Should Ice Addicts be Forced into Rehabilitation?

Should Ice Addicts be Forced into Rehabilitation?

It seems everyday we hear in the media about the devastating effects that the drug methamphetamine or “ice” has on user’s and our communities.

However, help and rehabilitation available for ice addicts seems comparatively under-promoted. It seems the “war on drugs” is focused primarily on enforcement and punishment rather than rehabilitation and education.

According to the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2.1% of Australians use methamphetamines. Australia has the third highest rate of users in the world. Users come from all walks of life from truckies to Olympic athletes like Matthew Mitcham.

Although the number is much smaller than it is for other illegal drugs and use patterns have not increased over the past 10 years, authorities are concerned because of the change in how people are using this drug. For example according to the survey, “use of the powder form of methamphetamine fell from 51% in 2010 to 29% in 2013 while the use of ice more than doubled, from 22% to 50% over the same period.” Also people using methamphetamine reported using it more frequently with an increase in daily or weekly use (from 9.3% to 15.5%). Among ice users there was a doubling from 12.4% to 25%.”

Methamphetamine addiction affects our families and our communities. The greatest concern regarding meth or “ice’ use is that it has the second-highest death rate among illegal drugs.

What are the most effective forms of rehabilitation for Ice addicts?

If you are addicted to methamphetamines you do not have to travel all the way to Thailand and puke your guts out at the Thamkrabok ‘vomit’ Temple in order to get over your ‘ice’ addiction. Australia has invested millions of dollars in drug programs right her at home. However, despite investment in these programs critics argue they are not working and the government needs to do more to tackle the problem of ‘ice’ addiction.

Although medications have proven effective in treating some substance use disorders, unfortunately there are currently no medications that counteract the specific effects of methamphetamine or that prolong abstinence from and reduce the abuse of methamphetamine.


Law Enforcement v. Rehabilitation

Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation on the other hand, quoted in an article in the Guardian, feels the best way to tackle meth addiction is through treating it as a health and social problem instead of as a criminal justice problem. In 2009/10 Australia spent over three times (66%) of its 1.7bn budget on law enforcement in comparison to 21% on drug treatment and 9% on prevention.

Wodak says the “most important action required of government is investing in drug treatment to improve its capacity, quality, range and flexibility.” He highlights how research has shown that the most effective treatment for people addicted to methamphetamines are cognitive and behavioral therapies, as well as contingency-management interventions. Programs like the US’s Motivational Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery (MIEDAR) that provide tangible incentives for engaging in treatment, as well as multi-prong approaches that incorporate individual counselling, behavior therapy and family education as well as encouragement for non-drug related activities, have shown the greatest efficacy.

Wodak says “adopting [a] harm reduction” strategy is “much cheaper and much more effective.” He points as an example, to the “harm minimisation strategy” that Australia adopted in 1985 as their national drug policy, which was more flexible and helped keep HIV under control.

Ken Lay, the chair of the ice task force and other senior police have acknowledged that “we cannot police, arrest, and imprison our way out of the drug problem.” It is time to raise the threshold quantities that trigger charges and time to reduce the severity of penalties.” Wodak furthers that point when he says: “decriminalisation” and “the quality of drug treatment must be raised to the same standard as any other health services” if we want to reduce ‘ice’ addiction.

Should Addicts be forced into Rehab?

Reverend Angel Roldan, who runs a charity that supports drug addicts, said: in a recent report in the Herald Sun “we need new legislation and new laws.” Drug users he continues, should be “forced into rehab” and “drug consumption should be made a criminal offence.” A system similar he says, “to one used by authorities in Singapore to tackle the ice crisis.”

The “war on drugs” is proving to be a failure…perhaps a different approach such as compulsory rehabilitation could be part of the solution.