One of the hottest issues in our community over the past couple of years has been crystal and the problems associated with its use. In the US, where they have watched the drug become increasingly popular over the past decade, barely a week goes by in the gay press without another story running about the new gay plague. Crystal use has been linked to a host of physical, psychological and social problems but without a doubt the most hotly debated area is the drug’s links to unsafe sexual behaviour.

Historically, Australia has usually dealt with drug issues in a far more measured way than the US. We tend to identify the problem, review the evidence (incorporating information from researchers and most importantly, the users of the drug -“ something the US rarely does) and then develop programs and initiatives accordingly. The best example of this in recent times would be the Australian reaction to the heroin epidemic. Using best evidence we now have a range of education programs, treatment options and support systems in place for those who are considering using, or already using, heroin. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a lot better than what we see in other countries.

I would hate to see us go down the US road of a fear campaign when it comes to crystal. History has shown us that this is usually a waste of time and often counter-productive. To paint crystal as the next plague is dangerous. There are those people who use the drug and experience few problems and as a result unbalanced information would not reflect their own experience and lacks credibility. Crystal is a very pure drug (often 80 percent purity) and it is usually administered in a way that ensures the drug reaches the brain quickly (either smoked or injected). This increases the risk of dependence and also psychosis. All drug use entails some degree of risk, and some are definitely more problematic than others, but demonising a drug is not going to assist in changing risky behaviour.

In recent months ACON has been criticised by many as not reacting quickly enough to the crystal problem. Some people have been concerned that agencies have not listened to the community on this issue. If this is how you feel, take this opportunity to have your say and make a difference.

ACON is hosting a community forum on Wednesday 3 November between 6pm and 7:30pm at ACON, 9 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills. Many people are concerned about people they know and love and problems they’re seeing related to their crystal use. If you believe you have something to contribute or you just want to come along and listen to what others have to say, you can register to attend by calling ACON on 9206 2052. A range of experts and clinicians will also be on hand to provide information and answer questions.

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?

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