse anaesthetic and party drug called ketamine has shown an incredible ability to treat depression, bipolar and stress. They even went as far as to say, 'It's like a magic drug -- one dose can work rapidly and last for seven to 10 days'. When low key scientists use terminology like 'magic drug', you know they’re on to something big.

Interestingly, my doctor told me about some addiction centres in Melbourne who were having success with ketamine being used to reduce tolerance to opiates like heroin, morphine etc. Maybe they are related in some way? The scientists from Yale said that ketamine was not only a treatment for depression but it  physically repairs the brain by acting on a pathway that forms new synaptic connections between neurons. Who knows what this may also lead to in the struggle to treat opiate addiction?

'Party Drug' For Depression?
William Weir
August 2010

Known to some as 'Special K', ketamine could be developed into a safe medication.
Yale researchers hope to develop a form of ketamine — an effective but very dangerous antidepressant — that's safe, easy to use and effective within hours of taking it.

A new study sheds light on how the drug affects operations in the brain, and why it works so fast compared to other antidepressants. The study was led by Ronald Duman, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Yale, and George Aghajanian, professor of pharmacology. It will be published Friday in the journal Science.

The most popular antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft, which are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), can take weeks before patients feel their effects. Saying that it's "like a magic drug," Duman notes that one dose of ketamine works fast and can last for up to 10 days.

"Clearly, there is a need for a ketamine-like drug with rapid results," he said. Adding to its benefits is that studies indicate that about 70 percent of patients who are resistant to other antidepressants respond to ketamine.

Ketamine was developed in the early 1960s and used as an anaesthetic, commonly for soldiers in Vietnam. In the 1990s, it gained a reputation as a "party drug" (known as "Special K") and has been known to cause short-term psychotic symptoms.

For about 10 years, its potential as an antidepressant has been known. Because of its potency, though, it is only administered intraveneously in clinical settings, which significantly limits its use. It's usually prescribed in low doses for patients suffering severe depression who have been resistant to other treatments.

With new information about how it works, though, Duman believes a form of ketamine could be developed that's much safer and more convenient to take.

"That would be the ultimate goal, to develop the drug as a pill," he said.

Unlike SSRI medications, ketamine does not involve the chemical serotonin as a primary function. By testing ketamine on rats, the researchers were able to examine how the drug worked its way through the brain. What they found was that ketamine helped restore synaptic connections between the neurons, which had been damaged by chronic stress. It does this partly by activating an enzyme called mTOR, setting of a chain reaction.

"Ketamine is able to jumpstart and get these systems revved up again," Duman said.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Huge Drug Busts - Are They Really Worth It?

A cold day for some in Melbourne
You have probably heard about the massive drug bust that netted a major heroin distribution syndicate in Melbourne this week. Although, the Australian Crime Commission and the Victorian Police Force are obviously ecstatic about their victory, what does it actually mean in the real world, away from the congratulatory media and smirking politicians?

I can't say the drought is over. What I can say is that heroin remains a problem for the Australian community. And that's certainly focused Australian law enforcement and the ACC in particular on targeting heroin because it creates such harm for the community
--Richard Grant - The Australian Crime Commission Manager Of Target Development And Intervention 

It would be hard to find any argument from the public against the police removing millions of dollars worth of heroin from the streets and any attempt would most likely be met with sheer disbelief or even some anger. How do you explain any downside from this bust to an ignorant public who have been pumped with anti-drug propaganda for 40 years?

Busting drug dealers is a good thing. Catching the Mr. Bigs is even better. And removing kilograms of heroin from the streets is simply a no-brainer. But what if all this was not as simple as it looks? What if, busting drug dealers is not automatically a benefit to society? What if, breaking up huge heroin syndicates actually causes more problems and harm than if the busts never happened?

To find out why, we must establish a few facts first:

