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Miranda Devine

Oct 29, 2010

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

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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?


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.

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31 thoughts on “A dangerous idea that stubbornly refuses to die

  1. Vix

    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.

  2. dendy

    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.