Labor welcomes the Abbott Government’s graphic campaign warning of the dangers of crystal methamphetamine (ice), but it will take more than TV and online ads to help communities rid themselves of this scourge.
Several health experts have previously warned that public campaigns such as this one are a blunt tool when not accompanied by other measures. Explaining the dangers of a particular drug such as ice to young people doesn’t always cut through.
The message that ice is an extremely addictive drug that can ruin lives is an important one. But people at risk of using this drug, including young people, need far more than graphic ads.
To deter ice use must examine the circumstances that drive people to addiction. Only then will we be able to steer policy towards identifying and addressing underlying problems of ice addiction.
We know that certain segments of the community are especially vulnerable; for example, ice use is twice as prevalent in rural and regional communities as in metropolitan areas. Therefore, it is essential that the right policies are in place to tackle the problem, with a health-based approach needed to complement graphic ad warnings and law enforcement crackdowns.
The answer doesn’t lie in just promoting awareness of the dangers of ice and throwing more and more people in prison if they prove resistant to the message.
It is also vital that the national ice strategy focusses on assisting those who are addicted to ice rather than just deterring people from experimenting in the first place. In order to achieve this we must enhance treatment options, particularly in rural, regional and remote Australia where they are often lacking.
This is just another reason why the Abbott Government’s harsh cuts to health and repeated assaults on Medicare are so damaging. In his last budget Joe Hockey cut $197 million out of funding to programs combating drug and alcohol abuse.
Given that the number of ice users has doubled in the past year we can’t risk axing programs and support structures that are essential to combating ice addiction.
Labor will work with the Government to help tackle the menace of ice, we are committed to helping at risk communities. But we can’t simply point out the dangers of ice, we must get to the heart of the problem and ensure that the right programs are in place to support people vulnerable to addiction.