Category Archives: AOD in the news

ADCA on Indigenous Incarceration

TIME TO END DECADES OF INDECISION OVER INDIGENOUS INCARCERATION

“It’s time for all governments to address more public health focused approaches to handling growth in Indigenous prison populations,” according to the President of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA), Dr Mal Washer MP.

“Alternatives have existed for years,” Dr Washer said, “and we need to act on them without any further deliberation by committees, working groups or parliamentary inquiries.”

Dr Washer was speaking after today’s release of the report, An Economic Analysis for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Offenders; Prisons vs Residential Treatment,commissioned by the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) and the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (NIDAC). The report says greater investment in drug and alcohol treatment will reduce the ever-increasing number of Indigenous people in prisons.

“It’s clearly wrong that the same group that makes up only 2.5 per cent of our people accounts for more than a quarter of Australia’s adult prison population. We need rehabilitation programs to keep Indigenous people out of Australia’s 115 correctional facilities – to prevent their getting caught up in the endless round of recidivism and attendant drug and health problems,” Dr Washer said.

The report by Deloitte Access Economics identifies annual savings in excess of $111,000 per prisoner if they can be diverted to rehabilitation programs rather than being incarcerated. That’s in addition to a more than $92,000 per offender saved in the long term due to lower mortality and a better health regime.

Dr Washer cited the US where prisons in Texas are closing partly due to a shift in policy that favours rehabilitation programs over prison sentences. “Only weeks ago, it was reported that the new approach had led to 10,000 vacancies in Texas prisons.

“We have known this to be the case for years. As the so-called War on Drugs has shown to be an abject failure after more than three decades, so too has the lock-em-upmentality where Indigenous justice is concerned.”

ADCA CEO David Templeman says that with our prisons overflowing – largely with people convicted of non-violent crimes yet suffering from serious drug and alcohol problems – it is surely time to turn against the tide of imprisonment and embrace a meaningful policy of care, treatment and rehabilitation.

 

PHAA: Roxon wins award for tobacco stance

Press release from PHAA:

Nicola Roxon wins highest public health award for 2012

PHAA Sidney Sax Medal awarded to former Health and Ageing Minister

Attorney-General, Hon Nicola Roxon MP has been announced as the Sidney Sax Medallist for 2012.  This is the highest award given annually by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to public health.  The Medal will be presented at a public health dinner this evening by PHAA’s Immediate Past President, Professor Helen Keleher.

 

“The PHAA is proud to present an award to someone who has really made a difference in public health,” said Professor Keleher in making the announcement.  “As Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon embraced public health, understood the role of social determinants and recognised the importance of prevention.  Most importantly, however, she was prepared to take action including standing up to big tobacco and vested interests in the alcohol industry in favour of a healthier community.

 

“Nicola Roxon’s own words in response to a question when she was launching the report of the Preventative Health Taskforce in October 2009 summarises her approach: ‘we are killing people by not acting’.  As Health Minister from December 2007 through to December 2011 and then as Attorney-General she has pursued public health issues with vigour and with considerable success,” said Professor Keleher.

 

The most prominent achievement is the world leading plain packaging of tobacco legislation which has only been successful due to her outstanding leadership.  There are also many other achievements in fighting tobacco including a 25% increase in excise on tobacco, a ban on internet promotion, a boost for funding of anti-tobacco campaigns through the National Preventive Health Agency and a $125 million program to tackle Indigenous Smoking.

 

However, her other outstanding achievements cited in the nomination include:

  • The establishment of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA)
  • Facing down the spirits industry over the “alcopops” tax – reducing the number of young women introduced to spirits in early puberty
  • An additional $50 million into campaigns around binge drinking
  • Oversight of the biggest increase ever in funding to prevention of $872.1 million from Federal, State and Territory contributions

o   Seeking healthier communities through careful targeting of specific groups and settings including children, Indigenous people, workers and local governments.

 

“The PHAA is proud to have Nicola Roxon accept this award from the Association as it highlights the impact that a Minister can have when they are prepared to provide leadership in the area of public health,” concluded Professor Keleher.

Further Support for Australia21 report

Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform congratulates and welcomes the second report from
Australia21 entitled “Alternatives to prohibition – Illicit drugs: How we can stop killing and
criminalising young Australians”.

