Overall though what gets repeatedly over-emphasised is illicit drugs as a heath problem, as a social problem and as an economic problem. And what gets under-emphasised is the enormous contribution that alcohol and tobacco, the legal drugs, make to health problems in the country and to economic problems. Tobacco’s annual cost to the economy is $21 billion. Alcohol’s is $7 billion. Illicit drugs’ is about $6.5 billion.
But the one you hear about in the newspapers every day and from the politicians is illicit drugs. And without putting too fine a point on it, the tobacco industry’s been a generous donor to both major political parties in this country.
Graham Long: In some ways what we deal with at the Wayside isn’t that vastly different to the world you know. And it’s for this reason: a mental illness makes the drop from ordinary life to the street a small step. It is not a big leap at all. If you don’t have family and you get a mental illness – and I’ve known people who have had a very ordinary life, ordinary jobs and everything, and doing quite well and then they get hit by a mental illness in the same way you get hit by a truck – and in no time at all you hit the street if you don’t have backup somehow.
So the street isn’t that far away. And there are doctors. There are lawyers. There are journalists. There are all kinds of people. Everyone except fund managers are on the street. To back up something that Alex said as well. The drug we hate the most is alcohol because alcohol is a drug that makes people want to hurt each other. If all of these pubs and all of these bottle shops were flogging off heroin, the biggest social problem you’d have would be stepping over the bodies on the way out.
They’d all be asleep which from a management point of view is easy. But with alcohol, you take any crowd and add alcohol and you will have a fight. People want to hurt each other. So from what it’s worth from the trenches, alcohol is by far a nastier drug. In fact, when we have child abuse, which happens a lot, or very nasty assaults, which happen pretty much every day, I would say alcohol is involved close enough to 100 per cent of the time.