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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Substance Abuse in the Military

In advancing a number of arguments against drug use by cadets, Defence Association executive director Neil James risks contradiction or even hypocrisy (20/12).

Having grown up in a military family, it's clear to me that the culture is steeped in widespread, frequent and excessive alcohol consumption. The attitude seems to be "work hard, play harder". However, given the stellar performance of our defence forces over the years, we can assume
that the impact of alcohol is at an acceptable or manageable level.

Mr James' arguments about drug users being necessarily mentally and physically unfit, lacking in self-discipline, dangerous to have around weapons and unreliable to their comrades may fit the image of the hopelessly addicted heroin user. But to what extent does this characterisation fit cadets who occasionally smoke cannabis or take ecstasy? I would argue that such infrequent usage could have less operational impact than the (tolerable) binge drinking that goes on.

Mr James may wish to assure parents that "their children won't be unduly exposed to drug abuse", but can he can say the same of alcohol? Let's deal with their behaviour as we would other 20 year olds in our community, and keep a sense of proportion on the consequent detriments.


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