“Australia21 is one of the few organisations that has had the courage to speak publicly on the
grave consequences that is visited on young people and their families because of  our prohibition
drug laws,” said Brian McConnell, President of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform.
“Prohibition has been an experiment that has failed. Even though the United Nations recognised
this in 1988, it and the rest of the world persisted, thinking that if they tried even harder it might
just work. ”

In its 1988 convention on drugs the UN, among other things, said that it was “Deeply concerned
also by the steadily increasing inroads into various social groups made by illicit traffic in
narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and particularly by the fact that children are used in
many parts of the world as an illicit drug consumers market and for purposes of illicit production,
distribution and trade in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, which entails a danger of
incalculable gravity.”

And yet it continued with the same failed policies with no evaluation and it even believed that it
could achieve a drug free world by 2008.

“Australia21 has examined the prohibition policy and has identified some of the possible options
for consideration. In short Australia21 has thrown the gauntlet down and challenged Australian
governments to discuss the alternatives,” said McConnell.

“It is telling that Australia21 has focused on the fact that the drug laws are killing our young
people as this report is released just one day after the 20th anniversary of the overdose death of
my oldest son. If the use of drugs had not been driven underground by the prohibition laws and if
it had been treated just as a health problem, we would not have been in the dark about his drug use
and we might have been able to save his life.”

The report examines the measures being taken in respect of drugs in a number of countries. It
looks favourably on the Swiss prescription heroin scheme, the Dutch cannabis model and the
Portuguese decriminalisation approach. The Swiss scheme has clearly been effective and it was
just such a scheme that was proposed in 1997 in Australia, and approved by all health and justice
ministers, but because of pressure by the USA, was vetoed by John Howard. Many young lives
have been lost because of that decision.

The Portuguese decriminalised all drugs for personal use in 2001 with mostly positive results .
Lisa Prior, journalist, writer and medical student, has said in the report “one of the things I like
about the Portuguese system is that I would feel more confident of dobbing drug addicted kids in
to the police, confident that the outcome would help rather than [the alternative] jail.”

“I, also would be more confident,” said McConnell. “But it would be for the reason that drug use
would not be hidden and driven underground, but would be more open, where young people
would be more likely to discuss their problems with their parents and seek help early.”
Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform urges all governments to seriously consider this report
from the independent organisation Australia21.

“I personally urge parents who have been affected in the same way that my family has to speak
out, to overcome the shame and stigma heaped on them by the current laws, and take this
opportunity to save the lives of our young people,” said McConnell.

Support For Australian Drug Law Reform (ADCA & PHAA)

Health groups support new report urging drug law reform in Australia

Two of Australia’s leading public health advocacy groups have expressed their unwavering support for the latest Australia 21 report, Alternatives to Prohibition.

The report follows the release in April of the inaugural report The Prohibition of Illicit Drugs is Killing and Criminalising our Children and we are all letting it happen and its finding that the “war on drugs” had failed. Today’s  considers the experience in several European countries where emphasis has shifted from drug law enforcement to health and social intervention.

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) and the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA), the peak AOD body representing Australia’s non-government sector, unreservedly back the intent of the new report. They say the exploration of alternatives to enforcement in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal and Sweden had resulted in many positives.

The overseas experience is that drug policy reform which increases the emphasis on health and social intervention can reduce deaths, disease and crime.

PHAA Acting CEO Melanie Walker said, “Former Prime Minister Rudd hit the nail on the head when he observed that Australia spends only around one percent of the health budget on prevention but 70 times that amount treating people when they get sick. There are similar comparisons with the amount spent on public health drug programs which is hugely outweighed by funds poured into law enforcement.

ADCA patron Professor Ian Webster says that Australia needs to take a far more enlightened view. “Our Government must look at what is happening with drug policy developments overseas and be prepared to confront the issues at home.”

“This new report focuses on growing expert opinion, evidence and experience, presenting a compelling case for drug law reform. The fact is that some of these drugs are important to the provision of good medical care in Australia, notably in the management of acute and chronic pain.

“The contribution that many eminent Australians have made to the Alternatives to Prohibition report is based on this understanding, opinions that can no longer be ignored.”

Melanie Walker says that all levels of the community must be aware that decriminalisation doesn’t mean legalisation. “No public health advocate condones drug use but when experts in the field – many of whom contributed to the Australia 21 report – say decriminalisation should be part of a regime to address the illicit drug problem, it’s time governments listened.

