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A dangerous idea that stubbornly refuses to die

The Daily Telegraph’s new health expert, Miranda Devine, gives us a great example today of why facts are so much more useful than gut instincts, as she outlines her objections to harm minimisation programs targeted at drug use and the legalisation of some drugs.

We have a hard enough time dealing with binge drinking and late-night violence and all the other consequences of the legalised drug of alcohol, that you would think no one would seriously propose adding more harmful substances to the mix

Um, Miranda, in case you hadn’t noticed, these harmful substances are in “the mix” already, despite the fact that there is presently no way to regulate them. Devine’s article then moves on from ignorance to hyperbole:

They have their high priests – Dr Alex Wodak, long-term director of St Vincent’s Hospital’s drug and alcohol service, who has been trying to get marijuana legalised and sold in packets at the post office. They have their churches, such as the heroin-injecting room in Kings Cross, installed on a trial basis four years ago.

OK, so it doesn’t entirely move on from ignorance, the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) was established in 1999, but really, high priests and churches? What does Devine imagine happens at the MSIC? Does she think it resembles the Kali worship scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?

mola-ram.jpg

Devine’s argument against the MSIC seems to boil down to this:

.. having done nothing demonstrable to reduce heroin use, or cause drug addicts to abstain from the substance that is ruining their lives, it was made permanent this week.

That’s a pretty big claim, let’s see what the MCIS has to say for itself in their fact-sheet:

To the end of April 2010 there have been about 8,500 referrals made to other health and social welfare agencies in and around the local area. About half of these have been for drug treatment

OK, so only a few thousand people diverted to treatment programs, I guess it would have been easy enough for Miranda to miss those. Have there been any other benefits though? Again from the MSIC fact sheet:

… there have been over 3,500 drug overdoses successfully managed on site without a single fatality. There is no doubt that many lives have been saved and serious brain injuries have been prevented.

I don’t know about Miranda, but to me this sounds much better than having junkies overdosing in public. This doesn’t even take into account the 80% reduction in Ambulance callouts to Kings Cross, the fact that the number of discarded needles and syringes has halved or the fact that residents in the area are now much less likely to find someone shooting up in their stairwell or courtyard.

It’s because the benefits of the MSIC are so obvious and easy to prove that both sides of parliament voted to make the service permanent, not because of, as Miranda puts it “the limp-wristed NSW Opposition”. If we transitioned over to the Mirandaverse, where the injecting centre was shut down, we’d see more overdoses ending in deaths, more junkies shooting up and leaving dangerous injecting litter in the streets, more demand on the Ambulance and hospital system, fewer addicts receiving support and higher financial costs to the rest of the community. Who in their right mind would want those outcomes?

Perhaps Miranda does have a solution other than closing her eyes, covering her ears, singing “La la la, I can’t hear you” and pretending that the problem of drug use will magically disappear, but if that’s the case she certainly hasn’t bothered to outline it here.

31
  • 1
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    we’d see more overdoses ending in deaths, more junkies shooting up and leaving dangerous injecting litter in the streets, more demand on the Ambulance and hospital system, fewer addicts receiving support and higher financial costs to the rest of the community. Who in their right mind would want those outcomes?

    News Ltd. The headline potential for outrage/crises/epidemic type paranoia/hysterics would be infinite.

  • 2
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    injecting litter in the streets? what the butts from a reefer?

  • 3
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    DBoP, more like used syringes and caps, distilled water bottles and foils, or whatever else was used to cook up the heroin before injecting. I remember walking through the cross in the 90s and there would be piles of the crap all over the place once you got away from the main thoroughfares.

  • 4
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Fair enough Dave. It is pretty obvious that the injecting room and harm minimisation has cleaned a lot of that up. removing the harm minimisation programmes will just push it back out into the laneways

  • 5
    ShaunHC
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    If we transitioned over to the Mirandaverse, where the injecting centre was shut down, we’d see more overdoses ending in deaths, more junkies shooting up and leaving dangerous injecting litter in the streets, more demand on the Ambulance and hospital system, fewer addicts receiving support and higher financial costs to the rest of the community. Who in their right mind would want those outcomes?

