Tuesday 30 May 2017

Ana's death by Russian roulette should make us think again about drugs

Our drug laws are based on denial, and they have failed, says Brendan O'Connor. If we want to protect our kids we should focus on harm-reduction

Ana Hick and her mother Elga
Ana Hick and her mother Elga
Ana Hick
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

The war on drugs is being lost, one incarcerated or dead young person at a time. Ana Hick was the latest victim, last Sunday. Ana's 19th birthday was a funeral. She was dead because she did what millions of kids before her did, and what millions more will do. She played Russian roulette with pills she bought from a criminal on the street. And she died because our drugs laws do not protect our children, or take into account human nature.

In all the commentary about Ana's death, perhaps the bravest, and most real thing, was said by Kathryn Thomas, who pointed out that we all took risks at that age, through drinking too much or whatever. Kids do take risks. And as adults, and as an adult society, it should be our job to minimise these risks, rather than pretending it doesn't happen and penalising kids when we catch them.

Drug use can often be associated in the public mind with troubled young people or with trouble-making young people. It sounds like Ana Hick was neither of these. She was not some increasingly introverted kid, withdrawing from friends and family, as drug-users are often portrayed. She was clearly a bright, outgoing kid, full of personality. She was clearly popular, and it is clear too that she had a great relationship with her mother.

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