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?

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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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