This week’s University of the Third Age (U3A) presentation was given by Kevin Foreman who spoke about the history of Drugs of Dependency Treatment.
Kevin is a retired pharmacist who has worked for some years in the field of drug treatment and rehabilitation in Australia, specifically in the ACT.
Initially he asked participants to consider what they thought were the most harmful of drugs and whether or not drugs should be legalised – a question which has polarised public opinion.
He then drew on his personal experiences as a pharmacist, dating back to 1956, to point out the changes which have occurred since then.
Examples given noted the fact that heroin used to be legally prescribed by doctors and Brompton cocktail (containing heroin, cocaine, gin and honey) was prescribed by doctors for cancer pain.
He then spoke about opium throughout history, its derivatives such as laudanum, heroin and morphine, coca (cocaine), alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine of course, and also pointed out that medicinal cannabis was indeed not a new idea.
The wider use of heroin can be dated from the end of the Vietnam War where cheap supplies were available to servicemen.
The growing use and variety of evolving Social or Club drugs creates new challenges for treatment and management of users.
The speaker highlighted the total social cost of drug abuse in Australia and that the so called legal drugs alcohol and tobacco together caused five times the harm and cost to the community than that caused by illegal substances.
Many people are not aware of the benefits of relatively low cost treatment compared to the massive cost to the community in health and criminal offences.
He said that, although there are about 48,000 people currently in treatment in Australia for opioid dependency, there were almost 100,000 people who would benefit from treatment.
Kevin was able to show empirically that the benefits of treatment affect both the individual and the community.
In conclusion Kevin spoke about so called positive, noble or acceptable addictions which invited some interesting discussion from the audience.