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Showing posts from June, 2013

Is alcohol really a depressant?

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In an attempt to make our lives less complicated, we like to simplify quite complex issues into quick grabs that are easy to understand and don't take too long to communicate to others. It's just human nature - firstly, most people don't have the time or the patience to listen to all of the subtleties that may be involved with the subject, and secondly, most of us wouldn't necessarily understand everything that needs to be said!

In the alcohol and other drug (AOD) field this has always been the case. I've been to scientific conferences where researchers who have spent their life in a laboratory with a pile of mice have tried valiantly to communicate what they have discovered and seriously, not one word has made any sense to me at all. When it comes to how different drugs work on the body, most particularly the brain, there are very few researchers across the world who I have met who can effectively communicate in words of one or two syllables how drugs do the thin…

'Preloading' and the 'tactical vomit' ... really?

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Just when I thought I had heard everything I visited a school recently and was asked what I thought about the 'benefits' of a 'tactical vomit' ... now maybe I missed something when  I was a teenager but I had never heard of this ... Asking around I have spoken to a number of my peers who had a vague idea of what these young people were talking about but all were surprised when I told them it was 15 year olds who were describing the practice and were completely staggered when I told them the context in which this was currently being carried out.

The website 'Urban Dictionary' (not a particularly pleasant site and certainly isn't up there with the Oxford English Dictionary!) defines a 'tactical vomit' as the following "the point in a night of heavy drinking where one forces themselves or chooses to throw up in order to feel well enough to continue drinking and keep up with the nights festivities - usually done after large amounts of drinking ...&…

'Synthetic drugs', 'research chemicals' and 'legal highs': What are we really talking about here?

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The recent death of Sydney schoolboy Henry Kwan has thrust the issue of so-called 'synthetic drugs' onto the front pages of newspapers across the country. The full details of his death, including toxicology, have not been released as yet, so it is still not completely clear what substance he actually took, but regardless of that fact both the NSW Government and the Federal Government have responded by taking measures to restrict the sales of a number of products that were previously legally available.

The problem with this death is that there are a number of elements to the story that have got confused - trying to sort through it all and work out what public health messages need to be developed to prevent future harm is pretty difficult. I'm going to try to give it a 'go' here, so bear with me! As far as I see it there are four main issues that we should be looking at here: the rise in interest in hallucinogens (LSD, 'acid', 'trips', mushrooms, DMT, …

Sports, alcohol and bad behaviour

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It seems as if not a week passes without an elite sportsperson hitting the headlines for some alcohol-related incident. In the past couple of weeks we've seen a number of sportsmen be arrested for a range of alcohol-related crimes, including indecent assault, sexual assault, wilful damage of property, drink driving and driving without a license. The most interesting thing about all of these incidents is watching the 'spin-doctor's' response - it has now almost become a formula ...

Firstly, the player comes forward and repents with a prepared statement usually read from a piece of paper, then the sporting body involved (e.g., NRL, AFL, etc) responds by saying that they will not tolerate 'bad behaviour' and that they will take appropriate action but, at the same time, carefully includes in their response that they still must 'look after' the player. They can't leave them 'high and dry' - they must support them during this time and so the pun…

Neither prohibition nor regulation will prevent stupidity!

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An article in today's Daily Telegraph written by Dr Gordian Fulde, Head of the Emergency Department of St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, (he does one most weeks, discussing some of the injuries this busy inner city hospital (one of the most unusual in the country having both Kings Cross and the Oxford St nightclub strip nearby) deals with over the weekend) highlights the great problem we have dealing with alcohol and other drugs.

Both sides of the 'synthetic drugs' debate – those who want to regulate the industry and those who think continually banning new substances will fix the problem need to look at this very short piece and think whether either of the two ends of the spectrum are ever going to make a great deal of difference in reducing the harm associated with alcohol and other drug use …

The incidents that Dr Fulde describes in his piece are as follows:
a 27-year-old woman using 'meow meow' or mephedrone, mixed with amphetamine ('speed') who experien…

Celebrity drug use: What impact does it have on young people?

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The Voice judge Joel Madden hit the headlines today with the news that NSW police had raided his room at the Star Casino after a cleaner had reported finding cannabis. The fact that the singer was not charged, as NSW law permits authorities to issue a simple caution to anyone found with less than 15 grams of cannabis, has also added fuel to the fire. Not surprisingly the tabloid press has gone into a frenzy over the story ... why was he not charged? Is it because of his celebrity status? Is Channel 9 going to allow him to appear on the Grand Final of The Voice (really - in the scheme of the world is any of this really that important?)? Has he apologised for his behaviour? Was his response (via Twitter of course) appropriate? It goes on and on and to be quite honest I don't think most people care very much but having been at a school all day I have to say that this type of story does have an effect - the students were buzzing about it and I can imagine that it will cause some prob…

To ban or to regulate? That is the question ...

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The death of Henry Kwan during the week continues to attract a great deal of media attention. The young man jumped to his death on Sydney's north shore after apparently ingesting a 'tab' of one of a new range of synthetic substances on Wednesday night. He is believed to have bought the drug from a classmate who told him it was LSD.
It is truly a tragic story and the father's relaying of how the young man's mother and younger sister tried to stop the 17 year old jumping when he told them he believed he could fly was heart-wrenching. Talkback radio and the media more generally immediately demanded action - how could these apparently incredibly dangerous 'synthetic drugs' still be legally available?

Today the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story announcing that the NSW Government will ban the sale of about 30 so-called 'synthetic drugs' with "retailers ordered to pull the products from their shelves immediately." According to the report, retail…