“We can’t go on ignoring the cost to society of drugs, not just illicit drugs but also alcohol and tobacco. And no one of these should be considered in isolation from the others.”

ADCA CEO David Templeman says the new report heightens the need for debate at all levels on the decriminalisation of drugs.

“Advocacy groups were disappointed by the Prime Minister’s and Attorney General’s earlier response to the original Australia 21 report in April. The weight of broader community opinion and evidence warrants far more reasoned consideration by decision-makers on all sides of politics.

“The Commonwealth needs to show leadership on this issue. The new report cites the European experience that reducing the emphasis on drug law enforcement doesn’t appear to increase drug use. The past in Europe – and here in Australia – highlights the failure of drug law enforcement efforts alone to reduce drug use.

“Senior law enforcement figures, including former AFP Commissioner Mick Palmer and politicians from across the spectrum have observed that the war on drugs is an unmitigated failure. Thirty years and countless billions have been devoted to it … to what avail?”

The advocacy groups say over-reliance on drug law enforcement doesn’t align with the intent of Australia’s National Drug Strategy (NDS).

Of the three pillars of the NDS – demand, supply and harm reduction – it is reasonable to say the funding emphasis is currently on law enforcement and reduction of supply. Such emphasis leads to an imbalance and over-reliance on policing effort that has typified the “war on drugs” for the past three decades, an imbalance that has seen public health programs poorly funded in comparison.

It’s time for a new approach.

 

iDoses: let the resource drain begin

After reading this story on the growth of ‘digital drugs’ in the US, the first thing that occurred to me was the time that AOD professionals are going to have to spend debunking stuff like this at the expense of real treatment and prevention work. That said, it’s also a phenomenon that needs a lot more investigation – not to determine whether it does mimic drugs (I’d nearly stake my life on the fact that it doesn’t) – but to explore its idiosyncrasies and any light it might shed on wider behaviours by young people in the digital age.

Thoughts?

Substance Snippet

The Economist (UK) – How to stop the drug wars. “A HUNDRED years ago a group of foreign diplomats gathered in Shanghai for the first-ever international effort to ban trade in a narcotic drug. On February 26th 1909 they agreed to set up the International Opium Commission—just a few decades after Britain had fought a war with China to assert its right to peddle the stuff. Many other bans of mood-altering drugs have followed. In 1998 the UN General Assembly committed member countries to achieving a “drug-free world” and to “eliminating or significantly reducing” the production of opium, cocaine and cannabis by 2008.”

– an incisive analysis of political interference in a health issue

News of substance – drugs in the worldwide news

1. PharmExec.com (USA) – ‘Insight’ Deficit May Explain Denial in Drug Addiction; Researchers Explore Role of Mental-Illness Hallmark at Neuroscience Symposiumколи под наем. “Drug abusers are often characterized as being in denial – not recognizing the severity of their disorder. Although denial is often considered to be a form of deception, emerging research suggests that it may be due to a specific brain dysfunction similar to that observed in other neuropsychiatric illnesses.”

2. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – Drug court a success: research. “Addicts who commit a drug-related crime are less likely to reoffend if they are dealt with by the NSW Drug Court than if they are are sentenced through the traditional judicial system, research reveals. A study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research and the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation found that the Drug Court is more cost effective than sending offenders with a drug addiction to prison”.

3. Globe and Mail (Canada) – Safe injection may save system $14-million. “Vancouver’s safe-injection site will save the health-care system at least $14-million and prevent more than 1,000 HIV infections over a 10-year period, according to a new study about the controversial program. The study, published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, is the latest piece of research to suggest the potential social benefit of Insite in helping curb substance abuse, and reducing the spread of hepatitis C, HIV and other infectious diseases.”

4. Medical News Today (USA) – In Cocaine Addiction, Drug-Related Preference Extends To Images. “When given a choice between viewing pictures of cocaine and a variety of other images, cocaine addicted individuals, as compared to healthy, non-addicted research subjects, show a clear preference for the drug-related images. Findings from this study, which was conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, were presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington D.C. by Scott Moeller, a psychology graduate student at the University of Michigan who worked with the Brookhaven Lab Neuropsychoimaging group.”

