The Federal Government’s war is given a surge

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced his funding increase for the Tough on Drug Strategy. Since the announcement there has been significant media interest, albeit from the ‘Ice’ viewpoint. The extra money for extra rehab places and education in relation to amphetamine-related substances is obviously welcome. However, Dr Alex Wodak’s comments today on the heavy weighting on monies toward illicits when compared to the harms of licit drugs rang true and is an issue AOD professionals across the whole ideological spectrum would tend to agree with. But in an election year, election promises targeted at parents of teenagers is a staple and nothing gets more attention from parents than drug use amongst teenagers, even if the chances of their child using ‘Ice’ is minimal compared to the licit drugs.

The text in full of the PM’s announcement:

“The Australian Government will target the scourge of Ice in a tough new offensive against illicit drugs unveiled today.

I am pleased to announce additional funding of $150 million to combat amphetamine-type stimulants, strengthening my Government’s zero tolerance approach to illicit drugs.

The package that I am announcing today provides specific measures to address amphetamine-type stimulants, especially the toxic and highly addictive drug crystal methamphetamine or Ice. The new funding will provide:

    – new drug rehabilitation services and further support for the non-government organisation (NGO) drug and alcohol sector;
    – more drug prevention education for young Australians and support to their parents; and
    – an increase in the Government’s law enforcement efforts.

    Ice has become a menace in our society, tearing apart many Australian families and communities. The problem of illicit drugs is a national one and requires a concerted effort by all governments and the community. My Government has a strong track record in tackling drug problems, but more needs to be done to combat amphetamine-type stimulants.

    I am pleased to announce a package of additional funding of $150 million to 2010-11 to boost the Government’s fight against illicit drugs. Since 1997, the Australian Government has invested more than $1.3 billion in the successful Tough on Drugs Strategy.

    There is clear evidence that the Government’s zero tolerance approach is working, with the:

    – percentage of Australians using illicit drugs dropping from 22 per cent in 1998 to 15 per cent in 2004;
    – proportion of Australians using cannabis decreasing from 17.9 per cent in 1998 to 11.3 per cent in 2004;
    – number of heroin overdose deaths falling from more than 1,100 in 1999 to 374 in 2005; and
    – Australian Government’s law enforcement agencies preventing more than 14 tonnes of illicit drugs from reaching Australian streets.

    However, we know there are other emerging problems, including the increasing use and availability of new drugs, such as methamphetamines like Ice. The measures I am announcing today are aimed at strengthening our approach so that we are able to tackle these issues.

    More Rehabilitation Services and Support for the Drug and Alcohol Sector

    There are about 73,000 individuals addicted to methamphetamines and almost one in 10 Australians have used an amphetamine-type stimulant at least once. Helping individuals through rehabilitation is a fundamental element of the strategy. NGOs provide many of these services and help hundreds of individuals to deal with their addiction each year, but these organisations face increasing demands for their services and rising costs of care.

    The Government will provide additional funding of $79.5 million over four years to the NGO drug and alcohol treatment sector to increase rehabilitation services. This funding will deliver more rehabilitation services, including services for youth and families. An additional $22.9 million over two years will also be provided to the sector for investment in infrastructure and resources to better equip organisations to deliver effective treatment for amphetamine-type stimulant use. This recognises that the treatment for drugs such as Ice requires different methods and that addicts often experience psychosis, paranoia and aggression.

    The additional investment will take the total funding for NGO drug and alcohol treatment services to more than $170 million over the next four years.

    Strengthening Drug Prevention Education

    An independent evaluation of the previous national drugs campaign found that more than 90 per cent of 15 to 17 year olds were willing to talk to their parents about illicit drugs and that parents could influence their children to not use drugs. An additional $9.2 million will be provided over the next two years to supplement the $23.7 million in funding for the national drugs campaign. It is vital that parents and their children have up-to-date and accurate information about the dangers of illicit drug use, including Ice. The third phase of the national drugs campaign will commence shortly and the parents’ booklet Talking with your kids about drugs will be updated and distributed to all households. Drug prevention resources will also be developed for teachers to use in school based drug education.

    Increasing Australia’s Law Enforcement Efforts

    Australia sits next to the world’s largest amphetamine-type stimulants manufacturing region with around half of all production taking place in South-East and East Asia. Over the past decade we have also seen a major increase in the number of illegal laboratories detected here in Australia. The Government will provide additional resources of $37.9 million over four years to strengthen law enforcement efforts offshore, at the border and domestically.

    More funding will be provided to the Australian Crime Commission to investigate organised crime drug distribution networks and to keep track of emerging illicit drug trends. The Commission’s technical capabilities will also be strengthened to intercept and disrupt criminal groups and individuals involved in the manufacture, importation and distribution of illicit drugs.

    The Australian Federal Police will establish a new team which can be rapidly deployed anywhere in Australia or the Asia Pacific region to investigate amphetamine-type stimulants related offences. The International Liaison Officer Network will also be expanded to increase the flow of criminal intelligence and enhance international cooperation in tackling amphetamine-type stimulants in the region.

    The Australian Institute of Criminology will expand its Drug Use Monitoring in Australia project to Darwin and Melbourne to further improve the government’s evidence base and understanding of amphetamine-type stimulants markets, including its use and treatment needs. New equipment will also be deployed at the Australian border to improve Customs’ detection of methamphetamines and other synthetic drugs and their precursors.

    The funding package I have announced today further strengthens the Government’s Tough on Drugs Strategy with a balanced and comprehensive response to the menace of illicit drugs in our community.”