The last couple of weeks have been among the busiest of my career in the alcohol and other drugs field.

Journalists from across Australia and overseas have been keen to get a new angle on the drug trafficking cases that have hit the headlines in recent months.

Schapelle Corby, the Bali 9 and, this week, the major cocaine smuggling ring, have all focused attention on the illicit drug market in Australia.

Media outlets all want to know the price, purity and availability of a range of drugs, what impacts major seizures have on the markets and how many lives have been saved as a result of the removal of these drugs from the street.

The stories that have resulted from this have ranged from interesting and thought-provoking through to the totally ridiculous.

However, a thing that shines through with all the cases is that one of the major consequences of illicit drug use is just what can happen to a person if they get caught.

Now I realise that all of these cases involve major quantities of drugs and that trafficking and supply are incredibly different from possession, but over the last few years I have been involved in so many cases where someone believed that having a few pills on them was not problematic and then had their life completely changed overnight when they were arrested for drug use.

Whether you agree with the law or not, you need to be aware that although drug use can become normalised within certain groups, it is still illegal and as a result there are very real consequences if you get caught.

In one case that I was involved with, a young man was arrested for having six pills on him and was charged with supply.

He was in his early 20s, was well on his way to making a successful career for himself and had recently become engaged.

Literally overnight his life changed. Although he tried to keep the charge a secret, his employer found out and he was quickly fired, his mother was devastated and suffered a mental breakdown and his relationship broke down.

His legal case has dragged on and he and his family are now deep in debt.

Although the charge has now been dropped to one of possession his life has changed forever, with his relationships, finances and emotional state severely affected.

The majority of people who use drugs do so because they believe they can enhance their life.

Many drug users that we interview say that they continue to use their drug of choice because it gives them pleasure.

But for all the positive experiences that drug use can give, no-one should forget that there are risks involved.

If you want to ignore the physical and psychological risks, fine, but never forget the legal consequences.

If you think it won’t happen to you, take a look at these figures -“ in the last financial year, more than 11 tonnes of illicit drugs were seized by Australian law enforcement in more than 52,200 seizures, and more than 79,000 people were arrested for drug offences in the 2003-04 financial year.

Make sure you don’t become one of these statistics.

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