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Letter from a mother


The following is a translation from the original German of a letter dated 16 April, 1988, written by Dorothea Klieber, of Schwaben, West Germany. The letter is on letterhead of an Association called "Parental Help for Addicts". It appears to have been intended for distribution to physicians, although no
specific addressee is shown. Appended to the 16 April, 1988 letter is a further document which is not dated and has no heading. This correspondence was sent to me in June, 1988, by Mrs. Klieber, who introduced herself to me following a conference at which I spoke in Frankfurt, Germany, in November 1987.

"I loved that woman, who died a couple years ago at age 91.  I flew to Munich for one day to be present when she was awarded the highest German honor for civilians, in recognition of what she did. . . ."

Robert G. Newman, M.D. Beth Israel Medical Center, New York

16. April 1988
Dear Dr.
On the way home following our detailed discussion various thoughts went through my head, but particularly something which am sure would be of interest to you also:

At the panel discussion of the fifth methadone conference in the University of Frankfurt in November of last year (which included presentations by international addiction and methadone experts, which are currently being prepared for publication), several of the victims also spoke and had a major impact. For example, my son spoke about the many people who because of their addiction had to flee from the Federal Republic, where they are persecuted, to foreign countries where all too often they tragically succumb.

(I would like to add that all of these people, as well as those who die as a result of suicide or side effects, never appear in the official statistics of victins of drug abuse. They are victims of our drug politics.) At any rate my son asked if in this country one should (he quoted Professor Quensel)
"Let the addicts continue to succumb in the gutters".

At the end of the Conference he repeated the question he had previously raised, and challenged the international gathering of physicians to come up
with an answer to the question : "Is it moral, is it ethical and is it consistent with the Hippocratic oath to let addicts die in the gutter with the slogan, accept my fine treatment or die?"

Read the full letter here>>>

False hopes in the drug war

"New evidence released today in the Australian Crime Commission's Illicit Drug Data Report 2012–13 reveals seizures and arrests of nearly all drug types across the country were at record highs."

BUT ...drug seizures for 2010 was a miniscule 2.9 percent of that consumed...arrest rate of users is only about 3 percent of the millions of people who use drugs in Australia...

“It’s not a war we will ever finally win,” Mr Abbott said on 3AW. “The war on drugs is a war you are going to lose."

Read more here>>

World leaders who want drug policy changes

A tabular list of world leaders and statements they have made in support of drug policy change. The statements have been gleened from news reports or other published documents. Find the table here >>

Revised US drug policy rhetoric needs reality check.

The presentation by Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and chief adviser to President Obama on drugs at Parliament House, Canberra on Wednesday 14th November was about how the US has reduced drug use and how it provides 2,600 drug courts across the US to divert and compel people to recover from drug addiction or drug use.

He stated also that the "war on drugs" was over. The US now sees drug use and drug addiction as a public health issue, "it is a brain disorder", he said. And that the US now adopts an evidence based approach with its drug policy, "a third way", he said, borrowing from a former president.

Significant additional federal funding is being provided for drug-free-communities, drug education and treatment, the HOPE program for prisoners who fail drug testing while on parole and programs targeting high-intensity drug trafficking areas.

Notwithstanding this the US still retains its hard line opposition to changing the drug laws. Read more here>>>

ACT 2010 Drug Action Week Launch The address to launch Drug Action Week in the ACT was given by Dr Ken Crispin, the recently retired Supreme Court judge of the Australian Capital Territory . He was appointed President of the ACT Court of Appeal in 2001.  He was first admitted to the Bar in 1972 and appointed as a Queens Counsel in 1988.  He was the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions during 1991-94 and President of the ACT Bar Association during 1996-97.  He has been Chairperson of the ACT Law Reform Commission since 1996 and Chairperson of the ACT Criminal Law Consultative Committee since 1998.

In his address he said this:

"During the last four decades, western governments have waged what has been described as a war on drugs. New offences have been created, penalties have been massively increased, law-enforcement bodies have been given new powers, and hundreds of thousands of people have been arrested and sent to prison. Politicians and senior officials have constantly told us that they are winning the war, that the flow of drugs into our countries is being stemmed by the rigorous enforcement of the law, and that sooner or later the problem will be wholly overcome. I wish I could believe them. I wish I could believe that narcotics and other dangerous drugs will one day be driven out of our lands like St Patrick is said to have driven the snakes out of Ireland. I wish I could believe that there will be no more need for rehabilitation programs, that the courts will see no more drug dependent offenders and that I will never have to attend any more funerals for young people who were little more than children when their lives ended in misery and squalor.

Read the full text of his speech here>>


The heroin trial10 years on: how politics killed hope

by Dr Alex Wodak

Ten years ago, on 19 August 1997, Federal Cabinet at the behest of Prime Minister John Howard aborted a proposed scientific trial to evaluate the effectiveness of prescription heroin as a treatment for heroin dependence. Six years of careful scientific research work was trashed.

