February 28th, 2016


On the arrogance of the notion of 'being seen to condone' the use of drugs

So on the back of the young man who died in Waikanae last week, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has come out in favour of pill testing. This isn't the first time he's said this, but so far he's *ahem* Dunne nothing.

This week I'll be sending the latest round of pill testing results* to the Ministry - let's see if that motivates him to do more than talk.

Anyway, one of the main arguments against pill testing is that we don't want to be seen to condone the use of drugs. I think this is supremely arrogant - it assumes that people actually care whether or not the state/an event organiser/their mum condones the use of drugs. I'm pretty sure that when people consider using a drug, whether or not Peter Dunne condones it is not foremost in their mind. A bit of fear of the police for some people maybe**, but the approval of the state is unlikely to figure at all.

The fact is we are experiencing civil disobedience to the drug laws on a massive scale, which demonstrates to me that all the We Don't Condone messages are being entirely ignored. Bottom line, nobody gives a shit whether politicians condone drug use or not, and they are doing it anyway, so let's stop with this crazy assumption that whether or not we condone it matters, and get on with saving some lives.

Which we can, if we stop burying our heads in the sand about the message we're sending. So much evidence shows that in educating people, We Care works better than We Disapprove. And to those stuck in the Drugs Are Bad paradigm, there is always the fact that pill testing is more effective at making people change their mind about using drugs than any other 'message' I've come across.

So I say to Peter Dunne - Get On With It Then.

* These ones show clearly that illegal drugs in NZ are of low and fluctuating quality, and also (importantly) that the results of testing have an impact on people's intention to use drugs. Nearly half of people who found out their substance wasn't what they thought it was chose not to take it. Show me any other intervention that convinces that many people who intended to take something, not to take it.

** Which is about whether they get punished rather than whether their behaviour is approved of.