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INQUIRY CALLS ON TURNBULL GOVERNMENT TO INCREASE FUNDING FOR TREATMENTS OF DRUG ADDICTION - Media Release, Wednesday 28 March 2018

After three years of work, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement tabled its final report into crystal methamphetamine (ice).

The report highlights the need to urgently begin a process of serious drug law reform because the existing approach has not even met its own expectations.

We cannot arrest our way out of issues with drug dependency – the government needs to invest in early intervention, treatment and rehabilitation if anything is going to change.

This report quite consciously focuses on the importance of rehabilitation and treatment services – on addressing the cause, rather than just the symptoms.

 As addiction specialist Dr Alex Wodak noted:

          ‘Drugs should be re-defined as primarily a health and social issue rather than primarily a law enforcement issue…The most                          important strategy to reduce methamphetamine-related problems in Australia is by expanding the capacity and improving the                  quality of treatment…’

Drug treatment services are stretched throughout Australia and must be strengthened with funding to increase capacity and equitable access.

Reports indicate that there are 32,000 requests a year for Australia’s 1,500 residential rehabilitation beds. As a result, waiting times for residential services are several months on average, and up to six months in some cases.

Australia’s regional and rural communities are not only at greater risk but they also lack the resources to educate and rehabilitate.

Because the current policy is not working, the committee recommends the Commonwealth government refers to the Productivity Commission an inquiry on the costs and benefits of the National Drug Strategy as it is currently implemented, and for all governments to prioritise investment in early intervention and treatment.

The report also recommends government direct future public awareness campaigns towards language using compassion and information that encourages people to find treatment and support, rather that punitive messages that stigmatise individuals and prevents them from seeking treatment.

If it is implemented effectively, the government’s media messaging could significantly reduce the harm associated with the use of ice by promoting accessible treatment options to drug addicts.

The Committee also acknowledged the Portuguese principle of treating drug use as a health issue and appointing an expert panel to develop a strategy to improve health outcomes for drug users.