Cabinet claimed the heroin trial was abandoned because it would have ''sent the wrong message''. After the meeting, two Cabinet members (Peter Reith, Judith Moylan) breached the Westminster tradition by telling waiting reporters that Cabinet had erred.

Worrying signs of health in ACT jail.

By Bill Bush 

Published in The Canberra Times 1 June 2007

THERE is real doubt that the ACT community and its politicians are aware of all they are acquiring with their new human­rights-compliant jail.

Much is made of ceasing transportation to NSW and taking responsibility for our own prisoners, of providing more ready access by families to detainees and of providing opportunities for local businesses. The mere establishment of a jail in the ACT will achieve these objectives. The problem is whether the project will meet its other most important objectives: rehabilitation and a safer ACT community. Paying lip service to human rights will not bring this about.
Read the full article here>>
Cries of futility in dead ends of drug policy

By Neil Lade
Published in the Canberra Times 22 October 2006


Lost in an empty ring, going round in circles. Where words drift into nothing and there's no escape from deja vu. Just blinding stupor in a tunnel of darkness. And deep behind dark glasses no one can see my tears.

It's another time of year when futility struggles with reality. When I'm drawn somewhat reluctantly to Weston Park in Yarralumla - and wounds gape again. It's last Monday, and I'm back for the ACT Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform's 11th Annual Remembrance Ceremony for those who lose their life to illicit drugs.

Focus must be parenting, not framework to micro-manage
Bill Bush

Published in the Canberra Times on Wednesday 27 September 2006, p. 13

The deaths of three more babies from families known to child protection authorities (CT, 22 Sept. p. 1) rightly dismays us all. A firestorm of fury is an understandable response but it is essential that we take stock of the facts.
The Australia-wide crisis in child protection has brought the system across the country to its knees. It is getting worse rather than better ......
PRISON, DRUGS AND MENTAL ILLNESS: MUST THEY ALWAYS GO TOGETHER? Transcript of an 21 June 2006 Drug Action Week address by Father Peter Norden, policy director of Jesuit Social Services, Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Science and Planning at RMIT University, national board member of ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Service) and the Convenor of the Victorian Criminal Justice Coalition.  “We have dramatic changes taking place within our Australian society at the present time.  Growing prosperity for many, poor distribution of resources, and increased alienation and growing disadvantage for many Australian communities.  It is about time that we learnt that the only effective intervention with such young people is a holistic program that engages the young person as an individual and does not just focus on their drug usage or their mental illness. Our present way of responding to illicit drug use in our community needs dramatic rethinking.”
Introduction to Australian Parliamentary Group Public Meeting, Parliament House Canberra, 2 Dec 2005
by Brian McConnell
pdf copy available here
Introductory talk to APGDLR public meeting held on the day that Nguyen Tuong Van, an Australian citizen, was executed by the Singapore government for trafficking 396 grams of heroin through Singapore to Australia.


Agenda and other speeches where available can be found at adlrf.org

Prism of political correctness still distorting drugs issue  
by Bill Bush
Published in the Canberra Times, Wednesday, November 9, 2005

If drug addiction is best understood as a psychological problem than a lifestyle issue, why do we continue to treat drug abuse primarily in a criminal law rather than primarily in a health context?

New drug laws reflect badly on Government
by Brian McConnell 


(Published in The Canberra Times on 17 March 2005)

Although aimed at drug traffickers and serious drug offenders, the new ACT cannabis laws effective from 6 March, in fact widens the net and can impose draconian penalties on young people experimenting in or addicted to the drug. Parents who want their kids to survive their experimenting years without the burden of a criminal record, should be concerned about the implications of these changes

No silver bullet for drug abuse

Advocates of zero tolerance ignore its side effects says Brian McConnell

Published in The Canberra Times 24 September 2004
New approaches to drug policy - Dare we try?  
Brian McConnell, President, Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform. Published in DrugInfo, Vol2 No 3 February 2004
 What does a family do when it loses a member to drugs?
Reactions of families can be different. For some, understandably, the shame and stigma associated with illegal drug use will guarantee their silence, others believe we have not tried hard enough and want tougher laws,. Neither effectively contribute to reducing the harm.

Many Questions Unanswered in Drug Report  

Expert evidence contradicts some of its conclusions, writes Bill Bush.
Injecting room put off again

Bill Bush deplores the continued shilly-shallying.

