Category Archives: General debate

Methamphetamine leads drug rehab admissions

Methamphetamine leads drug rehab admissions for seventh year running
Alcohol remains a significant problem

2018 Odyssey House NSW Annual Report

The devastating human impact of ‘ice’ shows no signs of slowing, with methamphetamine the leading drug problem for the seventh year running  according to a report by Odyssey House NSW, which is one of Australia’s largest alcohol and other drug treatment services and helps people from around the country.

Released today, the 2018 Odyssey House NSW Annual Report shows a record 54 per cent of residential rehabilitation clients in the 2017-18 financial year named methamphetamine-type drugs (e.g. ‘ice’ or crystal meth, speed, base) as their principal drug of concern[i]. This is up 10.2 per cent on 2017 admissions (49% of clients) and up 80 per cent on 2012 (30% of clients), when methamphetamine replaced alcohol at the number one position.

Odyssey House NSW CEO Julie Babineau[ii] said methamphetamine was also the main concern for 36 per cent of people undertaking treatment at Odyssey House’s eleven new community services. These facilities opened across Sydney in 2017 to provide free non-residential counselling and support to individuals and their families impacted by alcohol and other drug use and mental illness.

“The demand for our services continues to grow due to the increased use of methamphetamines and prescription drugs and the ongoing impact of alcohol, cannabis and heroin on not only the individuals, but their families and communities,” Ms Babineau said.

“In particular, ‘ice’ can rapidly have serious adverse impacts on people’s personal lives and their physical and mental health, and most find it very difficult to stop using the drug without help. Some people quickly spiral downwards; others may be able to sustain a relatively normal life for a while before they or their families reach out for help.

“Alcohol remains a significant problem, named by one in five (20%) Odyssey House residential services clients as their principal drug of concern in 2018 (22% in 2017). In our community services, one in three (29%) clients cited alcohol as their main drug of concern.

Excessive or non-medical use of prescription opioids like fentanyl or oxycodone accounted for 3 per cent of our residential admissions in 2018, up from 1.3 per cent in 2017. In our community services, 2.1 per cent of clients named prescription opioids as their principal drug of concern.

“These figures are currently quite low, but there’s rising public health concern here and overseas about increases in poisoning and overdoses from prescription opioids[iii]. We are keeping an eye on the situation and we’re ready to help if and when more people reach out for treatment.

“People may not realise their drug use is problematic, don’t recognise how it’s impacting on them or others, or they don’t want to admit to ‘an addiction’ because of the public stigma still attached to this treatable health condition,” she said.

“Regardless of their drug of concern, we encourage people to get treatment sooner rather than later, such as in the community through their GP or a counsellor while they continue their day-to-day lives, or in our residential withdrawal unit or rehabilitation program.

“Our message at Odyssey House is: Don’t wait until your drug use is having severe negative consequences for you and your family, such as job loss, relationship breakdowns or physical or mental health problems. With some drugs, such as strong prescription painkillers or heroin, the first major consequence may actually be life-threatening.

“Overcoming alcohol and other drug dependence and rebuilding your life requires significant effort, time and assistance, but you’re not alone and the benefits are well worth the investment.

“Government at all levels acknowledge that alcohol and other drug dependence is a health and social issue, and while funding is modest, the policy direction is welcome,” Ms Babineau said.

Federal and NSW government funding accounted for 71 per cent of Odyssey House’s income in 2017-18, with 29 per cent raised through philanthropy, in-kind support and treatment costs.

During the financial year, Odyssey House NSW assisted 2276 people: 678 in its renowned residential rehabilitation program, which treats people from around Australia, and 1598 through its 11 new community services around Sydney. Men accounted for 70 per cent of clients; 13 per cent of clients identified as Indigenous.

Odyssey House’s programs help clients overcome drug use disorders, deal with underlying personal issues, manage mental illness, develop coping strategies, learn practical life skills (e.g. parenting, anger management, job-seeking, communication skills), prevent relapse and access other support.

More than 40,000 people have been assisted to overcome dependence on alcohol and other drugs since Odyssey House NSW opened in 1977.

Odyssey House NSW residential withdrawal and rehabilitation services are based in south-western Sydney. Odyssey House has 11 community-based treatment services around greater Sydney:

  • Central and Eastern Sydney region: Redfern, Canterbury
  • South Western Sydney region: Campbelltown, Fairfield, Bowral, Tahmoor
  • Western Sydney region: Blacktown, Doonside
  • Sydney North region: Chatswood, Manly, Pymble.