5. JAMA (USA) – Methadone Maintenance 4 Decades Later. “The effects of the article by Dole and Nyswander1 are best understood by knowing what preceded it. The current scientific consensus is that opioid dependence is a chronic and severe medical disorder, and withdrawal alone is usually followed by rapid relapse.2 A century ago, however, withdrawal was often considered adequate to treat narcotic addiction, with methods used often more dangerous than withdrawal. Individuals who relapsed were viewed as doing so out of choice rather than necessity. The frequency of relapse, however, led to the establishment of narcotic clinics to legally provide heroin or morphine to individuals with addiction.”

6. CounterPunch (USA) – When Mooning is a Sex Crime. “In 1993 JM turned around, dropped his trousers and told his sister-in-law to “kiss my black ass!” The younger sisters laughed, compounding the indignity. To make JM pay for this rude affront, the sister-in-law called the cops. He did three days in the county jail and pled out to misdemeanor indecent exposure and credit for time served. Sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? Three day and nights for mooning your sister in law? Fast forward to 1998 when the voters of California passed “Megan’s Law” (PC 290) requiring those convicted of certain sex offences to register with the local police for the rest of their lives. Indecent Exposure (PC 314) is listed under PC 290 and is applied retroactively. Required to register under penalty of felony, combined with a taste for illicit substances, JM picked up a new state prison term.”

News of substance – drugs in the worldwide news

1. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – Dating someone with an addiction. “They say love is like a drug, able to provide so much tantalising pleasure that when it exits from your life you’re bound to suffer from drug-withdrawal-like symptoms. Or so I expounded on yesterday’s blog. So why then are so many people these days obsessed with having to add a mood-enhancing stimulant into their loved-up picture?”

2. Jamaica Observer (Jamaica) – Getting help for drug addiction. “THE Association of Friends and Families of Substance Abusers (AFAFOSA), a not-for-profit body which was formed in 2003 and was re-launched earlier this year, is working to improve the lives of addicts like Roland Green, Fitzroy Brown, Kevin, Bruce, Max and ‘Munchie’.”

3. The Telegraph (UK) – Women and drug addiction. “The most shocking thing about the modern drug user? That she could be someone like you. Anna Moore talks to three ‘ordinary’ women about their struggles with addiction. Andrea Mackenzie 57, a divorced mother of three from Newquay, was first prescribed valium for back pain as a trainee teacher in 1969. She became addicted and continued to take it for almost 40 years.”

4. The National (United Arab Emirates) – Bestseller lays bare drug abuse in Egypt. “The bestselling book Quarter Gram, which is now in its eleventh print run and is being made into a film about the lives of six drug addicts from Cairo’s upper class, touches upon an epidemic in Egyptian society. Based on a true story, narrator Salah recounts his story and that of his five friends – Mido, Zoni, Rico, Bono and Lol – growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, as their experimentation with drugs descends into full-blown addiction.”

5. London Free Press (Canada) – Help now available for gaming addicts. “Canada’s first support group for addicted online gamers will launch tomorrow in London. Non-existent a decade ago, online gaming has more than 16 million people worldwide submerging themselves in a virtual world — sometimes for as long as 10 hours straight, said Brad Dorrance, founder of the London chapter of On-Line Gamers Anonymous, which started in the U.S.”

6. The Daily Breeze (USA) – PROP. 5 would help addicts recover. “Old arguments over treatment vs. punishment for drug addicts willing to try tough, rigorous recovery work have been shot down by reason, common sense and demonstrated successes, but in some minds, a judgmental hangover lingers. Still, a mind-set persists that it’s a moral failing and sin – not the sickness of spirit and body the medical profession long ago recognized – and needs to be punished. This hampers humane approaches to problem-solving.”

News of substance – drugs in the worldwide news

1. Bristol News (UK) – Drug addiction care boost. “New drug care guidance has been welcomed by Weston MP John Penrose, who has long campaigned for better drug treatment. Mr Penrose set up the Cleaner Weston Campaign in 2004 to tackle drug problems in the town, which contains several rehabilitation centres.The campaign called for a number of changes including new accreditation and inspection schemes to ensure rehabs provide high quality treatment. He also wants addicts’ care to be paid by the agency which referred them to a particular rehab, rather than leaving local tax payers to foot the bill. He also says addicts should be provided with effective follow-up care, so they are not abandoned after initial treatment.”

