“Addiction cannot be cured by a punitive measure.”

addiction illicit drugs dependency

Most pharmacists think the government’s proposal to drug test welfare recipients is not only a bad idea but potentially harmful, as the third test site is announced

The Coalition has put forward a bill that outlines a proposal for a two-year trial of drug testing welfare recipients in three regions, starting 1 January 2018.

It will involve mandatory testing of 5,000 new recipients of Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance, with those who test positive to illicit substances including methamphetamine, MDMA and THC subject to income management and financial penalties.

In a recent AJP poll on the topic, 35% of respondents have said they believe the government’s proposal is “not only a bad idea, but will be harmful to those involved”.

And 35% of respondents also believe that “there needs to be a completely different focus on medical treatment as opposed to punitive measures.”

One quarter of pharmacists (24%) think “it’s a bad idea and won’t work”.

However 22% are hopeful, thinking it will help by highlighting people who need to go into treatment for drug dependency.

Twelve percent of respondents believe it will help people by giving them initiative to get off drugs, and 11% think “it’s the best we can come up with right now to solve a difficult situation”.

A further 13% believe the current penalties aren’t strong enough, and the government needs to “crack down” on drug use.

The majority of health professionals have come out against the proposals.

“Addiction cannot be cured by a punitive measure, certainly not one as simplistic as this,” Victorian pharmacist and harm minimisation advocate Angelo Pricolo told AJP.

“The majority of the people targeted are already struggling with finance so creating more debt for them may drive them to riskier behaviour.”

Leading medical organisations including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Australian Medical Association, St Vincent’s Hospital Alcohol and Drug Service, and Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation have all spoken publicly against the proposals.

On 27 August, Minister for Social Services Christian Porter announced that Mandurah in Western Australia is to be the third and final location to trial drug testing of new job seekers.

Minister Porter said high rates of drug abuse in Mandurah impacted the whole community.

“Without assistance, many people with substance abuse problems can’t or won’t take action to help themselves and that’s why we need to trial new approaches,” the Minister said.

He said some measures like income management have already been used in the area.

“Income management has already been used in Mandurah and is a proven and effective tool to help welfare recipients manage their money to ensure their basic living needs are met and, consequently, limits the amount of cash available to fund illicit drugs.

“There are almost 1300 BasicsCard merchants in Mandurah and surrounds, including major supermarkets.”

Canterbury-Bankstown in Sydney’s west has been identified as the first trial site, and last week the government announced Logan, Queensland, as the second location to trial drug testing of new jobseekers.

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  1. pagophilus

    There certainly should be punitive measures, but that must not be the only measure. If there is no stigma or punishment for doing wrong then there is no reason not to do it. If there was prompt and effective (serious, uncomfortable, shameful) punishment for wrongs, people would be less inclined to commit them. Do you that the first time people use drugs they don’t know it’s harmful (and wrong, and illegal)? Later when they’re hooked, yes it takes over and becomes a medical issue, but often still remains a criminal one.

    I fear a society where there are no consequences for actions, only ‘help”. It is fear of consequences that should act as a deterrent.

    • Andrew

      What’s your response to the overwhelming evidence that punitive measures against drug use are not only ineffective, they actually increase crime and harm downstream?

      >>>>It is fear of consequences that should act as a deterrent.

      But they don’t, otherwise crime wouldn’t exist.

      • pagophilus

        7 minutes ago
        “What’s your response to the overwhelming evidence that punitive measures against drug use are not only ineffective, they actually increase crime and harm downstream?”

        One word – Singapore.

        • Jarrod McMaugh

          Singapore still has crime, and drug use is still prevalent there.

          Let’s take your minamilist method and go with another “one word” – Philippines.

          What’s occuring there now in the name of “drug control” is a disgusting abuse of human rights.

          Punitive measures should be reserved for the crimes committed subsequent to addiction, not the addiction itself.

          • Daniel Roitman


          • jason northwood

            “Singapore still has crime” but wait , have you looked at Wikipedia – (the source of all knowledge )? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Singapore Crime rates in Singapore are some of the lowest in the world.
            That’s like saying a patient still have hypertension after take a weeks worth of anti-hypertensive , so lets just give up and stop treating them.
            for evil to triumph its necessary for good people to do nothing.

