Linux, politics, and other interesting things
As mentioned in my previous post  the government is using our money to advertise its policies. I previously covered the “Internet as a threat to children” issue, the other big one is drugs.
The first significant message in the “Talking with your kids about drugs” document concerns the criminal penalties for drug use. That could largely be removed if the penalties were dramatically decreased and if hard drugs were administered to registered addicts for a nominal fee. Forcing addicts to commit crimes or work as prostitutes to pay for their addiction just doesn’t work, economically or socially.
The next message is that parents should be involved in their children’s lives and be trusted enough that their children will accept advice. A large part of this would be related to the amount of time spent with children which is determined to a large degree by the amount of time not spent working. As I mentioned in my previous post it seems that the actions of the Howard government over the last 10 years has made things significantly worse in this regard by forcing more parents to spend large amounts of their time working (including situations where both parents work full-time) just to pay for a home.
One notable omission from the document was any mention of alcohol problems (apart from when mixed with illegal drugs). By many metrics alcohol causes more harm than all the illegal drugs combined. The US attempted to prohibit alcohol and failed dismally, and alcohol is legal in most countries. The government doesn’t want to adopt a harm-minimisation approach to drugs (which bears some similarities to the approach taken to alcohol) and therefore is stuck trying to claim that one somewhat addictive mind-altering substance is somehow inherently different to all other mind-altering substances.
The document provided no information at all on harm minimisation. The idea seems to be that it’s better for some children to die of overdoses than for other children to potentially be less scared of the consequences of drug use. The problem is that children are very bad at assessing personal risk so they simply won’t be scared off. It’s best to provide equipment for testing drug purity etc to reduce the harm.
The list of reasons for young people to try drugs starts with “availability and acceptability of the drug“, Parmesan cheese is more available and acceptable than any drug but I’ve been avoiding it at every opportunity since I was very young. :-#
More serious reasons in the list include “rebellion“, “depression“, “as a way to relax or cope with stress, boredom or pain“, and “to feel OK, at least temporarily (self-medication)“. But predictably there was nothing in the document about why children might consider that their life sucks to badly that they want to rebel in that way, be depressed, stressed, bored, or in pain to a degree that drugs seem like the solution. It seems unreasonable to believe that the school system isn’t a significant part of the cause of teenage problems. Flag poles for flying the Australian Flag  seems to be John Howard’s idea of a solution to school problems. I believe that the solution to school problems (both in terms of education and protection of children) is smaller classes, better supervision, an active program to eradicate bullying, and better salaries for teachers. I’ve written about related issues in my school category. I believe that the best thing for individual families to do is to home-school their children from the age of 12 instead of sending them to a high-school (which is much more damaging than a primary school).
Another significant issue is drug pushers. They are usually drug users who try to finance their own drug use by selling to others. As most drug users get the same idea there is a lot of competition for sales and therefore they try to encourage more people to use drugs to get more customers. In the Netherlands, Coffee Shops sell a range of the milder drugs at reasonable prices which removes the street market and therefore the pushers. When drugs are produced commercially the quality is standardised which dramatically reduces the risk of infection and overdoses. When drugs are sold by legal companies they are not sold to children (a typical pusher can be expected to sell to anyone).
The document has 3.5 pages of information about some of the illegal drugs (out of 23 pages total). They include all the most severe symptoms that most users don’t encounter. If someone reads that information and then talks to a drug user they will be laughed at. They also group drugs in an unreasonable way, for example listing “marijuana” and “hashish” as synonyms and list problems that are caused indirectly. If alcohol was included in that list it would include beer and methylated spirits (ethanol mixed with methanol to supposedly make it undrinkable – rumoured to be consumed by homeless people) in the same section and imply that blindness and other bad results of drinking “metho” apply to beer. It would also say that alcohol kills many people through drunk-driving and is responsible for rapes, wife-beating, and any other crime which can statistically shown to be more likely to be committed by a drunk person.
A final issue with the document is that it advises parents to be “informed, up-front and honest” when talking to their children about drugs. Unfortunately the document itself doesn’t demonstrate such qualities. By omitting all information on harm minimisation it is not being up-front at all, and by not mentioning alcohol it’s simply being dishonest. Anyone who tries to convince someone else to not use illegal drugs can expect to hear “but you drink alcohol” as the immediate response from the drug user, it’s necessary to have sensible answers to that issue if you want to be effective in discouraging drug use.