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"Western Australia wages war on street drugs"
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"Western Australia wages war on street drugs"

Jake ElsonWestern Australia has earned an unwanted reputation for its drug problem, writes Jake Elson, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Bunbury in Australia. Education is part of the effort to solve the problem.

It’s renowned across the continent for its unbridled summer sunshine, relaxed attitude and world famous Margaret River wineries. Yet lift up that veneer, and a darker side to Australia’s Cinderella state emerges.

The state capital, Perth, has for some time been dubbed as ‘Australia’s drug capital.’ For many, it’s an unfair tag. However, with an Australian Bureau of Statistics report in 2012 showing Perth having an overdose death rate of 5.6 per 100,000 compared to the national average of four, it is a problem that cannot be ignored.

It’s something that is exclusively restricted to Western Australia. Drugs have been a serious problem over the last 50 years across the world. Yet rapid social and economic change coinciding with the mining boom means the Western Australian government, along with  not-for-profit organisations, has been unable to cope with a demographic growing at a rapid rate.

What makes matters worse is the prevalence of cheaper drugs, often made at home. Crystal methamphetamine, commonly known by its street name as ‘ice’, is cheap to make and cheap to buy. It’s also the most commonly used street drug and by far the most dangerous and volatile. Ice has become the leading cause of psychosis in WA, fuelling issues of increased violent behaviour in hospital emergency rooms and beyond.

According to statistics from ‘The West Australian’, the state’s paper of record, over 500 people were treated for amphetamine-related issues from January to August of 2014. This compares to 567 for the entire year of 2013, and 50 per cent more than five years ago.  Even scarier, the same paper suggests that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is a good reason that drug-related problems are untreated. There is a public misconception that if an ambulance is called for a drug-related issue, the call will also be relayed to the police. The health department, alongside St. John Ambulance, has attempted to counter that message. However, this misconception still lingers, which is causing more problems and – in the most extreme cases – unnecessary deaths.

This is only a snapshot of the problems that ice causes. We could mention the danger of actually making the drug. Some of the ingredients to make ice (which I won’t mention for obvious reasons) are highly flammable and volatile. Given that most operators of clandestine production known as ‘meth labs’ have little to no knowledge of chemistry, it’s a recipe for disaster. Over the past five years, Royal Perth hospital, one of five major hospitals in the Perth Area, has treated 50 people injured in meth lab explosions. That figure does not count immediate others, be they relatives or neighbours, whose health suffers as a result of chemical fumes.

Unfortunately, many of the people involved in meth cooking see it as easy money. Some of these persons are mere pawns of national and international drug syndicates. It’s well known that outlaw motorcycle gangs or “one percenter bikie groups” are heavily involved in the ice trade. The two main groups in Western Australia, Coffin Cheaters and Gypsy Jokers, have heavily involved themselves in this trade, and are in a state of war over who controls the supply. That isn’t even to mention eastern state organisations coming west in search of a new market.

There is hope, however. The vast majority of schools has seized the initiative and implemented anti-drug awareness. A problem remains with students using drugs outside of schools. Although partying for many students is seen as an integral part of teenage life, a recent concern has been with students returning to school under the influence. In an article for ‘The West Australian’, it was revealed that disruptive behaviour and lack of interest in schoolwork directly correlating with weekend parties is a grave concern to Headmasters and Headmistresses. Another problem highlighted was parents failing to properly parent, thus condoning such activities.

Now, to be fair to the youth, most will use drugs once out of mere curiosity. However, the dangers are there. Many schools have taken a pre-emptive approach as the best chance of educating the youth about drugs. It is common for drug awareness seminars to be conducted at school. Health and science classes heavily feature drug-awareness in their curriculum and posters warning of the dangers of drugs are now commonplace. Although there is the odd kid who uses drugs as a naive act of rebelliousness, the programme is having a positive effect.

Western Australia has had to deal with the scourge of drugs in recent years. Indeed, it has caused major social problems across the state. Yet, the tide is turning. Many politicians have realised the dangers and are beginning to take a stand. There is hope that with increased drug education, the youth will be less inclined to experiment with drugs. Despite optimism, the battle against drugs is still far from won. It is up to every West Australian to continue the fight.

Photo: Alvimann

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About me:

I am a history buff, but also am into soccer. I referee soccer, and would like to go FIFA one day.  I’m currently studying politics and international relations at Edith Cowan University. My aim is to become a police officer in Western Australia, and I would like to be Prime Minister one day.

I am a Conservative and a Monarchist, and believe in the role of the Commonwealth as a tool for good.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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