60 Minutes blog

Liz Hayes: Legal highs

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You may not have noticed but nearly all of us are drug takers. Whether it’s the morning coffee to kick start the day, a piece of chocolate to lift our mood or an evening libation to soothe the soul, we regularly indulge in mood-altering substances.

And I haven’t even mentioned cigarettes.

It’s been this way since the beginning of mankind. For all sorts of reasons, we’ve sought ways to be stimulated, become euphoric or relaxed.

For decades, cannabis has been the drug of choice for hundreds of thousands of Australians.

It’s the illegal drug authorities have been in a never-ending battle against.

In NSW, Operation Zambezi recently netted thousands of cannabis plants worth millions of dollars … forests of plants flourishing inside suburban homes grown by both those wanting to make a quick buck and sophisticated professional syndicates feeding a billion-dollar industry.

But now there’s a new battleground.

Synthetic drugs have arrived. Drugs made from legal chemical compounds which give the user a similar high.

And, of course, there’s synthetic cannabis … herbs infused with chemicals concocted by chemists. It doesn’t smell like cannabis or taste like cannabis, but it’s got a kick like cannabis.

For legislators and police, trying to outlaw synthetic drugs is proving to be a nightmare. Every time a chemical compound is deemed illegal, chemists need only tweak one molecule, and they’ve created a new, legal, substance that has the same effect.

One synthetic drug baron told me that when one lot is made illegal he already has another in stock ready to go.

It’s drugs 21st-century-style.

And there are synthetics that mimic other drugs including ecstasy and cocaine.

So what to do?

Well, many argue for control, not prohibition … control over the manufacturing of synthetics to ensure the contents and dosage and, hopefully, safety of a product.

And control, too, over where it can be sold.

It’s a difficult argument to advance. Police are not of the opinion we need more drugs to ruin more lives. And given so much of their job brings them face to face with the human devastation drugs can have, who can blame them.

No one can vouch for the safety of synthetics (police say they are often more potent and lethal), and yet just about everyone agrees they’re virtually impossible to keep off the market, so maybe it’s time to take a new approach.

If only I knew what that was.

User comments
I am an Alcoholic and an Addict. This is my third attempt at being sober and clean and I've made it to 5 months. This is an achievement I am not taking lightly. In my experience in A.A I have learnt a lot about why drugs have such a hold on people, especially me. It's not just for the effect, it's to cover up an underlying pain, anxiety, fear, or stress. As a nation if we don't have ways of dealing with life's problems and un-comforts then people will turn to drugs as an Instant gratification. It's not enough just for drug councillors to get people off drugs but they need to show people how to live and deal with difficulties in their lives. This is why the synthetic drug market will be a big hit, why we have such big health problem related to tobacco and alcohol...the legal ones. it should start in schools where kids are taught how to self-soothe and how to express anger in an effective and harmless way, (boxing anyone?) breathing and relaxing techniques to fix the real problem... A.A.
I strongly believe 60 minutes should do a case on the pro's and con's of weed cause from what I've researched on weed the pro's seem to outweigh the cons. Weed is safer then alcohol and apparently there are NO deaths from cannabis but think of the so many deaths from alcohol. Marijuana can be addictive but ciagarettes and very addictive AND harmful to the human body so why are they legal. marijuana is a natural plant grown from the ground, it is not rat poision and road tar and whatever else is put in cigarette. legalizing marijuana would also help our economy as you can put a tax on it. When you think of the benefits of marijuana as well of the benefits from legalizing it you wonder what on earth is this plant illegal. i hope in my lifetime i will see cannabis become legal =) theres a video on youtube called 'Marijuana- the Facts They Don't Want You To Hear' which has some very good points on the benefits of cannabis. BTW I have never smoked weed before so i am fairly unbiased.
I can't believe that we arent able to get kronic from our tobaconists anymore. I now have to go online to websites like ikronic dot com and wow what a savings. Now i no longer have to pay through the nose for the costs the stores were getting to, the last weeks i was buying from shops i spend 900 dollars for less than 20 grams .....oh well every cloud has a silver lining.
What's new, drugs and more drugs, the chemists sell them legally and they kill, or how about our water supply with sodium flouride in it, which is a KNOWN S7 poison. The government tacitly supports this behaviour and they know the properties of sodium flouride. It's time concerned citizens got together and pursued these criminals through the courts. We could start with governments and companies. Prohabition was created for big profits and criminals.
When your a drug addict you find all sorts of ways to justify it. I smoked pot for twenty years and always thought it was harmless until I had the conviction and commitment to get of the crap. Untill you grow up and realise that not everybody is a drug addict like yourself and clean yourself up you will never understand the damage you have done to your body and your mind and society because as much as you think your not doing anything wrong you are dead wrong. This fool who is making a fortune from ruining other peoples lives aught to be put in front of a firing squad, he disgusts me and the thought of him and his prostitute wife having kids makes me sick to my stomache. Here is some advice for them when they or if they grow up. Mummy and Daddy are wrong in everything they say and do!
The officer interviewed put the question what would be the alternative? The obvious answer is legalization. The drug war has failed and that is being more accepted around the world. Half of US states have either allowed marijuana for medical use or have reduced fines for small amounts. And many countries in Latin America and Europe have done similar things. Copenhagen and the Basque country are seriously considering fully legalizing cannabis at this moment. This is just part of a larger wave of reform sweeping the world. Hopefully the discussion in Australia will soon begin to reflect the rest of the world's continually evolving attitude to drugs and the drug war.
Why get rid of it ? because of all the do gooders out there. I bet they all drink alcohol but thats ok its legal . How many families have been destroyed by alcohol or abused because of alcohol !!!! A real smoker not the odd 1 here or there that cant handle it and panic, can do everyday things like NORMAL people. If you knew a real smoker you would understand that we are placid people we dont try to kill each other after a smoke but how many fights start when alcohol is involved..... I am sick of people trying to put pot in the same boat as cocaine or heroin or even alcohol its nothing like that, thats right they all know dont they. Maybe all the pollies should have a toke an a herbal and learn to mellow out. Smoke a herbal Australia !!!!!
In my view, societies problems lie closer to how parents bring up children. Those children become adults and have their own learned views on what is acceptable and what is not -- in the end that's how societies problems manifest. The drugs are no necessarily the problem, they are secondary to an individuals ideas,education,attitude, etc. Some people are living in a sad work where they think that drink driving, violence, etc. are acceptable things to do. The problem lies in those peoples attitudes, and those kinds of people should not be allowed any drugs, even alcohol. And I agree.. - The fake pot is probably going to cause more problems that the natural pot, so now the fake pot is here and beyond the law there may be no other option but to decriminalise the natural pot. - Prohibition makes no sense... People can buy it anyway and in the end criminal drug dealers just get rich. Perhaps governments need to see that one the way it really is. Kids need to be smart. Education is King.
I demand the police minister and 60 minutes come down to my local Coles. A young woman there sells daily a substance i believe to be highly addivtive, causing death in great numbers, several BILLION dollars a year in cost the the state and total misery. They come in packets and are these odd paper sticks you put in your mouth. They cant be legal - i know the government wouldn't allow the sale of something like that. Why, I even had to put up a pool fence to save 5 to 6 toddlers year from wandering into my yard and drowning in my pool
60 minutes - do your research - stop promoting these drugs as they are in illegal in most jurisdictions including NSW!! Legislators have simply banned anything substance that creates a 'high' cutting the snake off at the head... (See Clayton Utz website) Its time journalists took responsibility for their reports rather than misleading the public who trust them!

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