Aug 2, 2017

‘It’s not ice’: alcohol the real scourge, say doctors

  • Adam Gartrell, Sydney Morning Herald

Doctors have criticised state and federal governments over their new drug policy blueprint, accusing them of putting too much emphasis on methamphetamine and not enough on a much more damaging and deadly substance: alcohol.

The Australian Medical Association says the recently released National Drug Strategy – which sets out the official approach to preventing and minimising drug harm over the next 10 years – focuses too much on the so-called ‘‘ice epidemic’’.

Ahead of the Wednesday release of a new AMA position paper on substance abuse and behavioural addictions, Michael Gannon, the president of the doctors’ association, has described the government strategy as disappointing. ‘‘[It] again lists methamphetamine as the highest priority substance for Australia, despite the strategy noting that only 1.4 per cent of Australians over the age of 14 had ever tried the drug,’’ Dr Gannon said. ‘‘The strategy also notes that alcohol is associated with 5000 deaths and more than 150,000 hospitalisations each year – yet the strategy puts it as a lower priority than ice.

‘‘The government must focus on those dependencies and addictions that cause the greatest harm, including alcohol, regardless of whether some substances are more socially acceptable than others,’’ Dr Gannon said.

Dr Gannon is also critical that the updated strategy did not come with any new funding commitments from state or federal governments.

The AMA’s new position statement says substance abuse is widespread across Australia, and dependence and addiction often lead to death or disability in patients – yet support and treatment services are ‘‘severely under-resourced’’. It calls for a ‘‘major change in funding priorities from policing and prosecution of substance users to interventions that avoid or reduce use, promote resilience, and reduce societal harms’’.

Read more on the Sydney Morning Herald.