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How do we fix Canberra’s ice problem?

By Steven Bailey 12 May 2015 22

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Canberra has an ice problem. No, I’m not talking about the blistering cold; I’m talking about the dangerous scourge in the form of highly purified methamphetamine.

I have interviewed 13 homeless Canberrans this year, eight of whom voluntarily admitted to using the drug on a regular basis, but it’s not just anecdotal evidence that suggests Canberra’s ice problem is real.

Directions ACT chief executive Fiona Trevelyan said in March that there was a 13 per cent increase in Canberrans admitting to injecting methamphetamine as their principle drug of choice last year. This year, the figure jumped by 23 per cent with 40 per cent of all drug users admitting to using methamphetamine as part of their regular drug consumption.

According to The Salvation Army’s Major Scott Warrington, his drug treatment centre in Fyshwick experienced a 155 per cent increase in Canberrans requesting support and treatment for methamphetamine addiction in 2014.

The Federal Government last month announced the formation of a national ice task force and development of a national ice action strategy to address the drug’s growing scourge. The initiative was welcomed by ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell and since then, Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Hanson called on the ACT Government to provide a comprehensive response to the problem of purified methamphetamine in the ACT.

According to Alcohol Tobacco and other Drug Association ACT (ATODA), 2.1 per cent of Canberrans use purified methamphetamine.

ATODA released a statement last week which brought light to the situation in Canberra:

“The increased harms from methamphetamine can be partially explained by a rapid and profound shift from powder to the more harmful crystalline form. The drug has become stronger, the price is stable and people who use it are using it more frequently,” said Ms Carrie Fowlie, Executive Officer, ATODA.

“In fact there is no widespread increase in methamphetamine use. Instead, we are seeing the effects of high purity methamphetamine among 2.1 per cent of the population.

Methamphetamine users are shifting to the crystalline form rather than non-drug users taking up the crystalline form.”

“This has implications for the sorts of interventions needed and their priority. Instead of broad-based population strategies, people who use methamphetamine and their families need access to treatment, harm reduction and other support services.”

“There has been a 36 per cent increase in demand, increasing amphetamine presentations and up to 3 month waiting lists for non-government drug services.”

Last week, ATODA called for an additional $1.6 million investment as part of its formal budget submission. Ms Fowlie said that the increase would provide a minimum of one additional full-time staff member per drug treatment service and professional development.

Ahead of the budget, the ACT Government responded to the request by asserting that it already provided more than $9 million per annum to non-government organisations for treatment and support services.

The contention isn’t the existence of the problem. The contention is in how we deal with it.

To what extent is this a law enforcement problem, and to what extent is this a health problem? And most importantly, to what extent should the tax-payer be footing the bill?


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22 Responses to
How do we fix Canberra’s ice problem?
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chewy14 3:00 pm 14 May 15

Mysteryman said :

chewy14 said :

If you legalised and regulated currently illicit drugs, whilst also providing more support services to those who had addiction or other problems, the overall issue would be less of a societal problem than it is now.

Legalising and regulating and drugs isn’t the fantasy solution that people want to believe it is. Users won’t have the government telling them how much is enough. You can regulate access all you like, but users will go around the government to get their next hit if the government doesn’t give them what they want. We currently regulate alcohol to varying degrees, but drunkenness and alcohol fueled violence is still a huge problem. Addictive substances like heroin and ice are inherently unsafe. Regulation won’t make them safer, and won’t make them less addictive. It will lower drug related crime because we will simply stop counting the sale, purchase, and possession of substances as crimes, but the overall problem will still be there. Look at Portugal – after 10 years of legalised drug use the number of drug related deaths is roughly the same as before. And unless the government gives the drugs away for free, or close to it, you’ll still get users committing other crimes to pay for their addictions. It’s the nature of the beast.

The argument that legalising it and regulating it will magically fix the problem is nonsense. It will change the dynamic of the situation, but the problems will still be there.

I never said that it will fix the problem, we’ll definitely be swapping one set of problems for another.

But the current situation clearly is never going to work and I believe the alternative is much more manageable and will lead to better overall outcomes for the individuals and society.

switch 11:55 am 14 May 15

rubaiyat said :

I always have a hot kettle going whilst I have my shower in the morning and throw that over the windscreen before quickly turning on the wipers before it all freezes up.

Drugs are bad, m’kay!

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