An official drug booklet used in some Australian secondary schools for two years has been withdrawn after an uproar in the community over its mixed messages. The New South Wales state government booklet — Choosing To Use … But Wanna Keep Your Head Together? — suggests young people should not experiment with drugs until they are over 18, know their family medical history and “use only small amounts and not too often”. It says: “The best way to keep your head together is not to use drugs at all. But, if you choose to experiment … remember some people will react badly and become seriously unwell after using only a small amount of a drug.”

State health minister Reba Meagher said that “the reference to what young people should choose to do if they ignore anti-drug advice or information is simply not acceptable.” However, the booklet was defended by a state health executive, the deputy director-general for schools, and the head of a charity whose son died of a heroin overdose. “We know from ongoing school surveys that up to 50 per cent of young people have experimented with alcohol and illicit drugs by the time they are 16,” said the health official. No wonder. ~ The Age, June 17

The harm minimisation approach of the booklet was condemned in a Daily Telegraph editorial, which pointed out that 170,400 people aged 14 and older claimed to have used the highly destructive methamphetamines (or “ice”) in NSW in just one year. It noted how “Just say no” has evolved into “Just say maybe” among “certain bureaucracies”, and noted the need for vigilance against creeping drug tolerance. ~ Daily Telegraph (Australia), June 17

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....