Contact Odyssey House on 1800 397 739 or visit for information and general advice on residential services, community services, aftercare, Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment and other support.

For a copy of the 2018 Odyssey House Annual Report visit:

Readiness to change drug use research

Readiness to change drug use and help-seeking intentions of police detainees: findings from the DUMA program / Alexandra Gannoni and Susan Goldsmid

Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 520 January 2017

The nexus between drug use and crime is well established. Offenders are considerably more likely to use illicit drugs than the general population, and a large proportion of offenders attribute their criminal offending to drug use, yet very little is known about how to respond effectively to drug problems among police detainees.

Using data obtained through the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program, this paper explores the readiness to change drug use and help-seeking intentions of Australian police detainees with drug problems.

The analysis revealed those detainees most in need of drug treatment were also those most ready to change their drug use. The findings serve as a reminder of the need and desire for interventions for drug abuse among the police detainee population, and have implications for the development of intervention strategies aimed at reducing drug use among offender populations.

Tackling smoking: making the evidence easily accessible (webinar)

Tackling smoking: making the evidence easily accessible (webinar)

The Australian Indigenous Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre (the Knowledge Centre) in collaboration with Renee Bittoun from the Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney, are hosting a webinar on Tuesday 30 August 2016.

The webinar will explore how the Knowledge Centre can help workers, policy makers, researchers, students, or anyone interested in the area of tobacco cessation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The webinar will run for one hour, and highlight areas such as:

  • the Tackling Indigenous Smoking portal
  • the Tobacco section on the Knowledge Centre
  • the Community portal on the Knowledge Centre
  • the Worker’s portal on the Knowledge Centre
  • the Preventing Aboriginal Maternal Smoking in Western Australia portal.

The webinar will be free to attend, and there is no additional software required to join the webinar, other than a stable internet connection.

The webinar will be held at:

12-1PM EST

10-11AM AWST.

To attend the webinar, please click on this link prior to it commencing.

2016 National Hepatitis Health Promotion Conference

2016 National Hepatitis Health Promotion Conference,  “Navigating the Future – Opportunities through Engagement”.

We are very pleased to advise that registrations are now open and abstracts are now invited for the conference to be held at Rydges Melbourne 19 – 20 May 2016.

The conference will explore the future health promotion response to viral hepatitis in Australia and look at how the sector workforce can maximise engagement and support people affected by viral hepatitis

 You can access further information at the conference website:

Abstracts are being sought under a number of sub themes. For further information regarding themes and to submit an abstract, please go to the website and click on the “call for abstracts” button.

Abstracts will be considered by an inter-agency selection committee. Those selected to present are required to register for the conference. Delegates may submit more than one paper, however, no more than two abstract presentations will be allocated to each individual.  We will advise of the outcome by 8thApril.

Registrations close Monday 2 May 2016

Abstracts close Friday 18 March, 2016

Any enquiries please email


New Hepatitis C Treatments

Press release from the AIVL:

“People Who Use Drugs Welcome Decision to ‘Seize the Day’ on New Hepatitis C Treatments”

The Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) celebrates today’s momentous decision by the Australian Government to fund highly effective new hepatitis C treatment medications through their listing on the PBS. In making this decision the Australian Government has taken advantage of an opportunity rarely offered to governments, that is, to end a major public health epidemic by making these highly effective treatments affordable and accessible to the many thousands of Australians living with hepatitis C.

The recently released report from the Federal Parliamentary Inquiry into Hepatitis C in Australia declared in its introductory sentence that: “Hepatitis C, an infectious disease is the most prevalent blood-borne virus in Australia affecting an estimated 230,000 people.” The vast majority of people living with hepatitis C in Australia are people who inject/have injected illicit drugs.

 “Today we stand together with all Australians living with hepatitis C who have been waiting so long to welcome this news. Many people have been delaying treatment in the hope of an announcement like this that will allow people to be treated regardless of genotype and in a way that is affordable for the individual. The investment of $1 billion dollars by the Australian Government to subsidise life-saving treatments has the potential to transform the hepatitis C treatment landscape in Australia” says Annie Madden, AIVL Executive Officer.

