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SDMF Ambassador, Nichole Sullivan, provides commentary on a recent ABC News article about the price parents are paying to get their children off drugs.

 


Road to recovery 400x400 Nichole blogTo read the original ABC article click here 

The Butters' family story is far too common.

Methamphetamine dependence is proving to be one of the toughest public health challenges that Australia has ever seen. Methamphetamine is readily available, cheap and locally manufactured in Australia. The potency of the drug is increasing, people are using more frequently and more people are seeking treatment. The rates of relapse are higher than any other drug, and treatment, in the current model, is failing.

Treatment is complex and resource intensive, it often requires a number of successive attempts to engage the client, and people need to have as few barriers to entering treatment as possible to increase their motivation. Having to wait for treatment, having to sell your family home, or having to spend days on end finding a service to accept you, means that methamphetamine users, who decide to get treatment, often relapse due to failure to find a program in time, before their cravings, their dealer, or their using friends draw them back into drug use. 

Parents like Wayne and Renee have the smallest of windows to make a difference, to get their daughter back, and they can often see it sliding away as the clock ticks by just waiting for a bed.

Generally speaking, the public health system is ill equipped to deal with the issue, instead seeing methamphetamine users cycle through our ambulance services, the emergency department, the psychiatric inpatient units, and ultimately to our already overcrowded prisons. Overdose presentations from methamphetamine increased ten fold from 470 in 2010 to 4771 in 2015, over the same period, hospitalisations increased 8 fold from 10 to 85 per 100,000 persons. Drug and alcohol treatment is specialised, methamphetamine treatment, even more so, and a general hospital, or a service with underqualified and inexperienced staff, can do more harm than good. 

Not all drug and alcohol services are equal. Not all services subscribe to safety and quality standards, as for non public services, accreditation is optional and the industry lacks regulation. 

Specialist services such as Triple Care Farm, the Stimulant Treatment Programs, and the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre are few and far between and are doing as much as they can with very few resources. Services like these, are doing the right thing. They have independent people come in and assess the safety and quality of their programs and they are continuously improving. They meet the standards set out by the industry, but government funding doesn't always reward participation in safety and quality activities.

Wayne and Renee know that getting their daughter into treatment early is important. They also know that it might not be a success on the first occasion. What Tiarni needs is an opportunity to be safe, to medically detox and to have a positive experience of seeking help.

We need to change the funding model for drug and alcohol services in Australia. Get people out of our general hospitals, our emergency departments and our prisons and into specialised treatment that works.

If we were to shift some of the resources into the non government drug and alcohol sector, families like Wayne and Renee's would be able to access the services they so desperately need, and that our community want.

 

Nichole Sullivan 

 



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