Drug Awareness Dinner
Many young people these days experiment with drugs and alcohol, and do not always understand the detrimental effect it could have on their lives. Parents of drug users and alcoholics have extreme difficulty in facing and handling such problems. In order to protect your family from widespread harmful substances, it is essential to be educated about the facts, and methods of treatment and more importantly, to be educated about PREVENTION since ‘Prevention is ALWAYS better than Cure”.
Accordingly, MWWA proudly organised yet another beneficial community function to educate parents about these concerns, and held a Drug and Alcohol Awareness Dinner on Saturday night the 14th June 2008 at the StarPalace in Fairfield.
The function began with an opening introductory speech by our very talented MC, Ms Fatima Skaf during which she welcomed our guests, representatives of various government organizations, and our guest speakers namely; Inspector Mark Smith, representing the NSW Police, Murat and Husseini who were also from the NSW Police, Ms Anjelique Vongsaya representing the Community Relations Commission (CRC), Mr Mark Ferry from Ted NofFs Foundation and Ms Jess Helaratne and colleagues from NSW Multicultural Communication Health.
We then heard from our devoted President, Mrs. Faten El Dana who explained the relevance of talking drugs in our community. In her opening comment, Mrs. El Dana told the parents guests: “This forum is aimed at providing you, as a parent or carer with practical, up to date information to help you talk to your children about drugs, what they are, how dangerous they are and how they can affect your family.”
Mrs El Dana then stated the Islamic ruling about drugs and that it is Islamically forbidden and unlawful to buy or sell drugs unless it is for the sole purpose of therapeutic treatment. She then continued on to disclose some very frightening facts and figures:
- In 2004, 29% of teenagers between 14 and 19 years of age had used an illicit drug in their lifetime.
- About 70% of Cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamine users obtained their drugs from friends or acquaintances.
- In 2004, people aged 18 years and over who had used illicit drugs in the past month were twice as likely to report high levels of psychological distress as those who had not.
- The estimated social cost of illicit drug abuse to the Australian community is around $6 billion.
- In 2003-2004, there were 8,335 hospitalisations with a principal diagnosis relating to opioid (including heroin), amphetamines, or cannabis.
- In 2004, 10% of sentenced prisoners were imprisoned for drug related offences. The most common drug related offence for which people were imprisoned was dealing/trafficking drugs.
- In 2003, there were 1,705 deaths attributed to illicit drugs.
- A national survey found that 93% of 15 to 17 year olds were willing to talk to their parents about drugs and 92% said that parents could influence them not to use drugs. This is strong evidence that children are willing to talk to you about drugs. It is vital that they do not hear the wrong messages from others first.
- Although the authorities are continually making progress in combating illicit drug use, the illicit market is continually changing and drugs such as Ice pose increasing threats.
- It is essential for families, communities and governments to unite and work even harder in the fight against illicit drugs.
Mrs. El Dana ended her speech by emphasizing that the support of parents is crucial in the fight against illicit drugs and advised them: “DO NOT BLAME YOUR SELVES! SEEK HELP!”
Our next speaker was Mr. Mark Ferry, Programs Manager of Ted Noff’s Foundation. Mr. Ferry spoke about illicit drugs, and what families can do about them.
He began by defining Drugs to be any substance or product that affects the way people feel, think, see, taste, smell, hear or behave. He said that some of the reasons for substance uses were either to get to sleep, to dream, to hallucinate, to forget, to reduce physical and emotional pain, to socialize, to increase sexual experience, to reduce hunger or even for FUN.
Mr Ferry spoke about the negative consequences on the health of drug users. He said that taking drugs could result in:
- Unplanned pregnancies
- Mental Health- especially psychoses, depression, suicidal behaviour.
He also spoke about some of the social consequences of drug users which were:
- Family Disruption
- Educational disruption
- Work/Employment/Training difficulties
- Negative impact on family, community, and friends.
