Last week you may have read comments made by the parliamentary secretary for Health, Christopher Pyne, in regards to a $30 million mass media campaign being proposed by the Australian government intended to terrify Australians about the dire consequences of using ice, or crystal.
According to media reports the government will look to the notorious Grim Reaper anti-AIDS television campaign of the mid-1980s for inspiration.
Those Grim Reaper commercials warning people about safe sex terrified people into changing their behaviour and stopped AIDS almost in its tracks, Mr Pyne was reported as saying in The Weekend Australian.
I think that’s what we need to look at with ice. We need to terrify people with a hard-hitting, no-holds-barred campaign warning of the horrendous consequences of using ice.
There is great debate over whether shock tactics have a place in drug education. Shock tactics encompass a variety of different techniques. Many of you will remember a police officer coming into your school and showing you pictures of terrible car accidents in an effort to prevent speeding and/or drinking and driving.
Photographs of diseased lungs and other body parts were often used in health lessons to dissuade young people from smoking. Yes, these images shocked and horrified -“ but do they really stop users or potential users from partaking in the risk-taking behaviour?
As many of you may be aware there is currently much discussion in our community about the need for a shock tactics campaign, specifically around crystal use.
My issue with creating a media campaign for ice/crystal is that it is attempting to deal with the drug in isolation. No drug, no matter how risky it may be, can be dealt with in that way. You must not only look at the substance itself, but also how, when and where it is used, and also what other drugs are taken at the same time.
It is rare to find an exclusive crystal user -“ most people who take the drug are polydrug users. According to people I have talked to who have been through Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA), when they make the decision to stop using crystal, they stop taking all drugs, including alcohol.
Crystal use is linked to a range of behaviours, whether it be sex, other drug use or partying, and you can’t hope to fix the crystal problem without dealing with the other things as well. Saying the drug is bad without looking and dealing with triggers and reasons behind use is most likely to be fairly useless.
As a community we must start examining this drug in a context of other drug use and that is a point that appears to have been overlooked in the current debate.
Shock tactics have a place in public health education. They obviously work in preventing some people from taking part in risky behaviour. The question needs to be asked though -“ would those people have ever partaken in that activity in the first place?
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?/p>