NSW rejects five key drug recommendations

Morgan Liotta

28/02/2020 3:30:38 PM

The independent ice inquiry has prompted further focus on drug use as a health issue rather than a legal one.

Increased use of ice across Australia has prompted a special commission inquiry into the drug.

Following a report on findings from the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced the government will only consider 104 of the 109 recommendations from the inquiry.
Mr Hazzard said it will not support the five recommendations relating to medically supervised injecting centres, syringe programs in prison, a reduction in the use of drug detection dogs, and substance testing (pill testing) – all of which it has continuously opposed.
‘The government will consider the remaining recommendations from the inquiry in consultation with stakeholders and will prepare a final response before the end of the year,’ Mr Hazzard said.
The inquiry’s Commissioner Dan Howard outlined the 109 recommendations to strengthen the government’s response to harm minimisation from rising use of methamphetamine (ice) across Australia, including calls for the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use and for drug detection dogs to be limited.
NSW Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame also previously recommended the end of police strip searches and sniffer dogs for the purposes of drug detection at music festivals, concerned that such tactics may push people into higher-risk behaviour, such as taking all of their drugs at once to prevent detection and arrest.
‘The most significant concern raised in evidence to the inquiry is that the use of drug detection dogs may increase drug-related health harms, including panic ingestion, consuming drugs before the festival,’ the inquiry’s report states.
However, the NSW Government maintains the view that drug detection dogs are the ‘best method for police to screen large crowds of people for the presence of drug odours’, and remains opposed to pill or substance testing, as well as the trial of a needle and syringe program in correctional centres, due to the ‘potential safety risks to inmates and correctional officers’.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also confirmed the government does not support the expansion of safe injecting centres beyond the Kings Cross facility. The Melbourne-based facility has drawn recent debate but remains in operation.
RACGP Specific Interests Addiction Medicine network Chair, GP and member of the inquiry’s expert advisory panel, Dr Hester Wilson backs the inquiry’s report advocating for an approach to drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal one.
‘We need to consider putting our energies into assisting people [who use drugs] to get the treatment they need, rather than punishing them,’ she previously told newsGP.
‘It’s about understanding the factors that led to that [drug use] behaviour, and whether this is a group of people who do need assistance and treatment, rather than a criminal or a judiciary approach.’
The inquiry’s report echoes Dr Wilson’s sentiments.
‘Recognising illicit drug use as a health and social problem rather than a criminal justice issue is a fundamental first step,’ it states.
The RACGP’s Alcohol and Other Drugs GP Education Program is designed to help GPs develop skills in addressing alcohol and other drug use in their communities.
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