It's easy to focus on the negatives of drug use when our news is filled with stories of fear, death and hospitalisations through illegal drug use. And yes, we do need to be aware of the risks of drug use - whether we are talking about legal (prescription drugs) or illegal drugs. And agreed, at the extreme end of the 'drug use spectrum' risks can include overdose and death. But let's talk about drugs in a way that is helpful to educating people about mental health, alcohol and other drug problems rather than by influencing people negatively about drugs through unhelpful, sensational news headlines.
Let's talk about how some people can take drugs for years without overdose or death. Let's talk about how any substance that changes the chemical balance in the brain - including alcohol, legal and illegal drugs - is a drug. Let's talk about how our prisons are full of people with mental health, alcohol and other drug problems and that more discipline and punishment is not working to solve these problems. Let's talk about how we need more health interventions to support people with alcohol and other drugs problems and how we can support families affected by these problems. If we put all of the money we spend on drug control into rehabilitation and support systems I wonder what the outcome would be? The media did report recently that Portugal has done this with some great outcomes! But in the ongoing minimal health options in Australia then people affected by mental health, alcohol and other drug problems will continue to hide the problem and the extent of harm being done to individuals and families. Hiding the problem can be due to the stigma and discrimination associated with drug use as much as it is about the fear of negative legal consequences of illicit drug use. Don't get me wrong. There do need to be consequences to illicit drug use. But let's talk about a range of consequences rather than an automatic discipline and punish response.
Any time is a good time for people to learn about drug problems in a solutions focused way.