15 June 2015

Battling ‘ice’ out of our communities: What is our government doing?

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“Methylamphetamine is wreaking havoc in every state and territory. It is ruining lives, families and communities”
Chris Dawson, CEO of the Australian Crime Commission

The use of drugs has taken centre stage over the past few months with numerous media releases highlighting the shocking statistics of much Australians are willing to spend on drugs and how many of them are addicted to it.

Methamphetamine which is also known as ‘ice’ is a drug that is causing the most concern to the nation. Ice usage in Australia has increased to 50% among users aged 14 years or older compared to 22 percent in 2010.

The use of the highly addictive drug 'ice' is higher in country, rural and regional than cities. Adding to this concern Professor Richard Murray mentioned in an article that "The striking change is that we're seeing use trending away from relatively low-grade stimulants to the high-grade crystal form of ice."

What did our geographic neighbours do?

Ross Bell, the head of the New Zealand Drug Foundation mentioned that the NZ government initially further criminalised ice use by increasing sentences for drug dealers and investing more in customs control and were also involved in banning the chemicals which are used for making methamphetamine. However this didn’t seem to work too well and in 2009 the NZ government decided to invest more in treatment for addicts and the number of people using drugs started to drop and today NZ’s rate of meth use is half that of Australia.

In economic terms this approach does make sense because increasing the legal and policing response will only make finding ‘ice’ into a treasure hunt where the price will be pushed up and where the ‘ice’ black market will thrive.

What is Australian government doing?

Well, the government is committed to curb the use of drugs through various ways including increasing the number of roadside drug testing, improving the ability to confiscate the assets of serious criminals and in investing more in treatments, rehabilitation and education.

The Abbott government has recently announced it will invest $20 million from 2015-2016 to renew the National Drugs Campaign in an effort to discourage people from using illicit drugs and raise awareness.

Additionally in May this year, the ACT government committed $800,000 funding boost to drug treatment and support services as part of the growing response to ice use.

Matt Noffs from the Noffs Foundation, a Sydney-based organisation for at-risk young people suggested in an article that the government could introduce regulation of methamphetamine which could include an "ice room" similar to the heroin injecting room in Sydney's Kings Cross, where substitute drugs will be available to addicts.

Where to from now…

The government still has a long way to go in tackling this issue and this will continue to be a concern for communities across Australia. Battling ‘ice’ out of Australia is not going to be a smooth sailing fight therefore we will have to wait and watch till the government make its moves…  

When Aranei was seven she truly believed she could one day train turtles in the Galapagos. Unfortunately she came to the realization that such a thing could never happen. A couple of years later, she decided to be a conference producer and has never looked back. The best part of her role is exploring different sectors and getting in-depth insights from thought leaders and well-experienced specialists from varying sectors.         

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