          • pagophilus

            “Singapore still has crime, and drug use is still prevalent there.”

            And the problem is much smaller to the point that the average person doesn’t see it. Have you visited Singapore recently? Would you be comfortable walking at any time of day or night anywhere in Singapore? I would. I normally stay in Geylang, where they sell Viagra on street corners and red light activity goes on in the streets that come off it. Yet am I ever concerned for my safety? Would I do the same in similar areas in Melbourne? No.


          • pagophilus

            Annual cannabis use 0.004% vs 10.8% opiate use. Opiate use 0.004% vs 0.5%. Houston we have a problem. Don’t go telling me that “drug use is still prevalent there”. Of course it is. There are always people prepared to push limits. The question is what proportion? Cannabis use 1/2650 as much as Australia, opiate use 1/125 as much. If you were conducting a study and found such differences with a p value or 0.000000001 (rather than the 3% difference with a p value of <0.05 that's usually found) you'd know you're into a winner. Why not accept that they know something we don't, and we can't accept it out of ideological reasons rather than that it doesn't work?

          • Willy the chemist

            “Punitive measures should be reserved for the crimes committed subsequent to addiction, not the addiction itself.”
            I agree with you.
            On the other hand, I think income management and financial assistance is not necessarily deleterious.
            But to punish someone financially based on their drug use is mean. By the same token, leaving them to their own to fend for themselves is mean too, as we know that what would happen is that they will slide down the path towards greater drug dependence and harm.

            Ps: there is also another point. Testing does not necessarily proof that the person is addicted. However it proves that the person has had said drugs in their system at some point in time.
            And if it happens to be illicit drug, would it be evidence of illicit activity?
            So is this a crime?
            No different from a matching DNA on the murder weapon?

        • Daniel Roitman

          Pagophilus, sometimes I wonder if you are actually a pharmacist or just an internet troll with views that haven’t changed since the 1950’s. If you are indeed a pharmacist, I can only feel sadness for the no doubt countless patients who have received inappropriate and heartless care from a regressive dinosaur.

          • pagophilus

            Go and look at Singapore’s crime and drug use stats and see how outdated these principles really are. So outdated that people don’t live in fear of crime.

          • Willy the chemist

            Daniel, I fear that Australia is trundling down the path towards less tolerance and more bigotedness. Less tolerance of people with different ideas to the point to calling them names….eg. regressive, dinosaur, troll, heartless.
            Pagophilus has a view. He is entitled to a view as long as he does not espouse violence and threaten the safety of others.

            And Pagophilus do have a valid point. Singapore has exceedingly low crime stat, I don’t care how you slice and dice the melon. Something they do must be working, pardon Australia’s political correctness.

            Our culture of permissiveness, ‘liberal’ view on recreational drugs use has actually caused countless harm, sufferings and deaths to untold thousands of Australians. Almost every Australian is touched by illicit drug use.

            Do I have the answer? No. But I do know that our ways have not worked.
            We are in NO position to criticise other people.

          • Jarrod McMaugh

            Singapore’s method of “drug control” is mandatory death sentences.

            I would argue that anyone is recommending their system actually is espousing violence and threatening the safety of others.

          • Willy the chemist

            Agreed. And on the other hand, our system hasn’t been a shinning light either. The number of deaths from illicit drugs overshadow death by execution. I know, I’m the last person to condone death penalty.
            I’m abhorred by the idea and I also wrote a letter to the Indonesian PM to stop the death sentence on the Bali nine.
            …but it doesn’t mean I cannot be objective.
            The objective thing to note is that deaths from illicit drug abuse in Australia greatly exceed the sum total of deaths from illicit drug abuse and death by execution in Singapore, even multiplying their figures by the population ratio.

            To die by execution and from illicit drug abuse is still a life taken.

          • jason northwood

            Hi Daniel , Have you ever read Romancing Opiates, Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy by Theodore Dalrymple ? very interesting and written by a doctor who you might think is a regressive dinosaur but he raises some interesting points https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1994838/

      • pagophilus

        The evidence doesn’t exist in Australia because we don’t have any proper punitive measures to study. We have slap-on-the-wrist punishments and jails which are like luxury hotels. If prisoners had to perform hard manual labour in the hot summer sun or the harsh winter cold, had a military-style discipline, and no comforts, perhaps the results would be different.

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