A new report from Australian researchers in one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals calls for drastic changes to drug laws, urging governments to adopt evidence-based policies and to consider drug abuse as a public health issue.
Stop us if you’ve heard that one before.
The team from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) has published a five-paper series in The Lancet, covering issues like the legalisation of cannabis, opioid use, and the rise of new psychoactive substances.
While that’s a broad field, the report focuses on the idea that traditional approaches to reducing drug harm are no longer suitable.
More to the point: the authors believe assessing the evidence, listening to drug users, and treating them like humans instead of incarcerating them at the first opportunity will go a long, long way to preventing needless deaths.
“Underlying the negative attitudes faced by people who use drugs are moral judgments that people who use drugs are undeserving of humane treatment and that their human rights can be justifiably violated,” said co-author Professor Louisa Degenhardt.
“Confronting these false claims is a social and moral imperative.”
The Lancet’s own senior executive editor Dr Pam Das and editor-in-chief Dr Richard Horton agreed, saying the report promotes “solidarity and protection [for drug users] from the worst excesses of populist politics.”
Discussing a lagging global uptake of opioid agonist treatments – so, the use of methadone for opioid users, that kind of thing – Professor Degenhardt said “these effective interventions go underfunded, while other ineffective interventions that are well intentioned or shaped by moral judgements are strongly supported.”
It’s a strong rebuke of global drug policies, but also a particularly striking stance against Australia’s overall take on the issue.
It was only a few days ago that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her government would reject the reported findings of the state coroner’s report into drug-related deaths at music festivals, and would instead plough ahead without pill testing or the minimisation of sniffer dog operations.
Notably, the NDARC report was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. It is yet to be seen if the Department adopts many of the new findings.Image: Joel Carrett / AAP Image