Debates Day 3 - Thursday 19 November 2015
Parliamentary Record 24
Debates for 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Thursday 19 November 2015 7413 friends and communities. However, reports of an ice epidemic sweeping across the Northern Territory are somewhat misleading. The rates of methamphetamine use over the past five years have remained relatively stable both nationally and in the Territory at approximately 2.1% of the population. What is particularly concerning is that ice, the most potent and harmful form of methamphetamine, is fast becoming the drug of choice among methamphetamine users. While ice is prevalent in urban and regional areas of the Northern Territory, there is no evidence of widespread use in our remote communities. It is critical that we do not allow ice to take hold in these communities. Determining accurate prevalence rates, however, is hampered by inconsistent terminology used in data collection, and the absence of an efficient means of collating, analysing and sharing data across government and non-government agencies. Ice can cause serious harms to the user. The adverse physical effects of ice include weight loss, dermatological problems, neurotoxicity, reduced immunity, elevated blood pressure, damage to teeth and gums, cardiovascular problems and kidney problems. Long-term use can also result in psychological, cognitive and neurological issues such as depression, impaired memory and concentration, psychosis, violence and erratic behaviour. As mentioned previously, the harm caused by ice is not limited to the user. The ripple effects of ice use can have a devastating impact on family, friends and the community. As the community heard, ice can lead to problems with interpersonal relationships, domestic violence, child neglect, financial issues, increased reliance on welfare support and involvement in criminal activity. Given that substance abuse is a factor in many instances of domestic violence, child neglect and abuse, it was particularly concerning to hear that the relationship between child protection services and drug and alcohol agencies is not yet well developed in the Northern Territory, and that he Department of Children and Families community care information system lacks the facility to record specific information about parental drug use or what impact this may have had on a substantiation of harm It raises serious questions as to the effectiveness of departmental practices and procedures, and the departments capacity to ensure that children and families are provided with an appropriate level of support. Consequently, the committee has recommended an independent review and an evaluation be undertaken as soon as is practicable. There was a considerable level of agreement amongst service providers, community and industry representatives regarding the need for a strategic framework to coordinate responses to the misuse of both licit and illicit substances as a matter of priority. The committee has recommended the development and implementation of a Northern Territory drug strategy based on the national model which espouses a harm-minimisation approach, incorporating three central and equally important pillars of demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction. The committee identified a number of areas the strategy needs to address, including security of funding for drug services; development of educational resources; accessibility and currency of information and resources on departmental websites; availability and promotion of family support services; after-hours access to sterile injecting equipment; and responsible reporting guidelines for media outlets. While there is a wide range of initiatives already in place that seeks to reduce the demand, supply and harms associated with illicit drug use, evidence received by the committee led it to make a number of recommendations that it believes will lead to improvements in these areas. For example, it is well recognised that the promotion of healthy lifestyles through school-based drug education and positive youth development programs is an effective means of reducing demand by preventing the uptake and delaying the onset of drug use. However, the committee heard there is considerable variability in the content, delivery and evaluation of these types of programs across schools. The committee believes it would be beneficial to review and evaluate drug education and positive youth development initiatives currently offered in government and nongovernment schools to ensure the currency and accuracy of information provided. While preventing illicit drug use is the ultimate goal, it is recognised that treatment services are critical for those who have succumbed to the use of ice. To reduce the bottleneck in the continuum of care, the committee has recommended that additional funding be allocated to increase the availability of detoxification services, particularly for young people under the age of 18 years. Ensuring adequate detoxification, rehabilitation and forensic mental health services are made
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