    Harm minimisation is not something in Miranda’s mind, because she believe that these people just should stop doing what they do. And if they don’t they should all be locked up. Every single one of them.

    Problem them solved. No junkies bodies found in alleys on a Saturday morning because there are no junkies. They are all in jail. Every single one of them.

    I’m not exactly sure on the logistics of courts and police that would allow every single junky to be caught, arrested and locked up, but Miranda’s a big picture sort of person. Leave the details to someone else.

    Strangely enough, her world, the junkies just shouldn’t exist world, is reminiscent of Iran. A country where there are no drug addicts and no homesexuals apparently (by government decree).

  • 6
    monkeywrench
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Once again, it’s really more about Miranda than about the subject.

  • 7
    Bloods05
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Miranda’s kind of conservative is a sort of idealist – she must know that the world is awash with drugs and that their use is so widespread as to make any attempt at prohibition laughable.

    But. Drugs are bad, so we should do everything in our power to stop people using them, discourage people from using them, and stop people supplying them. We should keep on indefinitely tilting at the drug windmills, regardless of the futility of the exercise.

    Because drugs are bad, and they harm people, and if we don’t keep doing this, more people will be harmed. And even if more people are harmed in spite of or even because of what we are doing, we still need to keep doing it, because….drugs are bad.

  • 8
    twobob
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    When you think about it the pushers are the real beneficiaries of keeping heroin illegal. And the losers? Well that is everyone else.
    So, with this in mind, just why is miranda (at news LTD’s bequest) supporting the pushers at the expense of society in general?
    Reminds me of a Paul Keating quote about self interest always in with a run.

  • 9
    JamesH
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Let me cast my mind into Mirandaverse for a moment:
    More overdoses ending in deaths = purge of undesirables. Good!
    more junkies shooting up and leaving dangerous injecting litter in the streets = support for more police powers and fewer restrictions on police brutality. Good!
    More demand on the Ambulance and hospital system = proof that a public healthcare system doesn’t work, cannot work, and in fact has never worked, being entirely an illusion generated by mental damage to the population caused by Blue Poles. Good!
    Fewer addicts receiving support = tautologically Good!
    Higher financial costs to the rest of the community = more support for tax cuts and Tea-Party style downward envy politics. Good!
    Really, it all makes perfect sense.

  • 10
    Holden Back
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Monkeywrench, who doesn’t want to know more about Miranda?

    Now that makes her sound like a character in an Almodovar movie, and almost interesting. Yes, she could be some toxic Opus Dei member with a secret.

  • 11
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks PP, I just suffered an overdose of Miranda Devine.

  • 12
    Bloods05
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of a Paul Keating quote about self interest always in with a run.

    Ooooooooooh you are wicked!

  • 13
    fractious
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    2bob @8:

    at news LTD’s bequest

    Blimey, that was sudden, I didn’t even know it was unwell…

    ;-)

    Back to your premise, Limited News will have thought of that, won’t they. Of course they will. Definitely. Probably. Surely…

  • 14
    twobob
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    @fractious
    hmmm my bad,
    me thinks I meant behest, but that given I would prefer news’ bequest.

  • 15
    Davo
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I know the Fabian Society has been asked several times if Miranda is some kind of plant from the Left…

  • 16
    Holden Back
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    You know you don’t ever have to read them again when you can write the critique of the film you’ve just watched in their character.

    I saw The Ice Storm again this week and had the Sheridan/Devine/Henderson talking points (“Nixon and the loss of faith in democracy and American Hegemony”, “Women’s Liberation – the death of the family and happiness” “The death of religion and civil society” “Drugs Are Bad” and “Only Nice People Garden”), chattering inanely through my head, as I was blown away by the direction, acting and script.