Cannabis such as Hashish and Marijuana, Opioids such as morphine and heroin, and other drugs such as anti-anxiety/hypnosedatives and inhalants were all types of depressants which Mark drew our attention to as well as to other types of stimulants such as speed, cocaine, crack and caffeine. Mark also spoke of the indications of these depressants and stimulants intoxication which could range from a feeling of relaxation and of wellbeing and a loss of inhibitions to having slowed reflexes and reaction time, impaired attention, slur speech, blurred vision, loss of co-ordination, insomnia, agitation, overconfidence, delusions, hallucinations, nausea/vomiting, loss of consciousness and possible death depending on the dose. The duration of intoxication varies from one type of depressant to another. For example inhalants only last few minutes while opioids and anti-anxiety substances and other stimulants may last any time between 4 to 24 hours.
Parents were advised to watch out for any change in their children’s life including indicators with their school grades, extracurricular activity, friends, mood, behaviour, money, eating patterns, and with their interactions with the family. In any of these situations, parents were assured that recovering from a drug addiction is possible with the right treatment because studies show that TREATMENT DOES WORK, and to remember that young people are resilient and are not entrenched in drug use as adults. Parents were also advised that they can offer their children support by recognizing the problem and supporting the person not their drug use, by being informed and patient, and by remembering to seek professional assistance and that IT IS NEVER TOO LATE. Parents can help from any of the following sources.
- Ted Noffs Foundation: (02) 9310 0133
- Australian Drug Information: 1800 069 700
- Alcohol and other drug Information Service (ADIS): (02) 9361 8000, 1800 422 599
- Family Drug Support Hotline: 9818 6166- 24 hours- 1300 368 186 (free call)
Mark ended his speech with his best advice:
- Listen to your children
- Listen to your parents
- Talk to your children
- Talk to your parents.
Our last but not least speaker for the night was Inspector Mark Smith from Bankstown Local Area Command of the NSW Police Force. Inspector Smith began by saying: “Thank you to the Muslim Women’s Welfare Association for inviting me here tonight. I intend on presenting information to you to give you a better understanding of the legalities of drugs in our society and the role of police in enforcing those laws.”
Inspector Smith explained that marijuana, speed and ICE are the most drugs currently found by police when they have a reason to search someone. “There are various levels of possession and supply of marijuana. It can be an offence of simply possessing marijuana which can be dealt with by a caution through to supplying or cultivating the drug. The supply of marijuana can lead to periods in gaol of anywhere between 2 and 20 years. The offence of ongoing supply applies if a person is caught selling drugs 3 times in 30 days they face 20 years in gaol. A similar penalty exists for growing marijuana. For the lesser offence of possessing marijuana there are several options open to police. One is to charge the person with the possession and they will appear before a court. Another option is called the ‘Cannabis Cautioning Scheme’ and can only be applied when certain criteria exist. Once a person has been cautioned that is the end of the offence and they do not appear at court.
One strategy used by the New South Wales Police to enforce drug laws is the use of drug detection dogs. The dogs are used generally in public places such as railway stations, hotels, and public streets.
The dog has the capability of detecting drugs from marijuana to ecstacy, heroin, speed and other powder types of drugs.
The ‘powder’ type drugs such as cocaine, speed, heroin and Ice are the problems drugs for Australian society. The people who use these drugs are responsible for much of the crime committed today. Many persons who break into houses, commit frauds, commit armed robberies are all addicted to one of the powder drugs. This affects us all from being the person whose home is broken into or whose stolen credit card has been used to those of us who pay more for their insurance because of these offences.
The penalties for these types of drugs are the same as that of marijuana but it takes less in quantity of the powder drugs to be considered for a greater penalty or imprisonment than it does for marijuana. There is an option for drug addicted youth (under 18) where the criteria fits.”
Inspector Smith ended his important and informative presentation by displaying photos of a drug addict and the detrimental effect of her bad habit on her appearance within 8 and half years.
Our three speakers then answered questions from our parents audience who were extremely interested in this very crucial topic.
MWWA HOPES THAT THE PARENTS TOOK ON BOARD ALL THE BENEFICIAL MESSAGES DELIVERED DURING THE NIGHT’S PRESENTATIONS.