Australia has a massive drug problem and no one seems to care

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Australia has a massive drug problem and no one seems to care.

Just look at the AFL’s accused cover-up of illicit drug use by players.

If a footballer rocks up to a game on the weekend with drugs, particularly cocaine, in his system, he would face anti-doping sanctions.

If caught in another way, such as by police or in public, they face a three-strike policy – a $5000 fine in the first instance, a four-match ban in the second and a 12-match ban in the third.

But it turns out the AFL was encouraging players to undertake drugs tests with club doctors who would then allegedly advise players to fake injuries if they were positive, removing them from the field and avoiding any potential sanctions.

The beauty of that is that doctor-patient confidentiality must stand, so no one ever knows the truth.

It seems that the AFL’s three-strike policy is not about stopping drug use within the league – it’s about protecting the league’s public reputation.

You get punished for being dumb enough to be publicly caught with drugs but not for actually taking them.

The AFL, in effect, has long sanctioned player drug use by allowing it to be swept under the rug.

If drug use is rife, which it appears to be, the AFL should be cleaning it up and putting players on notice – not telling them to take a week off.

Is it any wonder, with that kind of attitude, that footy players and people at large feel comfortable breaking the law?

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s analysis of wastewater between August 2022 and 2023, released last month, found 16.5 tonnes of meth, cocaine, MDMA and heroin had been consumed – a 17 per cent increase on the previous year – at a street value of nearly $12.5 billion.

Four tonnes of that was cocaine, largely consumed in NSW.

Drug use has soared because it is essentially condoned. While alcohol and tobacco have been demonised – and consumption of both has fallen considerably – illicit drug use has risen.

And it comes with devastating consequences.

Danielle Whittaker died on the weekend while celebrating her 40th birthday with six other people.

She suffered a suspected drug overdose and went into cardiac arrest. Two others were taken to hospital in a critical condition.

Ms Whittaker was doing something she probably considered low-risk, such is the way drug use is now portrayed. She may well have done it before. But this time it killed her.

Nine people were hospitalised after taking MDMA at a single music festival in Melbourne earlier this year and another died last month after a suspected overdose at a festival.

Some say the war on drugs is lost. The truth is there has never been any war.

Now is the time for it to be waged.

If you don’t stop drug use before it starts, the task is infinitely more difficult.

The softly-softly approach pushed by academics has done nothing to stem drug use – it has done the opposite.

Keep going and more people will die.

Caleb Bond is an Sydney-based commentator and host of The Late Debate on Sky News Australia.