'Legalise drugs' movement sickening.
That's what happened to the Wood family when their 15-year-old daughter Anna died in 1995 after taking an ecstasy pill. Tony and Angela Wood are still aghast that Dr Alex Wodak sent them a letter two weeks after Anna's death, trying to recruit them for his campaign to legalise dangerous illegal drugs.
At the time, he was a pillar of the medical establishment at St Vincent's Hospital as Director of the Alcohol and Drug Service as well as President of the radical Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation.
His two-page letter urged the Woods to "at least make something good come out of Anna's death" by lobbying politicians to end "tough law enforcement policies".
They ignored his disgusting, predatory opportunism and went on to make an enormous contribution by touring schools, telling Anna's story to send the message that illegal drugs are never safe.
Their efforts, together with the courage of whistleblower police like Tim Priest and publicity about the psychosis-inducing potential of cannabis, pressured authorities to take the drug problem seriously.
John Howard's successful Tough on Drugs regime was launched in 1997 and, for the first time in three decades drug use fell, fewer young people experimented and those who did were older.
Georgina Bartter was born the year Anna Wood died.
By the time she came of age the Tough on Drugs regime had been dismantled, lessons had been forgotten and the same old drug liberalisers were back in the ascendancy.
Bartter's generation still had drug education, but the message had been cunningly transformed. They were taught that alcohol is just another drug. The only difference is that one is legal and the other is not--kind of.
The consequence of this seemingly innocuous shift in language was to erase the distinction between legal and illegal substances.
Young teens saw their parents using alcohol and thought, well, that's a drug so I might try a more modern drug. Using that calculus, ecstasy makes sense.
Now we have a whole new younger cohort of generation Y who have been taught the harm minimisation doctrine that alcohol is worse, or at least as bad, as illicit drugs and, hey, if you must "use", here's how to do it safely. The message was heard loud and clear.
Despite an official panic about a teenage drinking "crisis" the fact is that Generation Y drink far less than their elders. Between 2002 and 2007 the Australian Secondary School Students' (drugs and alcohol) Use survey found the proportion of 12-15 year olds who had drunk any alcohol in the week before the survey had dropped from 32 to 14 per cent. The proportion of 16 to 17-year-old drinkers went from 50 per cent to about 36 per cent. Alcohol was successfully demonised and drug use among young people started to rise again from 2008.
At the same time a renewed official permissiveness about illicit drugs emerged.
Now you can risk losing your licence for parking infringements, yet one in three drugged drivers get off scot free. This year one in 26 motorists stopped for new police random drug tests tested positive, yet magistrates dismissed charges, or applied no penalty to almost one in three drivers convicted of driving while high.
Drugs are ubiquitous and the ambivalence of authorities has rendered them powerless to protect young people like Georgina. The former Wenona student from Longueville started convulsing and died soon after taking one and a half pills of what her friends said was ecstasy at the Harbour-life music festival at Mrs Macquarie's Chair, on the second Saturday of November.
She was a good girl who did well at school and was studying accounting at UTS.
The tragedy could have happened to any family. Paramedics said they treat as many as 1400 young people in a day for the effects of drugs at these sorts of music festivals.
We have ended up in a situation when it is cheaper and easier for a 19-year-old to party on a $25 ecstasy tablet than on alcohol --minus the calories. What a sickening waste of a young life.
"Angela and I were devastated when we heard the news about Georgina," Tony Wood said.
"The only way we are going to fix this is with zero tolerance ... drug education without law enforcement is an absolute waste of money."
But you can bet the Bartter's tragedy will be twisted into a propaganda tool for drug liberalisers.
They claim we have lost the so-called war on drugs, but no one ever claimed it was a war that could be won.
What we have done before and can do again is make drugs harder to procure. That starts with zero tolerance, not a nudge nudge wink wink.