For people living with hepatitis C, Australia is in the midst of a public crisis including a dramatic increase in serious liver disease and deaths (from liver cancer and liver failure) associated with chronic hepatitis C infection.  The number of people with at least moderate liver disease has more than doubled in the last 10 years and current hepatitis C mortality rates are estimated at almost 700 deaths per annum. Diagnosis and treatment costs associated with advanced liver disease and cancer are currently almost $80 million annually and chronic hepatitis C is now the leading indication for liver transplantation in Australia.

With extremely low levels of treatment access and uptake and a growing cohort of people with chronic hepatitis C who have been infected for 20 years or more, serious illness, liver transplantation and deaths associated with hepatitis C were set to rise significantly over the coming decade. This $1 billion dollar investment in hepatitis C treatment by the Australian Government is what was required to address this situation.

 “The new generation of hepatitis C treatments with significantly shorter treatment duration, increased tolerability, reduced medications and increased efficacy will significantly improve treatment for people with chronic hepatitis C infection. For the first time ever, we have targets agreed by all federal and state/territory health ministers for both hepatitis C prevention and treatment in the National Hepatitis C Strategy 2014-2017. Providing people living with hepatitis C with affordable access to these life-saving, new generation treatments give us a real chance at meeting the targets in the National Strategy” declared Ms Madden.

 The new generation hepatitis C treatments clear the virus in over 80-90% of people, can PREVENT CANCER and reduce mortality. We just need to ensure these ground-breaking new treatments are delivered in an appropriate way for those most affected and that we address the significant barriers to hepatitis C treatment associated with stigma, discrimination and the ongoing criminalisation of people who use illicit drugs. Currently less than 2% of people accessing NSP have ever had hepatitis C treatment.

“In addition to providing access hepatitis C treatment in tertiary care settings in hospitals, we need to be providing access to treatment in settings that present less barriers for people who inject drugs (PWID) such as community clinics connected with NSPs and primary health care settings that incorporate PWID peer support workers. Making the most of the new generation treatments will require genuine mobilisation and engagement with the main affected community and this means that peer–based drug user organisations must be central in creating those partnerships and pathways to care for people who inject drugs” concluded Ms Madden.

Victoria Legalises Medical Marijuana

In an Australian first, the Victorian Government announced yesterday it would legalise marijuana for the treatment of medical conditions including cancer, chronic pain and epilepsy. The decision is based upon a report by the Victorian Law Reform Commission which recommended licensing cultivators and manufacturers to develop a range of products, including oils and sprays, to be sold in pharmacies. However the trial hinges on support from the Federal Government who are signatory to an international convention on narcotic drugs.

Dr Liz Temple is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Federation University Australia, Victoria:

 “From a research perspective, there is much that we still don’t know about cannabis, its medicinal properties or therapeutic efficacy. This lack of knowledge will affect many aspects of the implementation, running and effectiveness of the medicinal cannabis scheme.

In particular, the available research evidence can’t yet tell us definitively which cannabis strains, cannabinoid profiles and doses, or administration methods will work best for which medical conditions or how this may differ for individual patients.

This means that the desired quick start to the scheme will inevitably include some trial and error, as prescribing doctors and their patients learn together what works best for the specific medical condition and individual circumstances.

Building the evidence base is essential, and it will take time. As such, there is an urgent need for research funding, and not just for the clinical trials that have been discussed so far, but also for basic and applied cannabis research.”


Dr Michael Farrell is Director of the National Drug and Alcoholic Research Centre:

“The report on which the Victorian Government’s decision was based was very well crafted and detailed presenting a balanced view of current research evidence and presents options for moving forward and for improving access to treatment.

However if medical use is likely to be long term, patients should be advised that the adverse effects of long term use are unclear.

Patients could also be advised of the adverse effects reported in long term recreational users, such as the development of dependence.

Many doctors will be faced with patients using cannabis for complex symptoms of multiple chronic disabling conditions for which there are limited treatment options. Doctors should discuss, in a dispassionate and non-judgmental and supportive manner, the advisability or otherwise of using cannabis to palliate such symptoms.

There is no clear evidence for effectiveness in treating pain, any benefits are likely to be modest, and there is no clear evidence that putative benefits outweigh possible harms. When symptoms of cannabis dependence are elicited it is appropriate to discuss the wisdom of continued use in the context of the illness and the prognosis, and, if appropriate, to offer the

patient support for withdrawal. Helping patients who wish to use cannabis for symptomatic relief to live as comfortably and productively as possible is an important and valuable goal of palliative and rehabilitation treatment.”

