Letter To The Canberra Times: War against drugs lost a long time ago Commissioner

It’s a dangerous thing, coming out and talking common sense ..Dr Alex Wodak keeps plugging away

Decades ago illicit drug use was seen as evil.

Stringent drug law enforcement seemed the solution. Drug seizures became more frequent and involved increasingly large quantities of heroin and cocaine.

A growing number of sceptics began emerging, demanding evidence customs, police, court and prisons sustainably reduced the supply or availability of drugs.

But the international price of drugs like heroin and cocaine fell over decades by as much as a third. Australians who use drugs reported the availability of most illicit drugs was “easy” or “very easy”.

Drug markets around the world in recent decades saw a steady growth in size, an increase in the number of different types of drugs and more dangerous drugs replacing less dangerous drugs.

Australia prohibited heroin in 1955. In 1964, there were only six heroin overdose deaths in Australia. Now annual drug overdose deaths in Australia are close to 2000.

In 1989 the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority concluded: “All the evidence shows, however, not only that our law enforcement agencies have not succeeded in preventing the supply of illegal drugs to Australian markets but that it is unrealistic to expect them to do so”.

On April 29, 2014, then Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, finally admitted that “[the war on drugs] is … not a war we will ever finally win. The war on drugs is a war you can lose”.

Things that cannot go on forever don’t.

Dr Alex Wodak AM, Darlinghurst, NSW


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