POST B – Recreational Drugs; Safety in context of Supply and Demand

Straughn, A. 2018, Shambhala Photo, Digital Photograph

The criminalisation of MDMA has not mitigated the social demand and use, despite harsh laws instilling fear of persecution in the user. As a response to this, Australian Federal and State Governments have increased funding to Police, such as in the NSW State Budget for 2019 wherein the NSW Police Force budget was increased by $151 million (+3.8%) to enforce the War on Drugs (NSW State Budget 2019-2020, Section 6 – 7).

Perrottet, D. 2019, New South Wales Budget Estimate 2019-20

An inquest report published by the State Coroners Court of NSW recommended both fixed and on-site drug checking be drafted into policy within New South Wales state law (Grahame 2019, p.119) following the investigation of MDMA related music festival deaths of six young adults. Grahame also noted that the presence of Police and security at festivals instilled fear into drug-using patrons, causing them to not ask for help, and in one case, evidence confirmed that to avoid detection through strip searching and sniffer dogs, one young woman consumed all of the illicit drugs she possessed prior to entering the festival to avoid detection by police upon entry (Grahame 2019, p.16). General fear and intimidation instilled by police strip searching is a phenomenon that is controversial and problematic in regards to vulnerable people, many of which may not even be holding illicit drugs (Grewcock 2019, p.16). NSW State Premier Gladys Berejiklian dismissed the coroner’s call for pill testing prior to the redacted public release of the coroners report, stating pill testing would give “a false sense of security” to drug users at festivals (McGowan 2019). It is startling that despite the advice of qualified professionals such as Grahame and those transdisciplinary specialists in the field of Law and Medicine are more informed in this matter than politicians such as Berejiklian, who still reject this information in favour of keeping drug policy stagnant.

Australia is conservative in regards to drug policy in comparison to the progressive action of other developed nations, which had previously taken many of the measures recommended by Grahame (2019)  into legal policy with the goal of harm reduction. In 1992, the Netherlands Ministry for Health funded Europe’s first public drug-testing system of stationary nationwide facilities to test purity and dosage of MDMA. Since then, other drug-checking systems have sprouted throughout Europe. Furthermore, it has been observed that countries which have established drug checking facilities have recorded and warned of dangerous MDMA batches, yet in the UK, 4 deaths were attributed to one of the same batches of MDMA that was otherwise discovered in progressive countries with drug-checking, resulting in 0 deaths (Brunt 2017, p.13).

The evidence suggests that Australia could do better in its drug policy, based on transdisciplinary research and global studies of other countries response to the issue of supply and demand for illicit drugs.


Brunt, T. 2017, Drug Checking As A Harm Reduction Tool For Recreational Drug Users: Oportunities and Challenges, Research Paper, Eurpoean Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, The Netherlands.

Grahame, H. 2019, Inquest Into The Death of Six Patrons Of NSW Music Festivals, Inquest, State Coroner’s Court of New South Wales, Lidcombe, NSW Australia.

Grewcock, M. 2019, Rethinking Strip Searches By NSW Police, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

McGowan, M. 2019, NSW Premier Dismisses Coroner’s Call For Pill Testing Before Report is Publicly Released, The Guardian, <;.

Perrottet, D. 2019, NSW Budget Estimate 2019-20, Budget Report, Treasurer of New South Wales.<;.

Straughn, A. 2018, Shambhala Photo, Digital Photograph, My Kootenay Now, <;.

Post B: Success in Plain Packaging

On 29 April 2010, the Australian Government made an important decision to introduce mandatory plain packaging of all tobacco products by 2012. I was only 15 at the time, but I welcomed this change. I had lost my grandmother 6 months prior to complications brought about by emphysema. For years, I watched her suffer as she continued to puff away on her packs of ‘Peter Stuyvesant’s’. With each inhale, the false promise of glamour and beauty once paraded about by the ads on television, scattered away into the distance. Instead, I watched the damaging effects of cigarettes as they slowly took the life of my grandmother.


‘Before and after photos of cigarette packs from Australia, where plain packaging was introduced in 2012’ (Hammond, 2016)

Since the introduction of plain packaging, all tobacco products now come with a confronting health warning in the form of a graphic image, as part of the campaign to reduce the rate of smoking within Australia. Funded by the government, the method behind the campaign is to ‘shock’ viewers. A study on the effectiveness of ‘shock tactics’ in advertisement, determined that the use of shocking imagery by organisations was “…deemed successful at capturing the audience’s attention”. (Jones, Parry, Robinson, Stern, 2013) Click for article.

Furthermore, the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the successful impact of plain packaging in Australia: “…Since 1995, the proportion of adults who are daily smokers has decreased from 23.8% to 13.8% in 2017-18.” (ABS, 2019)  Click to visit website.

Another study carried out, looked at links between the introduction of plain packaging in Australia and Quitline calls. Results showed that there was a “78% increase in the number of calls to the Quitline, associated with the introduction of plain packaging”. (Currow, Dessaix, Dobbins, Dunlop, Stacey, Young, 2014) Click for article.

In the early stages and still today, the government has been met with strong opposition, from Big Tobacco, members of the World Trade Organization and Australian retailers. Those opposed, were concerned that other countries would see the success of the plain packaging campaign, and would want to implement their own, thus industry profits would suffer. “Once even one country with a population of 23 million showed that plain packaging could be implemented, others would see it as something feasible”. (Chapman, Freeman, 2014)

The success of the plain packaging campaign in Australia shows a method that could be applied universally through a transdisciplinary approach.

Although my grandmother did not live long enough to see the changes brought about by the introduction of plain packaging, she would have been happy to see its success.



Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019, National Health Survey: First Results, Australia, February 2019, cat. no. 4364.0.55.001, ABS, Canberra, viewed 16 November 2019,

Australian Government Department of Health, 2019, Tobacco plain packaging, Canberra, viewed 16 November 2019,

Brenna, E., Coomber, K., Durkin, S., Scollo, M., Wakefielf, M. & Zacher, M. 2019, Tobacco Control, BMJ Journals, vol. 24, no. 2, viewed 17 November 2019,

Chapman, S. & Freeman, B. 2014, Removing the Emperors Clothes: Australia and tobacco plain packaging, 1stedn, Sydney University Press, Sydney.

Hammond, D. 2016, Before and after photos of cigarette packs from Australia, where plain packaging was introduced in 2012, Vox, viewed 18 November 2019,

Jones, R., S., Robinson, M. & Stern, P. 2013, ‘Shockvertising’: An exploratory investigation into attitudinal variations and emotional reactions to shock advertising, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, vol. 12, no. 2, viewed 17 November 2019,

Pursuit, 2018, Big tobacco vs Australia’s plain packaging, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, viewed 15 November 2019,

WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, 2019, Protocol, Geneva, viewed 16 November 2019,

Young, J., Stacey, I., Dobbins, T., Dunlop, S., Dessaix, A. & Currow, D. 2014, Association between tobacco plain packaging and Quitline calls: a population-based, interrupted time-series analysis, The Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 200, no. 1, viewed 17 November 2019,