There are almost too many contradictions, and compromises to cover in one column when it comes to the subject of drugs and the harm they do to our communities.

Tommy Wilson. Photo/file
Tommy Wilson. Photo/file

You only have to look at the latest liquor licence granted because no one showed up to oppose it to understand the losing battle we are facing against the drug of choice by most, and the one we see in my work of dealing with damaged families and domestic violence, far more than any other.

When police voice concerns and an application gets the green light, there should be sirens telling us we are in trouble, and we are.

Until we can accept alcohol as a drug that creates far more harm than all of the illegal ones put together, we will continue to spin our wheels on solutions for what is fast becoming the biggest health issue we as a society will face in the future.

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But first, to try and unpick the problem and understand what an illegal and legal high is and the damage it can do courtesy of consuming a drug.

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The first flag I would like to fly is a drug - when we demonise one and glorify the other as socially acceptable, yet the acceptable one takes a far greater toll on society, then we need to show up at licence hearings and voice our concerns.

"I don't like drugs - I hate them and what they do to people" is a quote I hear a lot, mostly from mates who have been consuming them for decades but don't know - or don't want to know - that alcohol is a drug, albeit a legal one.

All through my own life there has been an inconvenient truth about pointing the bone of blame at illegal drugs and those who take them, while avoiding the alcohol elephant in the room.

No one drinks excessively because they are thirsty, it's because they want an enjoyment enhancer, a relaxer or an attitude adjuster to escape reality, and it's readily available.

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And even after 10 years of sobriety I still feel for those who are categorised as criminal, because their choice of getting high is illegal. Until we can accept alcohol as a drug that creates far more harm than all of the illegal ones put together, we will continue to spin our wheels on solutions for what is fast becoming the biggest health issue we as a society will face in the future.

Illegal and legal drugs are one and the same when it comes to those who cannot handle them.

If it comes in a bottle, a bong, a pack of 20s or a repeat script from your local doctor, drugs are drugs and when they are consumed too often for the wrong reasons, it sooner than later manifests in our hospitals, social service agencies or our justice and police system.

No one drinks excessively because they are thirsty, it's because they want an enjoyment enhancer, a relaxer or an attitude adjuster to escape reality, and it's readily available,

Youth binge drinking a major part of the problem. Photo/file
Youth binge drinking a major part of the problem. Photo/file

There is and has been for some time now a generation of "juice junkies" who by all accounts are getting younger and more violent as access to alcohol becomes easier.

So why would the Tauranga District Licensing Committee grant a new liquor licence so close to the gates of local colleges?

Read more: New bottle store in Tauranga gets go-ahead

Coupled alongside the growing binge-drinking youth quake heading our way we now have a new demographic of binge drinkers emerging and this was outed during the New Years Eve's festivities.

The newest negative to come from over-exposure to alcohol by our youth is fetal alcohol syndrome, and the drums beating on this one will become a lot louder when we listen to the experts such as Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft and medical experts who are saying there is a direct link between extreme outbursts of violence by children who have been exposed to alcohol during the pregnancy of their mothers and even of more concern, many of these children are showing up incarcerated in later life.

So is the answer legalising the lot? In my opinion yes, we only have to look at what the rest of the informed world is waking up to as the only solution. Only then will we stop seeing punishment as the answer and, instead of saying no to drugs, start saying yes to solutions. Being addicted to a drug is not determined by its legal status. It's a medical condition diagnosed by clinicians and not by the courts.

Now we have a prison system stacked with what could be better served keeping those who are a danger to society incarcerated and those who are a danger to themselves - through their addictions, looked after outside four walls, wash basin and a prison bed.