Published in the Canberra Times  on Monday 22 December 2003

It is hard not to be cynical of politicians in the light of the ACT Government's decision announced by the Health Minister, Simon Corbell, to reconsign the establishment of a medically supervised injecting facility to the indefinite future.
In 1999 Kate Carnell's Liberal Government went out on a limb: it introduced and enacted with ALP support legislation to allow for a trial. The issue came up again in the next budget which a couple of independents who normally supported the Liberal Government opposed because of the injecting facility.
Zero Tolerance in a Modern Community: how to recognise the zealot

An address by Bill Bush of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform
at the Community Forum, "Society's Treatment of Drug Users"
Brunswick Street Mall Rotunda, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane
Thursday, 26 June 2003

Enlightened minds needed to solve the drugs dilemma by Bill Bush
Published in the Canberra Times 10 June 2003
Bill Bush says the highly charged moral and political atmosphere surrounding drugs challenges the choice of the best interventions. Drugs constitute the greatest social issue facing the nation. This is the verdict of Peter Costello, the thwarted Liberal leader  in the Press last week. They are "every parent's nightmare", he added. In contrast, the ACT Police believe that "the scoreboard is starting to show some runs" (The Canberra Times, May 24). There's nothing like a few big seizures to buoy spirits.
Thinking about drugs policy: some core concepts that might underpin the next stage of Australia’s National Drug Strategy by David McDonald Consultant in Social Research & Evaluation
This is a PowerPoint presentation made to the Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform meeting at Canberra on 22 May 2003
One policy Australia cannot afford to abandon.by Brian McConnell.
Prime Minister Howard is opposed to it. Bronwyn Bishop says that it is dead.  Bureaucrats have tried to define it away. Philip Emafo, President of the International Narcotics Control Board says it is a distraction from ridding the world of drugs.
But harm minimisation is far from dead.

Winning the headlines but losing the war

See also response by Senator Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs (published on 16 April 2002) and a critique of his response

John Howard might take comfort from the current heroin drought, argues Brian McConnell, but things are different on the streets. - Published in the Canberra Times 8/4/2002.


International Drug Control - Book reviews  William B. McAllister, Drug diplomacy in the twentieth century: an international history (Routledge, London & New York, 2000) 344pp incl bibliograhy & index. Price: $57.20

International Crisis Group, Central Asia: Drugs and Conflict (ICG Asia Report, no. 25) 26 November 2001 37pp at http://www.crisisweb.org/projects/showreport.cfm?reportid=495

Reviewer: Bill Bush

The Australian heroin drought: The case for an inquiry into its causes and the flood of methamphetamines by Bill Bush 



The article disputes the claim by the Federal Government that Australian law enforcement financed by its Tough on Drugs Strategy was primarily responsible for the heroin drought and resulting fall in overdose deaths. Law enforcement agencies – notably the Australian Federal Police through its Commissioner – have revealed intelligence to the effect that Asian crime syndicates have assessed that there is a large and very profitable market in Australia for amphetamine-like drugs and that they have made a marketing decision to promote them rather than heroin.
The waning of clear thinking in decision making: The case of the heroin trial and the effect of law enforcement on the supply of drugs by Bill Bush This paper examines how irrationality, including the rejection of scientific method, characterises much of the drug debate. Examples include misquoting or misinterpreting the results of research. Certainty is often hard to come by in social science. Thus in the case of drug policy, we should be guided by the weight of evidence from research or other sources. This principle is frequently ignored in the drug debate. The article uses the Swiss heroin trial and the relationship of law enforcement to the causes of the Australian heroin drought as case studies to examine these themes.
Clean society goal an admirable but unrealistic goal The promotion of a drug-free world, though laudable, can never be a reachable objective, argues Brian McConnell

An anniversary to regret: 40 years of failure of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs by Bill Bush


