Drug Use is a Health Issue


Drug use is an issue in this country and it’s a health issue. In all the years I have practiced and as far back as when I was in Year 10, there has been an emphasis on the prosecution and policing of illicit drugs and a resistance to improving the resources available for drug addicted persons.

One thing that doesn’t work is scaring people as to the dangers of drug use. In the ‘70s we were shown movies depicting LSD addled individuals jumping off buildings with colors swirling around them. We all laughed and dismissed the films as having little to do with the reality. It was supposed to deter but I think it had little impact. Yes there are those who have suffered due to their use of Ice and Amphetamine, but equally there are many other “recreational users” who do not relate to the horror stories and become more disbelieving of the propaganda of the governments and police bodies.

In Victoria we have about 37 beds for prisoners with severe psychiatric issues at Thomas Embling Hospital. Many prisoners who would benefit are unable to be treated in an appropriate setting. In Victoria there are only 176 beds available for drug detox for a state of over 3 million people.

There are few options open to the Courts and Primarily the burden for providing and co-ordinating drug rehabilitation of offenders falls on organizations such as Odyssey House and Windana who struggle to provide the services so desperately needed by drug dependent persons with funding an ever constant issue.

Successive governments in Victoria have responded to “law and order demands’’ by building  jails and the levels of imprisonment has dramatically increased over the last decade.

I have parents and relatives who ask that their son, daughter or partner to be “sent for treatment’’ and some think if they stay in custody it will mean they get the treatment that is so lacking in the community. I tell them this is a forlorn hope.

If there is one thing that stands out in the drug debate it is that the current policing regime is an abject failure. Most Federal police (and Victorian Police) see the war against drugs as being a hopeless failure, consuming hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to plug holes in the proverbial dyke. They know that for every bust at the airport, every home lab and cannabis crop that is busted there are more that have slipped through the net.

There is no doubt that Ice is a problem in our community. So is alcohol. So is heroin and so is the abuse of prescription medication. We are demonizing Ice and Ice users. No wonder with limited services and a dominant policing strategy few are seeking help for their substance abuse.

The Australian Crime Commission should not be allowed to dictate Government strategies by giving credence to failed policies. The community does not need law and order; it needs real positive intervention to overcome the use of Ice and other drugs, particularly in country towns where there are already significant issues such as unemployment and lack of community recourses.

By Anthony Brand