Professor Mina Seinfeld de Carakushansky, Vice President of the Board of Directors of Drug Watch International, is a member of a growing international alliance of experts demanding significant changes to the way political and community leaders deal with the problems associated with illegal drug use.
Professor Seinfeld de Carakushansky’s presentation to the Forging Leadership conference in Mexico on October 20, 2004 called for a refutation of the weak leadership that has been seen in drug policy and a move from a reactive to a proactive role. Importantly, her statement focused on international responsibilities and individual jurisdictions, while rejecting pressure to tolerate the criminal use of narcotics.
Some of the motivation for such a message has come from her humanitarian focus. She has seen first hand that it is only through preventing drug use that the criminal aspects of the supply of drugs, including crime lords funded by drug money and links between drugs and terrorism, can be broken. But she does not forget the impact of drug use, which is now being more thoroughly documented. It is this scientific evidence and its implications that make her message all the more compelling.
While there are thousands of scientific studies into the devastation drugs have on the human mind and body, few have grasped the implications of such research. Even fewer have been able to communicate these concerns to the public and political leaders. This is what has brought about the conviction that international alliances, in which independent and diverse organisations that retain their own identities, should co-operate and share crucial information. This is important for our leaders to hear.
Stopping the use of drugs is a complex issue that cannot be resolved by one profession or section of the community, nor can it be addressed by one nation.
The Mexico conference has been organised on behalf of Forging Leadership, combining the efforts of the Drug Prevention Network of the Americas (DPNA) and the Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF), as well as a great deal of contributed material from Drug Free Australia. It signals a new development internationally, with more independent organisations working more closely in stronger international alliances for their common purposes.The Forging Leadership is a programme of the Drug Prevention Network of the Americas and the Drug Free America Foundation.
When Australia urges other countries to work with us in preventing the international supply of illicit drugs, those countries are entitled to advise us to end publicly funded programmes that encourage illicit drug taking, such as injecting rooms and methadone programmes, which fail to help addicts recover.
For both Dr Stuart Reece and myself from Drug Free Australia - a national community organisation - working with the professor has been part of a growing attempt at educating those in power about the adverse consequences of using drugs like amphetamines.
Dr Reece’s involvement with Drug Free Australia and its coalitions worldwide forms a key part of the promotion of a large body of scientific evidence about the risks of drugs. In his clinical practice, Dr Reece has taken an interest in the results of drug use. At the same time as scientific journals talk in complex terms about the genetic toxicity of marijuana and other drugs, he sees first hand the effects on young children that marijuana use has caused, and has been able to convey scientific evidence and clinical observations to experts like Professor Seinfeld de Carakushansky.
The professor has the ability to put the scientific information into language ordinary people can understand.
In documenting clinical observations of his own patients, and comparing them with hundreds of scientific studies from around the world, Dr Reece has helped highlight not only the obvious harm that arises from drug abuse (for instance, infections and overdoses), but also more insidious dangers. For example, genetic toxicity, permanent hormonal imbalances, osteoporosis, carcinogenic tumours and numerous other long-term hazards documented in the scientific literature.
No longer can simply surviving illicit drug use be seen as a success. Instead, preventing and helping addicts to stop must be adopted as the benchmark of public safety and health policy. This would seriously undermine the campaign of those calling for legalisation and the commercial distribution of hard drugs.
While the Professor’s humanitarian background has prompted her to work for leadership against the obvious miseries of illicit drug use, her compassionate approach is strongly supported by the scientific evidence. Although this evidence had not previously been communicated clearly to the public or political leaders, the combined efforts of those nvolved in the alliance will be working to see that it is.
This is an alliance and a message that has the support of some of the most reputable organisations in the world of human rights and drug policy advocacy.