30 March is the 40th anniversary of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, a multilateral treaty consolidating drug treaties going back to 1912. It is part of a prolonged international effort to eliminate the abuse of opium and other drugs. Seen as the solution, the 1961 convention soon showed itself inadequate.
On Reinventing Drug Education, Especially for Adolescentsby Rodney Skager, Professor Emeritus, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles .....a recent international study my country scored highest among Western nations in rates of teenage marijuana use. In other words, what can be learned from a nation in which one third more adolescents smoke weed than do their teenage peers in laissez-faire Holland?
Paper prepared for the 2nd International Conference on Drugs & Young People, Melbourne, Australia, 4-6 April, 2001.
Lost vision in drought of heroin
Heroin supply in Australia has almost dried up. For years this is exactly what law enforcement has been trying to achieve. The underlying assumption is that when supplies are cut off there will be no drug problem. The solution to the drug problem should therefore be in sight – but is it?
Its time to move the focus in drug policy from law enforcement to health, says Brian McConnell
Council toothless in war on drugs
The Australian National Council on Drugs has been in operation for almost three years and the terms of its members are up for renewal next month. Just what has the ANCD achieved in those three years?
The zero-tolerance approach has failed to reduce overdose deaths, writes Brian McConnell
Rough Justice for All
By Crispin Hull, Deputy Editor, The Canberra Times
Source: CANBERRA TIMES 26/08/2000 P3
(c) 2000 The Canberra Times.
IT TAKES a long time to turn public opinion and understanding, even on obvious things. It has taken 500 years for almost everyone to understand that the world is round and goes around the sun. After more than 150 years perhaps a bare majority understands the basics of evolution. But turn it does. After 20 years in America, opinion is slowly turning on crime and punishment.
Rhetoric won't halt deaths
by Neil Lade
A caring society has a responsibility to look after people, even when they make mistakes. Reality, and not personal morality, must guide the heroin debate, says NEIL LADE.
Can the United Nations Rid the World of the Scourge of Drugs? presentation by HR Seccombe Ralph Seccombe speaks about his experience with the UN in Pakistan and analyses the nature of UN programs against illicit drugs. He comments on the UN promises to "rid the world of the scourge of drugs" and he explores reasons why the "war on drugs" continues to receive support and funding and the need for performance measures.
Not Cannabis, or not Cocaine, or not Heroin or ... not Prohibition? by Peter Watney The mistake made in USA in 1933 was to end prohibition of alcohol under the Volstead Act, but to leave in existence prohibition of cocaine and heroin under the Harrison Tax Act.This grievous error was then compounded in 1937 with the Marihuana Tax Act, and by the various Acts that replaced them in USA and elsewhere after WWII.
In Search of What is Right: The Moral Dimensions of theDrug Debateby Bill Bush & Max Neutze In much of the debate about drugs participants seem to talk past each other. Very often this is because they come with different moral values. This paper suggests that because what is at issue is a community response to a major social problem it is important to take moral values seriously if the debate is to be advanced. There is scope for proponents to scrutinise the moral positions of themselves and others. Many of the disputes about what measures will or will not be effective are only understandable if underlying moral positions are acknowledged. The paper suggests a framework for the discussion of these issues.
Supervised injecting place now deserves a fair go by Brian McConnell Supervised Injecting Place Trials are a response to the failure of current policies to stem the flow of drugs and the overdose deaths. The debate in the ACT Legislative Assembly (and in the NSW parliament) is over and although it still rages in some areas of the community it is now time in the Australian tradition to give this trial a fair go.
Heroin Crisis
a book review by Geoff Page
For lay readers, Heroin Crisis, a new collection of essays by experts in the field, will give us most, if not all, of what we ever needed (or wanted) to know about the present debate on the best ways to deal with the drug's impact on users and on society generally.
The Heroin Crisis: Why we need Courage by Kate Carnell, ACT Chief Minister
An essay drawn by permission from the book Heroin Crisis which is publisjhed by Bookman Press.
There is no doubt that Australia faces major social and public health problems in the increasing use of drugs – including tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceutical products, inhalants, steroids, marijuana, heroin and other illegal substances. Nearly one in five deaths in Australia is drug-related.
Federal Government Foreshadows Legal Steps to Block Safe Injecting Rooms
by WM Bush, 29 May 1999
The Federal Government has given veiled notice that it will block the establishment safe injecting rooms.
That Was The Summit That Was
by Alex Wodak
first published in On Drugs This Week 29 May 1999
The NSW Drug Summit was triggered by the publication of a photograph in a Sydney tabloid newspaper of what was believed to be a twelve year old boy injecting heroin with equipment obtained from a needle syringe program
Drugs in Perspective: "Get Real"
Dr. Wendell Rosevear
I work at the front line of drug problems in the community and in prison and I honestly believe that the National Strategy of 'Tough on Drugs' is making the problem worse rather than better.
The other night I dreamed a dream
WM Bush, 1 Jan 1999
A wish list for a world without the tragedy and destruction caused by our current drug policies.
The Proposed Heroin Trial
by Max Neutze
The proposal to carry out in Canberra a trial in which some registered dependent users would be prescribed heroin at maintenance levels to be taken under controlled conditions has caused much controversy.
From Grief to Activism
Why Some and Not Others?

Brian McConnell, Spring (US) 1998
A look at why some families turn to activism to change drug policies and why some families press for more and stronger measures in an attempt to overcome the tragedy that arises from illicit drugs.
Back To Basics: Some Issues in the Drugs Debate
Geoff Page, Jan 1999
An article submitted to Quadrant Magazine in Jan 1999.
Lesson lost in the translation
Richard Walsh 1 March 1999
An article about Swedish drug policy reprinted from the Sydney Morning Herald Monday 1 March 1999
Sweden’s Drug Policy – Does it have answers for Australia?
Brian McConnell 2 March 1999
A brief description of Sweden's drug policy and its relevance to Australia's evidence based approach to drug policy.

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