Dr Matthew Large is from the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales:

“While the therapeutic halo around cannabis gets ever bigger and brighter, particularly in the minds of politicians – the actual evidence for therapeutic potential is weak. Meanwhile the real and very well established risks with regard to mental health seem to be forgotten. If cannabis is to be made more available it needs to be with health warnings and better public heath messages.”

UNHRC reccomends decriminalisation of possesion and use of all drugs

The excellent summary below is via Paul D:

The Human Rights Council recently requested that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights prepare a study, in consultation with States, United Nations agencies and other relevant stakeholders, to be presented to the Council at its thirtieth session, on the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights, including recommendations on respect for, and the protection and promotion of, universal human rights.

In the resulting report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recommended the decriminalisation of possession and use of all drugs, and noted that the “War on Drugs” model increases the incidence of drug-related harm, represses the human rights of marginalised groups throughout the world, and forms a significant barrier to the goals of equal access to health care and the right to health.

The report will inform UNHRC’s contribution to the upcoming UN general Assembly Special Session on drug (UNGASS).

The call for decriminalisation is just one of a number of key recommendations which are aimed to protect the right to health and the rights of children, women, prisoners, indigenous populations and other marginalised groups.

“In its resolution 69/201, the General Assembly reaffirmed that the world drug problem must be countered in full conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and with full respect for all human rights. By its resolution 51/12, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs called for the promotion of human rights in implementing international drug control treaties, and the International Narcotics Control Board has stated that human rights must be taken into account when interpreting international drug control treaties. The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health has argued that when the international drug control regime and international human rights law conflict, human rights obligations should prevail (see A/65/255, para. 10)”…

 …“28.   WHO has recommended decriminalizing drug use, including injecting drug use, as doing so could play a critical role in the implementation of its recommendations on health sector interventions, including harm reduction and the treatment and care of people who use drugs.  UNAIDS too has recommended decriminalizing drug use as a means to reduce the number of HIV infections and to treat AIDS.

  1. The Special Rapporteur has identified many ways in which criminalizing drug use and possession impedes the achievement of the right to health. He has called for the decriminalization of drug use and possession as an important step towards fulfilling the right to health. He has noted that decriminalizing drug use cannot be equated with legalizing it. Decriminalization means that drug use and possession remain legally prohibited but that criminal penalties, if they are applied at all, are minor and of a non-custodial nature. Legalization, by contrast, involves no prohibition of the relevant conduct (see A/65/255, para. 62).
  1. The Special Rapporteur has noted as positive the decriminalization experience in Portugal (see A/65/255, para. 64). In 2001, all drugs for personal use were decriminalized and drug use was characterized as an administrative offence. This was combined with an increased public health and social response to assist drug users. Portugal has not witnessed a material increase in drug use; in fact, indicators for certain groups show a decrease. Positive effects have included the destigmatization of drug users and the unburdening of the criminal justice system.  The International Narcotics Control Board has indicated that the move to decriminalize drug use in Portugal was consistent with the 1988 Convention.  In total, 22 States have adopted decriminalization measures of one kind or another, although not always on the grounds of promoting public health.  The Special Rapporteur has indicated that decriminalization should be accompanied by an expansion in drug treatment programmes and drug education (see A/65/255, para. 67). On 26 June 2015, on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the Secretary-General stated that consideration should be given to alternatives to criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs and that there should be an increased focus on public health, prevention, treatment and care, as well as on economic, social and cultural strategies. Decriminalization has been called for by a number of civil society organizations on the grounds that criminalization poses a major obstacle to public health responses to drug users and their right to health…” 

Follow the link, and then scroll down to A/HRC/30/65 to download the entire report;

Petition to Keep Sex Work Decriminalised

This is an important petition supporting the current best practise laws that we have in NSW.

If you have any questions or need further reading, please don’t hesitate to email Elena Jeffreys

National picture of ice in Australia: get the report

The Hon Michael Keenan MP

Minister for Justice

25 March 2015

Australian Crime Commission’s first report into national picture of ice in Australia

Our nation’s addiction to this mind-eating, personality-distorting, life-ending drug is undermining the social fabric of communities, and paying big dividends to the organised criminal syndicates that are profiting from its misery.

In recent years we’ve seen the creep of ice use stretch across the nation, with individuals from all levels of society succumbing to its depravity.

Ice causes psychosis and long term psychological issues, is linked to violent criminal attacks against innocent bystanders, road deaths, robberies and vicious assaults against frontline health or law enforcement responders.

