No parent likes the idea of their kids using drugs. Drugs sit at the top of the list of experiences that we pray our kids will NEVER do, like dropping out of school or getting a tattoo.
That’s why, when I saw the thin blue line that indicated my son’s impending arrival, I didn’t envisage the journey that lay ahead.
No, I experienced the smug expectations of any middle-class mother. I made plans for him to pass each developmental milestone with flying colours, to graduate with honours and lead a happy, successful life.
Sadly, what that scan didn’t show me were the mental health issues that would lead him to self-medicate with drugs.
Every day we hear stories in the media of professionals snorting cocaine in club toilets and young kids popping pills at festivals. Thanks to technology, drugs can be ordered by phone and delivered to their door.
That same technology has made our kids more vulnerable to mental illness, by exposing them to the pressures of social media and an expectation to be on call around the clock.
Evidently, prohibition isn’t working. People still use drugs, and with our greater understanding of addiction, I wonder if it is really fair to treat recreational users as criminals.
Current drug laws in New South Wales mean my son is seen as a criminal in the eyes of the law, even though we know that mental illness makes young people feel like outsiders and that many will turn to self-medication to cope with that sense of isolation.
Kids like him take anything they can lay their hands on to feel something — marijuana, MDMA, crushed-up Ritalin, even the fumes from aerosol sprays.
But instead of labelling those struggling with addiction as criminals, we could take a whole new approach, and decriminalise drugs. It’s not as radical as it seems. Other countries, such as Portugal and certain states in the US have gone down the same path.
They’ve found a decline in people using drugs on a regular basis, fewer cases of HIV, less drug-related crime and violence on the streets, and fewer deaths from drugs that haven’t been screened.
– Louisa Simmonds