  • Heroin is basically non-toxic and can be taken for decades with very little physical harm. Remember that heroin is the brand name for diacetylmorphine, a derivative of morphine that is used everyday in hospitals and for pain treatment. Diacetylmorphine, under the brand name Heroin, was originally made by Bayer as a cough suppressant and to treat colds, flu, pain and teething problems for children. It is still used in several countries for pain management or addiction treatment as well as recreationally with an estimated usage of over 20 million people aged 15–64.
  • Heroin is highly addictive and withdrawal is as nasty as it comes.  When in withdrawal, addicts will do things they would never normally do. There are no boundaries in place for how far someone will go to relieve the pain of withdrawal and affects everyone regardless of their job, religion, wealth or position in society.
  • Most heroin related deaths are from overdoses when a certain batch is stronger than what a user is accustomed to.
  • Almost no crime is committed by someone high on heroin. It’s the opposite - addicts commit crime to buy their drugs when they’re not high.
  • Most heroin dealers are user/dealers who buy a larger package, keep some for themselves and sell the rest. They never make excess profits.
  • User/dealers usually choose to sell heroin to other addicts because it doesn’t hurt anyone else unlike the option of committing crimes like robberies, theft or hold-ups.
  • Many heroin addicts are fully employed and pay for their drugs legitimately. Any interruption in their budget, may lead them to resort to crime.
  • Addicts often stick with one dealer who they trust. The dealers also much prefer to deal with people they know. A good relationship with a dealer can sometimes lead to a credit arrangement for emergency situations removing the need to obtain extra cash by committing crime, pawning off goods or trying to borrow money. Going to an unknown dealer may result in being ripped off which creates panic and a need to obtain more money.
  • When a dealer is out of heroin or in jail, his customers still need heroin everyday. Simply removing the heroin or dealer does not stop an addict needing to score.

Let’s run through the scenario of what happens after this latest bust.

Suddenly, there are dozens of user/dealers without supply. That means there are hundreds of addicts without supply. We are lead to believe that “a significant amount of harm that we've removed from the community” equates to hundreds of drug users being better off and society is somehow safer. In reality, the opposite happens. Addicts have to score and will not stop until they do. If their source is removed, their options are to find another dealer, buy diverted pharmaceuticals or get street methadone. 

Having to find a street dealer at short notice opens up the risk of being cheated or caught by police. When this happens, an addict has not only blown their hard-to-come-by cash but they are still without a fix for the day. By this time, withdrawals are taking their toll and desperation is setting in. Walking into a chemist with knife and asking for a handful of Oxys is becoming an option. Jumping someone at the local methadone dispensary for their takeaway doses is also on their mind. Paying extra for another addicts heroin may be a solution except they are already short of cash from being ripped off. Either way, crime is becoming almost inevitable. 

Another problem with having to find a new dealer at short notice is that the provided heroin might be much stronger than what the user is accustomed to. This usually causes an overdose and often death. Unlike the popular belief, upsetting the routine for an addict never turns out well without a treatment plan in place.

The underlying message is, less drugs on the street means less harm. This is merely a sales pitch from the government and police. Random drug busts, even major raids like operation “Sethra”, without a fall out plan is not only short sighted but dangerous. Addicts don’t magically become enlightened and seek treatment when faced with a sudden cut off of supply. They just become more desperate. And if there’s one thing that hasn’t sunk in, it’s the fact that desperate addicts going through withdrawal will go to extreme measures to stop the pain. It is almost beyond comprehension that we act surprised or want to toughen up drug laws when an addict commits a crime to feed their habit. After all, it is the cause for over 50% of all crime in Australia. Not acting on this knowledge but instead, trying to the scam public support by rolling out the popular "Tough on Drugs" rhetoric is reprehensible and indicates how irresponsible and self serving our law makers really are.

Contrary to what we have been told, not everyone is going to be affected by this big bust. I asked a heroin dealer I know if this bust will affect him. He simply shrugged and said with a poker face, “I just get it from someone else”. Knowing several sources obviously has it’s advantages. And here lies another problem. This other source has much lower quality heroin so the dealers customers will have to buy extra to satisfy their cravings or get used to less potency. Eventually the dealer will find a better supplier but his customers will now be at risk of overdosing on the stronger heroin. Luckily, the dealer I know warns his customers if the strength suddenly increases but I am certain not all dealers offer this service.

What is lost in all the excitement from busting up a multi-million dollar heroin syndicate is that so much money is to be made that another dozen or so suppliers are ready to step in. It will probably only take a week or so before it’s business as usual and not many people will notice any change in Melbourne’s heroin market. Those who will notice though are the families of users who have overdosed, resulting victims of crime and the welfare agencies who too often, have to clean up the whole mess.

Was it worth it? $40 million in assets, gold and cash is certainly worth a phone call to mum. The proceeds from this bust will fund various police agencies for a long time, which can only be a good thing. I wonder though if 10 months of investigation with 250 police from the Australian Crime Commission, the Victoria Police Drug Task Force, the police crime department and regional response units hasn’t shifted scarce and valuable resources away from investigations into truly harmful crimes like child pornography, human trafficking or violent gangs. If operation “Sethra” was about reeling in ill gotten gains from criminals then it has been a huge success. But if it was about reducing harm or keeping the community safe, then sadly, it was just another failure in the misguided and dangerous, “war on drugs”.