Given the gravity of the problem, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has developed the first unclassified intelligence picture of the threat posed by ice to our nation, which I’m releasing today with ACC Chief Executive Officer, Chris Dawson, in Canberra.

The report provides a national picture of Australia’s ice market and outlines the role of organised crime in the supply, distribution and use of ice.

It also details law enforcement efforts of unprecedented seizures and an increase in the weight of detected methylamphetamine and precursor chemicals used in its manufacture.

These are the efforts of Australia’s law enforcement agencies including the Australian Federal Police’s National Anti-Gang Squad – fast tracked by the Coalition in 2013, intelligence gathered by the ACC’s Australian Gangs Intelligence Coordination Centre opened by the Coalition in 2013, and an $88 million boost in funding from the Coalition to screening at Australian borders.

But despite these efforts the entrenched, evolving and lucrative organised criminal market for the production, distribution and use of ice, has been the catalyst for the mounting harm and havoc inflicted on our communities.

The report confirms ice poses the greatest threat to the Australian public of all illicit drug types.

We’re hearing everyday a new story of how ice is ruining lives, destroying families, and hurting communities.

The report says:

* Australian illicit drug users pay a premium price for most illicit drugs compared to prices in key foreign markets ($80US in China for a gram compared to $500US in Australia for the same amount) making our country an attractive marketplace for the manufacture and importation of methylamphetamine;

* more than 60 per cent of Australia’s highest risk serious and organised crime targets are profiting from the misery of ice to the detriment of the economic and social fabric our communities;

* there are concerning trends including the increased availability and use of methylamphetamine in areas where the drug has not previously been prevalent – particularly regional, rural and disadvantaged communities; and

* serious and organised crime groups, are mixing other illicit drugs into methylamphetamine in an attempt to increase addiction levels and maintain the consumer base.

Significant border detections, national seizures and arrests highlight the continued focus by our law enforcement agencies on the response – but ice is not solely an issue for law enforcement.

The purpose of this report is to help shape Australia’s understanding of the methylamphetamine market and the challenges posed, so we can focus our collective efforts to combat this national harm.

The fight against ice is for everyone – governments, law enforcement agencies, health, education, industry, non-government organisations, community leaders, parents, colleagues, teachers and peers.

I want to thank the ACC for the work that has been done on this report, for providing this advice to the Government which I will be taking to my ministerial colleagues to advance our collective efforts to combat this national harm.

The report can be found here:

Australian Crime Commission

25 Mar 2015

PHAMS and MH Respite Get Funding Extension

Via the ANCD:

The Abbott Government is to extend funding for two programs that provide support for people with a mental illness and their carers.

The Government says organisations that currently receive funding to provide services under the Personal Helpers and Mentors program will have their contracts extended to 30 June 2016. Funding was due to cease on 30 June 2015 Providers who deliver services under the Mental Health Respite: Carer Support program will also have their funding extended.

The Government says the funding includes more than $136 million from 30 June 2015 to 30 June 2016, extending:

166 PHaMs services in 2015-16, committing more than $82 million; and
197 MHR:CS services in 2015-16, committing more than $54 million.

Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Mitch Fifield said the funding extension will ensure supports are maintained as the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme continues across the country.

“In 2013-14 Personal Helpers and Mentors services assisted more than 18,500 people severely impacted by mental illness. In the same period the Mental Health Respite: Carer Support services assisted more than 40,400 carers of people severely impacted by mental illness and their families through respite, education and group activities.”

“The Australian Government is committed to supporting people who are severely impacted by mental illness, as well as those who care for them,” Minister Fifield said.

“The extension of these contracts will ensure people living with mental illness and those who care for them can still access these support services.”

The Personal Helpers and Mentors (PHaMs) program offers one-to-one support to people aged 16 and over who are severely impacted by mental illness.

“To deliver maximum flexibility for PHaMs providers as they prepare to operate in an open market under the NDIS, some funding arrangements may change to adapt to the NDIS model,” Minister Fifield said.

“The Mental Health Respite: Carer Support program helps carers of people with mental illness to improve their wellbeing and enable them to maintain their important caring role.” Minister Fifield said there will be no immediate changes for Mental Health Respite: Carer Support providers. Changes can be expected over time as the transition to NDIS continues, to ensure there are effective supports for families and carers in their caring roles. “This one-year funding extension will help ensure a smooth transition to the NDIS for these services,” Minister Fifield said.