In the 1990s I spent five years as a heroin addict in Melbourne. Nothing unusual about that: thousands of others did too. When I described the experience in a memoir, the book got national coverage and readers were captivated: not because I’d been a junkie, but because I was a junkie who had an arts degree. Stable loving family, upbringing in "the leafy suburbs", tertiary education -- good girl goes off the rails! It was shocking that a nice girl such as me could have sunk so low, a Persephone abducted to the underworld.

According to the normal script, druggies are low-lifes from broken homes, abusive backgrounds, housing commission flats, with bad teeth, worse manners and a dark, self-destructive impulse that spills out into crime: best condemned, put out of the social body, an irresponsible menace to a healthy community. Or degenerate hedonists at raves, feral-haired, grossly escapist and heedless of risk. But drugs are with us all, and we would do well to quit the hypocrisy, take note of experience, and start our dialogue with the issue afresh.