Drug Culture or Drug Crisis?

Words by: Shirley Yeung

After the death of 25-year-old Sydney pharmacist, Sylvia Choi, we awoke to the news of another teen drug related death on Sunday. This time, it was 19-year-old Stefan Woodward from Adelaide. So what do the two victims have in common?

Perhaps they both like long walks on the beach, pet puggles and reading bukowski on a cold gloomy night in front of the fireplace with a glass of whiskey, neat. But that doesn’t seem to be the case this time. Both party-goers attended the annual meathead-sweat-bodies-drug-induced-punters-festival that is known as ‘Stereosonic,’ aka ‘Steroidsonic’. For some, it’s to glorify their heavy shredding during days and hours of commitment at their local gym, for others it might be the heavy-blasting-somewhat-versatile-and-not-so-great music line up, but for the main reason why anyone that goes to these festivals know: it is mainly the drug culture that attracts young punters and muzzers to attend.

Unfortunately due to the sad circumstances of these two deaths, the festival has been under fire; with many concerned parents and probably your next door neighbour calling out for more drug testings to be reintroduced at festivals. However, the question that needs to be asked is not ‘why these deaths happened?’, it should be ‘why did they decide to take these drugs?’.

To this day, Australia takes the crown for the highest drug intake in MDMA; that is compared to every other country such as the US and Europe. In 2001 there were 1,038 drug-induced deaths and we have seen that figure rise in the past 14 years. In 2015, 10.9% of Australians aged 14-years and over have used ecstasy one or more times in their life, with 2.5% of those using it regularly within the past 12 months. The drug attracts young Australians aged between 14 to 24-year-olds the most, where the average age of first tries are usually 18.2-years-old; with 2.7% of 12 to 17-year-olds having already tried the drug.

So what makes this particular drug so much more controversial than any other? The main reason being because these deaths happened at these particular festivals, which we all know have a high risk in drug intake. Some parents may not be aware of their child’s activities, but the police surely have a concrete understanding of the drug culture that is present at festivals. What seems to always happen when a drug related death occurs is that, the first thing everyone seems to do is push the blame onto someone else. Is it the dealer’s fault? Is it the police department’s fault? Is it the festival organiser’s fault? Or maybe perhaps you should ask, is it the victim’s own fault?

Why should the blame be pushed onto someone else when it was your own decision to take the damn pill? Your life is held captive in that one small decision, even in a state of unconsciousness and high, no one is going to shove that pill down your throat. Every year, at every festival, we will hear of a drug related death. People will find ways of bringing in their drugs, dealers will outsmart authorities, and the not-so-naive youngins will pop a few. The problem with Australia’s drug culture doesn’t lie with the festivals. Parents shouldn’t be putting the pressure on police or those who choose to attend these festivals, they should be shifting the pressure onto our education departments. They should be asking Malcolm Turnbull why their children aren’t being educated about drug awareness and the dangers of drug intake while in school. A few scares of ‘don’t take drugs or you will die’ doesn’t do the job at all, instead it’ll make them more eager to try it.

Sure, at the end of the day lives were lost. Dealers were charged, the police may have done part of their job. But does that make anything better? Does it help prevent another drug related death? No.

If Australia wants so badly to lower these drug related deaths at festivals, they need to understand the culture of drugs that inhabits our younger generation today. Adapt to change and work alongside it. Don’t push the blame.