National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

The National Drug Strategy 2010-2015: consultation draft

Evidence base

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Commitment to evidence
Generating evidence
A systematic approach to research and data

Commitment to evidence

A key aspect of Australia's approach to drug misuse has been the commitment to a comprehensive evidence base. Under the National Drug Strategy 2010-2015 there is a common commitment to evidence-based and evidence-informed practice. Evidence-based practice means using approaches which have proven to be effective in the past. As an example, the continuing provision of methadone maintenance, detoxification, pharmacological therapies and cognitive behavioural therapies for drug and alcohol treatment are based on an extensive body of evidence in Australia and internationally.

Evidence-informed practice is the integration of the existing evidence with professional expertise to develop optimal approaches, including new or innovative approaches, in a given situation. The National Drug Strategy 2010-2015 includes a commitment to innovation and trialling new approaches. For example, the introduction of the Illicit Drug Diversion Initiative (IDDI) supported police-based diversion into early intervention and prevention programs before there was comprehensive evidence supporting this approach. The evident success of IDDI was a catalyst for its expansion into court-based diversion and treatment at correctional centres. IDDI demonstrates that where there is little evidence, leadership is needed to support innovation. Allowing room for the development of such creative approaches in the future will require new evidence to be collected so that the impact and quality of new interventions is well-understood.

Ongoing evaluation of approaches is also critical to the success of the National Drug Strategy 2010-2015. Evaluation ensures that existing programs and policies are appropriate, effective and efficient in the context of contemporary drug use patterns, trends and settings. For example, the long-standing needle and syringe programs have been regularly evaluated. The results have supported the expansion and evolution of the types of needle and syringe program services offered and demonstrated its ongoing efficacy, cost-effectiveness and public health value.

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Generating evidence

Under the National Drug Strategy, a strong evidence base has been built over the past 25 years. This includes health, law enforcement, education, social and cultural evidence that contributes to the application of harm reduction, demand reduction and supply reduction. Three national drug research centres of excellence – the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, the National Drug Research Institute and the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction – funded by the Australian Government under the National Drug Strategy provide high-quality research that contributes to evidence-informed practice by health, law enforcement and education services. The research centres undertake work in a number of key priority areas including treatment, prevention, drug misuse and young people, workforce, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and emerging trends.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund is an important contributor to the evidence base for drug law enforcement practices at an operational level. Agencies that contribute to intelligence and research in this area include the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Australian Crime Commission. Most jurisdictions also have centres for criminal statistics and research that identify crime trends.

Other academic institutions contribute to the evidence base with support from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and universities.

It is also important that Australia learns from international evidence that is relevant to Australian conditions. As an example, the introduction of buprenorphine into the Australian treatment repertoire in 2005 was based upon substantial international evidence, particularly from Europe. International sources of research will continue to contribute to the National Drug Strategy 2010-2015.

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A systematic approach to research and data

The National Drug Strategy 2010-2015 will continue to support the development of a strong evidence base including clinical, epidemiological, criminological and policy research. In areas where the evidence base requires further development, a systematic approach is necessary. In response to the recommendation of the evaluation of the National Drug Strategy 2004-2009, the IGCD will establish a working group drawing in experts from the national research centres and other institutions to develop a National Drug Research and Data Strategy (see also Section 5 on performance measures) which will ensure a systematic approach to drug research by:

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