If the purpose of an editorial is to fill a space, then The News excels.
If, per chance, some intellectual contribution to an important or topical issue is made, then those of us who read such items may feel some contentment and warmth toward our local newspaper.
But when it comes to difficult issues, such as drug abuse, The News (January 25 and January 29) and its anonymous editorial writers risk derision with their annual rehash of this problem.
Of the 43 substances listed on the ADF website (https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/), some (alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, codeine and tobacco) are used by almost all your readers, usually — but not always — without ill effect.
I certainly do not commend any of these drugs, but The News by selecting methamphetamine (ice) as the bad boy of the moment, misses the point of drug abuse and its associated problems.
The problem is never the drug, but the user affected by the drug.
People will take drugs in an effort to gain relief from the turmoil in their heads; but this is usually unsuccessful, and the problems associated with the use of that drug become manifest. Traditionally, many Australians will consume alcohol or take cannabis to help them sleep, only to find their worries are still present in the morning.
There has never been any demonstrable benefit from banning drugs; even the slow-thinking Americans learned this when they banned alcohol (1920 to 1933 https://www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/prohibition) only to boost its illegal production.
I believe society should contribute to this debate by:
●Stopping the adult abuse of children and young people; educate and provide help for those in need. Harm to children is the single biggest health problem in our society and this leads to self-medication through any of the drugs available. Where abuse occurs in institutions, the directors and/or responsible staff of such institutions should be automatically jailed.
●Remembering that drug use is often an extension of child abuse, parents should be reminded of their responsibilities. Where a children’s court finds a child under 16 responsible for a crime, the penalty should apply to the parent, not the child.
●Educate doctors appropriately; no doctor or nurse should graduate without skills in this area. Universities which fail to provide adequate education to doctors and nurses should lose their accreditation and where fees have been paid by existing students, these should be refunded.
I think Shepparton is well served by our magistrates, who should be commended for the good work done in their difficult job. Legal penalties for the use of drugs, the suppliers of drugs and the damage caused by drugs is a whole subject in itself but must, in future, move away from incarceration as a solution to the problem.
Repeating: The problem is never the drug, but the user affected by the drug.
I hope The News will employ the skills of local specialists in future editorials, rather than use their own amateur writers.
- Dr John Mackellar, Mooroopna