Effective drug policy means controlled availability

23 April, 2018

Following discussions this week on the legalisation of cannabis and other Australian drug policies, the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) again calls for evidence-based drug policy focussed on harmminimisation and controlled availability.

The PHAA supports the pillars of reform outlined in the National Drug Strategy to minimise harm. These include supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction. The approach supports the decriminalisation of drug use and treatment of addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.

Michael Moore, CEO of the PHAA confirmed the Association’s views, saying “We advocate for a whole-ofgovernment approach to the prevention of drug use, including early intervention and treatment. In order to minimise harms to users and to the community we need to be realistic about the paths through which people access drugs. It is preferable that users obtain drugs through legitimate means rather than through criminal supply chains.”

Moore continued, “Evidence-based programs and legislation are the best way forward for Australian drug policy. This is why the PHAA advocated strongly last year for pill testing in the ACT and for the trials of the North Richmond medically supervised injecting centre. This type of intervention has been proven to work at the highly successful Kings Cross centre and it is extremely disappointing to hear it may not go ahead or may exclude users of certain illicit drugs such as crystal methamphetamine.”

“Working with people who use drugs is so much more successful than marginalising them. When we advocate legalisation we refer to restrictive systems of “controlled availability” targeted to specific drugs. We would not expect the same controlled availability approach to tobacco as to alcohol and we should expect a different approach to dealing with cannabis, heroin or crystal methamphetamine,” added Moore.

“The approach to treating drug addiction in Australia should be derived from medical research, not outdated criminal laws which fail to recognise the nuances of drug use and addiction. Rather than stigmatising and failing to assist users, addiction ought to be viewed through the health lens,” according to Moore.

“We are not advocating for a free-for-all on drug availability, but simply acknowledging the realities of use and addiction and asking that policymakers take steps that will genuinely minimise harm to individual users and the community,” Moore concluded.

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