  • 17
    jeebus
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    As a country that narcotics are largely imported into, Australia must focus on the demand side. The sooner drug use is seen as a medical problem instead of a criminal problem, the sooner we can bring these sick people out of the shadows of the underworld and into the light of safer places like injecting rooms where they have access to treatment, and a shot at getting better.

    That will result in less drugs being imported into the country, and less money being funnelled into organised crime.

  • 18
    returnedman
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Guys, relax – most of the commenters on her article disagree with her stance. And they are very well-crafted replies, what’s more.

    Either she’ll disappear soon or she’ll start a mad recruiting frenzy for flying monkeys from the Trollumnist stable.

  • 19
    quantize
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Good pic of Miranda there Dave..

  • 20
    monkeywrench
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    returnedman@18
    Agreed. The wingnut market is quite tight, really. I doubt whether many of Bolt’s regulars will double up by posting on her faux-outrage self-advertising efforts.

  • 21
    dendy
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    There is something deeply offensive about a nonentity like Devine attacking someone like Wodak. How has Devine added to the sum total of human happiness? Campaigning for relaxed licensing hours in Sydney is the only thing I can think of. Compare that with Wodak. Wodak has devoted his life to helping those caught up in the nightmare of drug addiction. He recognised the risk of dirty needles and HIV infection long before anyone else in the country and introduced a needle exchange programme at great personal risk to his career to do something about it. In doing so he saved many lives. He has a profound understanding of the drug problem – certainly a better understanding than the rest of us. Then how dare Devine attack him? How dare she even mention his name in one of her bilious columns? Well of course the answer is simple. She’s decided that the best way she can get noticed is to attack someone who is worth so much more than her.

    The thing I think is interesting is that her column proves that newspapers are no longer interested in producing news. Her column along with that of Ackerman’s, Bolt’s, Albrechtsen’s and all the horrible lot are really just modern day freak shows. Most of us read them saucer eyed in horror wondering what they’ll say next and if anyone can really believe this stuff. Those on the right read it with chortles, thinking “this will really get the lefties stirred up” but I’m sure if you asked them if they really believed it, they’d, eventually, say no. It’s just part of the fun – parading the freaks to horrify the rest of us. It’s just entertainment, but vicious and vacuous entertainment.

  • 22
    monkeywrench
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Dendy@21
    You’re absolutely right, of course. The likes of Devine, who is nothing more than a career self-advertisement, criticising someone who has made their life’s work care and consideration for the suffering of others, is probably the most obscene aspect of this.
    Sadly, “this will get the Lefties stirred up” is the main motivation for this filth, that and the hope that she will attract attention to herself as a sh1tstirrer in the mould of Bolt. Massive achievement there, Miranda. I hope it’s what people remember you for.

  • 23
    arth77adsd
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    heroin addicts should be stripped of their clothes and placed in a cell and forced to quit cold turkey

  • 24
    rhwombat
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    …with arth77adsd. And Miranda. And {Snip – we’ll leave it there thanks – Dave}

  • 25
    Duncan
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I think you should be stripped of your clothes and placed in a cell and forced to become a heroin addict, you turkey.

  • 26
    Vix
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Yes, well, putting aside arth77adsd @ 23′s startling comment. Someone else can deal with that or ignore…

    I believe the likes of Miranda et al might find themselves entirely, perversely comforted by visiting a residential detox centre for a few days, like the one I was in for 10 days in inner city Melbourne exactly this time last year.

    ‘It’s rather like being in boarding school’ I said to myself (not that I was as such, but my old school in Sydney took boarders as well as daybugs like me – mind you, one of the boarders was my own sister, who ended up being a heroin addict for about 20 years…..the correlation in that regard is entirely in the eye of the reader I assure you!).