2. ScienceDaily (USA) – Could Brain Abnormality Predict Drug Addiction? “Scientists at The University of Nottingham are to use MRI technology to discover whether abnormalities in the decision-making part of the brain could make some people more likely to become addicted to drugs. In a three-year study, funded with £360,000 from the Medical Research Council, Dr Lee Hogarth in the University’s School of Psychology will study the impact that an abnormal frontal cortex can have in people’s risk of becoming dependant upon drugs such as tobacco, alcohol, cannabis or heroin.”

3. The Guardian (UK) – Drug policies just make addiction worse. “To most people looking at my life from the outside, I seemed to have a pretty perfect existence. Two beautiful daughters, now aged 18 and 21, my husband a finance director on a good salary and for me an interesting career designing interiors for historical buildings. We lived in a beautiful Georgian property in Brighton overlooking the sea – picture perfect! Yet when I sat next to people at dinner parties and was asked what my children did, my answer shattered that picture.”

4. The Nation (Pakistan) – Two million youth in Karachi drug addicts. “In Karachi some 2million youth and children are the risk of drug addiction, as prevalence of drug addiction in very high in this mega city, said a Karachi-based NGO working on the issues of street children and youth. Rana Asif Habib, President of Initiator Human Development Foundation, talking to PPI on Saturday, said the major portion of Pakistani population is consisted of youth and children and they are highly exposed to smoking and drugs. He feared some 100million people in Pakistan might be at the risk of smoking and other types of addiction.”

5. Reuters (International) – Fighting fire with fire. “It sounds counterintuitive, but a Canadian study released this week showed that giving heroin to addicts may help them stop using the drug in the future. The North American Opiate Medication Initiative (NAOMI) is the first trial of its kind in North America, and therefore the first on the continent to show that heroin-assisted therapy — providing chronic heroin addicts with controlled dosages of the drug in a medical setting — can help chronic addicts when other treatments like methadone therapy or abstinence programs haven’t.”

6. Al-Ahram Weekly (Egypt) – A question of habit. “For Isis, a recovering drug addict, reading 1/4 Gram was like reading her own story, even though she didn’t fit into the mould of any of the characters. She found reading the novel was a very intense and distinctive experience. It was familiar, evocative and at times painful and frustrating, just like the life of any addict. “It tackles the addiction problem from the addict’s point of view,” she says. 1/4 Gram is based on a true story from the heart of a recovered heroin addict written in colloquial, easy to read Arabic. Author Essam Youssef examines the way heroin abuse ripped through Egyptian society in the 1980s, and shows the effects a mere quarter of a gram had on the lives of a group of friends. It is a thrilling story of pleasure, adventure and good times and the pain and suffering that come as the price.”

7. Associated Press (International) – McCormick tells all about `Brady,’ drug addiction. “Fans of “The Brady Bunch” know Maureen McCormick as Marcia Brady, the wholesome older sister on the classic sitcom about a blended family. But in her new memoir, “Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice,” the actress writes of her romance with TV sibling Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady, dates with Michael Jackson and Steve Martin, and her many addictions. Things became hot and heavy while McCormick and Williams were filming episodes in Hawaii.”

8. The Economist (UK) – Treatment on a plate. “PEOPLE are programmed for addiction. Their brains are designed so that actions vital for propagating their genes—such as eating and having sex—are highly rewarding. Those reward pathways can, however, be subverted by external chemicals (in other words, drugs) and by certain sorts of behaviour such as gambling. In recent years, neuroscientists have begun to understand how these reward pathways work and, in particular, the role played by message-carrying molecules called neurotransmitters.”

9. Scientific American (USA) – Reaping a Sad Harvest: A “Narcotic Farm” That Tried to Grow Recovery. “From 1935 to 1975, just about everyone busted for drugs in the U.S. was sent to the United States Narcotic Farm outside Lexington, Ky. Equal parts federal prison, treatment center, research laboratory and farm, this controversial institution was designed not only to rehabilitate addicts, but to discover a cure for drug addiction.”

10. AlterNet (USA) – To Jail or Not Jail for Drug Relapse? “It may or may not surprise you that a majority of Americans support treatment instead of incarceration for people struggling with drug addiction. That’s the good news. What you may not know is that there is a raging battle within the treatment community and society at large about how much carrot vs. stick we should use to help people who need treatment. There are two major flashpoints that divide treatment advocates and the public: 1) the need to hold sanctions or the threat of jail over someone’s head in getting them to comply with treatment and 2) the need for total abstinence for people in treatment and recovery.”