Drugs, Money, Gold And Houses Seized In Melbourne
Simon Lauder
August 2010

ELEANOR HALL: Officers from the Australian Crime Commission and the Victorian Police Force made pre-dawn raids this morning which they say busted a major drugs syndicate.

The officers seized tens of millions of dollars worth of property and arrested more than a dozen people who they say were importing heroin from South East Asia and selling it on the streets of Melbourne.

The raid occurred as evidence shows that more heroin has been making its way to Australian shores. 

In Melbourne, Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: The raids were launched in the early hours of this morning but police say they've been watching and waiting for 10 months. Detective Inspector John Potter is from the Victoria Police Drug Task Force. 

JOHN POTTER: Fourteen search warrants in Melbourne's north and inner west and as a result of that have arrested some 13 people at this stage.

SIMON LAUDER: Police say they seized millions of dollars worth of drugs, mainly heroin, and $2.5 million in cash.

They've also seized around $20 million worth of residential and commercial real estate, allegedly the proceeds of crime.

Most of those arrested so far are women. It'll be alleged they worked for a syndicate which was importing and selling commercial quantities of drugs. It's believed the syndicate has been working in Melbourne for a long time and Detective Inspector Potter says the heroin may have come from South-East Asia. 

JOHN POTTER: We're talking about a number of countries. It's no secret that a lot of heroin comes from Asia.

SIMON LAUDER: The Australian Crime Commission manager of target development and intervention Richard Grant says the best way to stop organised crime is to target the assets. 

RICHARD GRANT: So in addition to that we've got, seized about $2.5 million cash, a kilo of gold and probably about $4 million worth of heroin which represents about 57,000 hits of heroin. So that's a significant amount of harm that we've removed from the community.

SIMON LAUDER: And what activities was this syndicate involved in? Where was it getting its heroin and what was it doing with it?

RICHARD GRANT: Well don't want to say where it's getting it from. What I might say though is that they were a significant trafficker of heroin, probably in the sort of middle to upper level bracket. And the fact that we have restrained over $20 million worth of assets today is indicative of just how sophisticated this syndicate has been.

SIMON LAUDER: And was it just heroin or did you seize some other drugs as well?

RICHARD GRANT: There was some other drugs seized. 

And as you can appreciate this is an ongoing investigation and it's also the raids or the warrants are still being executed as we speak so we're still waiting for further advice.

SIMON LAUDER: Can you say anything about the methods for importing the heroin?

RICHARD GRANT: Probably not at this stage. As I said it's still an ongoing investigation. 

These are plugged into syndicates elsewhere and getting their heroin from those groups. They were trafficking to large sections of the community - no particularly sort of demographic that you could say that they've been trafficking to. 

But the fact that they've been quite a resilient organised crime group - it wasn't that long ago, a couple of months ago that we seized five blocks of heroin which is about $3 million of heroin and about $645,000 cash and this group didn't miss a heartbeat.

SIMON LAUDER: Do you believe this syndicate was the main source of street heroin in Melbourne?

RICHARD GRANT: I can't say that this group is a major supplier in Melbourne. What I can say though, it is a significant contributor to the heroin on the streets of Melbourne.

SIMON LAUDER: And were they operating nationally as well?

RICHARD GRANT: Primarily in Victoria.

SIMON LAUDER: Since 2005 I notice that the amount of heroin seized at Australian borders has been on the rise and domestic seizures have also gone up quite a lot lately quite dramatically. What does this tell us about the availability of heroin in Australia?

RICHARD GRANT: Heroin remains a significant problem for Australia. The Commonwealth Government has got a three-stage plan for dealing with illicit drugs that talks about supply, demand and harm reduction. 

The action that we've taken today will have a significant effect but heroin will remain a problem while there is a demand for heroin.

SIMON LAUDER: About a decade ago or less there was what we called a heroin drought in Australia. Do you have reason to believe now that that is well and truly over?

RICHARD GRANT: I can't say the drought is over. What I can say is that heroin remains a problem for the Australian community. And that's certainly focused Australian law enforcement and the ACC in particular on targeting heroin because it creates such harm for the community.

SIMON LAUDER: Victoria's Office of Public Prosecutions says the case represents the largest single proceeds of crime restraint ever made in Victorian criminal history.

ELEANOR HALL: Simon Lauder reporting.