    I can just see Miranda et al in there, with whomsoever the latest cohort of about 15 or so is. Back last year, I was the eldest at mid-50s and the only alcohol (legal drug, note) dependent. All the others were mostly aged early 20s-mid 30s, and were multi-substance addicts, mostly smack / ice / speed / crack / prescription / hooch / whatever they could get. Some of them were detoxing for the 3rd or 4th time and / or about to be transferred to long term rehab out at The Farm (outside Melbourne). This requires a stay of up to a year.

    The detox residential of 10 days is fully clocked with multiple staff on hand day and all night, and every damn minute and hour from 7 am to 11 pm lights out is diairised with jobs / activities / groupwork / minimal quiet time. Mind you, some of the group stuff is very therapeutic – Reiki, meditation, swimming in the indoor pool at the public gym across the road, and one outing to the nearby beach (in a bus, like a school outing…in fact, it felt more like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).

    No one is allowed outside the front door without permission. Mobile phones etc are handed in when you are admitted. Even your normal prescription meds and vitamins etc are handed in and delivered by staff at ‘MEDS TIME!!!’ bawled through the corridors and up / down the old stairwells (thank God, Nurse Ratchet didn’t make an appearance).

    You have no contact from family or friends for the first five days. Household and outdoor duties are rostered and worked out at morning house meetings…and so on and so forth. Oh, and did I mention: there’s a house rabbit? He was very sweet, not that I’ve ever been a rabbit fancier …his care was also on the jobs roster, which also entailed cleaning out his hutch, giving him a cuddle and chasing him around the garden when he went into hiding.

    Overall, there were many hilarious moments, and many frightful ones too. I felt like I’d referred myself to a low security, very low cost (and this place is just that, very low cost, mostly State subsidised – the patron of the board is Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, so suck on that one Miranda!) gaol / boarding school / sanitorium / retreat for wayward girls and boys. Notwithstanding the rabbit.

    I can just see Miranda loving it. She could make like Elisabeth Wynhausen and others, and Get Inside the Real World….then again, probably not.

  • 27
    peach1
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    As far as I am concerned the govt can legalize all drugs. But then the responsibility for these peoples’ well being must be accepted by them.

    No picking them up from the gutter and rushing them to the hospital if they overdose.
    They need to pay for the ambulance and their medical treatment.

    No more free rehabilitation, they will need to pay for that themselves.

    Since their drug use invariably leads to health problem the rest of society does not need to help paying their medical bills. It will have to be the drug users responsibility.

    This approach will lead to a lower drug use. Either by drug users realizing they can’t afford the health care or they drop dead because they failed to realize that.

  • 28
    confessions
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    How do you feel about smokers and drinkers, who represent a far greater burden to our health system than illicit drug users?

  • 29
    Tamo
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Dear confessions. Does “hypocrite” sufficiently answer your question?

  • 30
    jimD
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    As an SMH reader, I am still luxuriating in the absence of Devine from its opinion columns. Of course, I had actually stopped reading her SMH columns long ago, but for as long as she was there I resented the fact that her rubbish was taking up space that some one worth reading – from the right or the left – could otherwise have used.

    PP’s article brought it all back to me: the poor (or completely absent) research; the fractured logic; the reflex snatching at extremist right wing slogans whenever what must pass in her case for inspiration lags: In brief, the sheer bone-idleness underlying her offerings. I don’t get it: I don’t read left or moderate columnists whose work is slipshod, because I am not interested in reading someone who just parrots the conventional wisdom and takes the case no further. So why does anyone – right or left – read Devine’s stuff? She is as predictable – and as stupid – as Fox News.

  • 31
    BoldenwAter
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    peach1
    Recently I came across some research from the Netherlands.This research looked at the monetary cost of treating the healthy people who lived to an age of 80+. It concluded that these people who did all things possible to remain healthy hit the wall at 80 and overall cost their society much more than smokers or drinkers who died at an earlier age.
    Given this information I am sure that you will now withdraw the financial support for all health nuts and give it to those who abuse drugs. After all it is they who cost less medically and are also likely to have paid a higher proportion of their income in taxes.

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