Johns Used Drugs. So What?

Rugby League star Andrew Johns, busted with an ecstacy tab and fessing to having used recreational drugs throughout his career, is all over the news at present, the Today Show crew feasting on the story in an orgy of platitudes.

No-one will mention one of the inescapable conclusions of the affair: if Johns can perform at the very top of his field for ten years without being involved in any unsavoury incidents (unlike an unfortunate proportion of his peers) while taking the occasional trip, smoking the odd spliff, snorting the odd line etc, then maybe recreational drugs aren’t as bad as the ‘War on Drugs’ crew would like Australia to believe. I exclude Ice from this observation. Ice is scary.

Also ignored is the connection between Johns’ drug use and his mental health. While many are convinced that taking drugs leads inevitably to mental illness, the ‘reefer madness’ scenario, it is more likely that most drug users already suffer some degree of mental dis-ease and turn to drugs as a form of self-medication, avoiding in doing so the stigmatisation that comes with diagnosed mental illness.

Australia’s public attitude to drugs verges from the irrational to the hysterical with heavy doses of hypocrisy. If Johns was in danger from his drug taking, it was because they are illegal and unregulated. Legalise them. Regulate them. Tax them. Treat drug use as a medical and psychiatric problem. Teach people about the real dangers of drugs (as opposed to the unsubstantiated scare campaign material). Pour money into mental health services. Let’s start doing things that haven’t been tried and failed.

The Today Show crew, who frequently turn up to work looking like they’ve been clubbing all night and joke about their excessive partying at awards nights and such, should thank their lucky stars they aren’t held up to the same scrutiny and standards of behaviour as the football stars they patronisingly tut tut.

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