Last night The Unshackled went to The City of Casey headquarters where the Drug Advisory Council of Australia was holding a forum for the general public discussing a variety of topics revolving around the influence of drugs in Australia.

The room was reasonably full, with people of all different kinds of opinions gathered to listen to the main speakers which included Eleni Arapoglou, a features writer who gave the historical context and account of illicit drugs over past two centuries, Shane Varcoe is a Director at the Dalgarno Institute as well as a world class drugs educator, a Melbourne mum named Tracy, who gave her personal testimony, titled Recreational Hell and Helen Hadley from Holistic Studies and also works in rehabilitation hospitals.

Eleni Arapoglou started off by outlining a key point in the history of the drug trade where Britain was offloading huge amounts of opium into China in what is seen as one of the first trade wars. At first China welcomed this new substance as it was encouraging trade with another country and offered economic boosts.

However, this got out of hand when a large portion of the country ended up abusing it. China started to experience many social problems as well as a huge drop in productivity. They ended up pleading with Britain to stop the trade, they agreed but what they wanted in return was an astronomical loss to China, the island of Hong Kong, for the next 99 years.

Tracy shared a story about her son who started smoking marijuana from a young age and ended up acting violently from withdrawal syndromes. He eventually started suffering from a condition called “cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome” which brings on symptoms such as recurrent nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. A very emotional testimony.

Shane went on to talk about his work with the Delgarno institute and offered his arguments against some of the pro-drug lobby’s positions that adverse effects from recreational drug use can be prevented as well as stating that people who have addictive personalities have no control over how their bodies and minds react to substances. He also disagrees strongly with the idea that trying drugs is an inevitability in youth culture and that like the smoking rate we can work towards lowering the rate of people who choose to make drugs a part of their lives.

The audience were encouraged to ask the panel questions after the talk and many people were keen to share their stories about addiction or avoiding that kind of lifestyle.

A few people challenged the ideas brought up on stage with one former addict speaking in favour of safe “injecting rooms.”

Ash Blackwell, the leader of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy told the panel that after listening to the speeches he believes that the the two parties can find some common ground. Jan Kronberg, the organiser of the event responded respectfully.

It was great to see some politicians at the event as well. Inga Peulich, the Liberal MLC for the South Eastern Metropolitan Region and Rosalie Crestani, the Rise Up councillor for the City of Casey graced us with their presence, offering their opinions during question time. Liberal candidates Ann-Marie Hermans for Cranbourne and Viki Fitzgerald for Narre Warren North were also present.

It was an interesting and informative event over all. In the future we are hoping to expand into further conversation about drugs in Australia and the policies put in place to control them and treat addition and offer the best possible solution to the community.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this nationwide issue or any possible solution you can think of in the comments below.

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