The problem of illicit drugs

In Parliament - Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (16:11:30): Unfortunately drugs continue to have a damaging impact on our society. Challenges around unemployment, homelessness and domestic violence are being exacerbated by the destructive use of illicit drugs and lives are being put at risk. Illicit drug use is a problem that has permeated through our community and it is leaving a trail of destruction—parents, grandparents, siblings, children, men, women, young and old, are being caught up in this indiscriminate web.

The use of ice is ruining individuals, destroying families and hurting communities. It is not just a health issue, it is a social issue, and it is an economic issue. The economic impact is significant and growing. Ice addiction affects the user physically, mentally and behaviourally. Ice addicts place a huge burden on our healthcare system, our emergency departments, mental health services, rehabilitation centres, not to mention the economic impact of road crashes, policing and court costs.There is also the burden on workers, ambulance officers, police, doctors and nurses. Paramedics are struggling to cope and fear for their lives. Hospital staff restrain and sedate ice users in various states of psychosis every day and there is a huge cost to families. Family and friends can be significantly affected by a person's drug use and may need support themselves and often do. Perhaps the most frightening aspect about ice addiction is that the problem is expected to get worse. We need action now on this very important issue to help individuals, to help their families and to help our communities.

The recent National Ice Taskforce report found that South Australia has the second highest rate of ice use in the country at 1.4 per cent of the population—the second highest—this is above New South Wales, above Victoria and above the national average of 1.1 per cent. The government in this area has dropped the ball. In many small towns and rural communities there are limited or no rehabilitation or support services. In the city, it is very hard to access existing services which are at capacity. In most cases there are lengthy delays for treatment for people with this scourge.

The annual progress report on the government's South Australian Alcohol and Other Drug Strategy 2011-2016, reflects the poor standard that the government has set in this area. The 2014 report was only released at the end of 2015. It is of substandard quality and raises more questions than it answers. It is just another bungled report from this tired government and the tip of the iceberg of the problems transcending the government's health policy.

Talk to the police, talk to the ambulance officers, talk to the hospital staff and they will tell you that we have a serious problem. Talk to your constituents; I have talked to mine. Last year, together with the member for Fisher, there was an Aberfoyle and District Lions Club ice and community drug forum. It was extremely well attended and I know the people who presented at that forum certainly left the community in no doubt about the strains they are facing on this particular issue.

Additionally, late last year I met with several families in my electorate who are currently being affected by the scourge of ice. They have told me how ice is destroying the lives of their loved ones. They have told me how ice has turned their beautiful children into lost souls. They have told me that they feel helpless in dealing with this epidemic. My constituents have told me of their personal stories and their experiences, and they are really difficult experiences. They have told me about the problems they have accessing services from this government. Areas, including health services, both public and private, are stretched and do not know to cope with this scourge. We have a problem in our health services around enforcement and support in dealing with this issue.

Constituents have told me of the limitation of specific services for substance dependent individuals. We have problems because positions are not available in the public and private sector due to budget constraints; physicians and officers are not trained in the area; the separation of mental health and drug support in the provision of services in South Australia; of course, the stigma associated with substance dependency hinders people's treatments; and there is a cultural association within the media resulting from the stigma of the drug as well, which hinders our efforts to help people with drug addiction.

Two specific problems are a lack of services for people with an ice addiction, including a lack of services at the Woolshed and at the Adelaide Clinic, which are really the only two main services that deal with this issue. We need to do more at a state level. It is important that we take the lead on this issue, but we must do it now and we must understand that this fight really is a partnership between government, individuals, law enforcement agencies, health, education, industry, NGOs, community leaders—you name it, we all need to be in on this problem.