Use of substances that alter mood goes back thousands of years in various sections of human society, whether we are talking of alcohol, opium, marijuana, the coco leaf or tobacco. We have to learn how to handle them. There is no quick and easy solution.

In 1983 and ’84, Australia faced the AIDS epidemic. Initially there was fear of a new ‘black death’ sweeping the globe, and calls for sanctions against male homosexuals. As a nation, Australia worked through the problem, analysing what needed to be done on the basis of facts rather than emotion. It ended up controlling spread of AIDS better than almost any other country, and deal with those infected with skill and compassion. The same rational approach to the problem of drugs is needed. Policies need to be grounded in evidence.

Development of policies on illicit drugs, both nationally and internationally, is discussed in the paper that has been circulated. Those who fail to study history are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past.