Australia's National Drug Strategy beyond 2009: consultation paper
Australia's drug policy
Australia has had a coordinated national policy for addressing drug issues, licit and illicit, in the community since the inception of the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) in 1985. In 1993 it was renamed the National Drug Strategy and has since progressed through two further phases - the National Drug Strategic Framework 1998–99 to 2002–03 and the current National Drug Strategy: Australia’s Integrated Framework 2004–2009.
From its early beginnings Australia's drug strategy has had strong bipartisan support. Strong partnerships across sectors, particularly between health, law enforcement, non-government organisations and experts in the field, have been critical to its success.
Key structures supporting the Strategy have included:
- the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy (MCDS) which functions as the peak policy and decision-making body in relation to licit and illicit drugs in Australia. The Council is represented by the Australian and State and Territory Ministers of Health and Law Enforcement and the Federal Minister responsible for Education.
- the Intergovernmental Committee on Drug Strategy (IGCD) which provides policy advice to Ministers on the full range of drug-related matters and is responsible for implementing the National Drug Strategy. This Committee consists of senior officers representing health and law enforcement in each Australian jurisdiction and people with expertise in identified priority areas including representatives of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations
- the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) which brings independent, expert advice from a community perspective to redress drug-related harms and enhance the partnership between the government and community sectors in the development and implementation of policies and programs and
- the 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 on Training and Addition) which develop products and facilitate research into matters identified as priorities under the National Drug Strategy.
Over the life of the National Drug Strategy 2004–2009, significant effort has gone into supporting policy development and implementation through a strong and expanding research and evidence base.
Law enforcement agencies have targeted the supply of illicit drugs at all stages of the supply chain, from overseas suppliers, interdiction at the border, and investigation and prosecution of domestic manufacturers and suppliers. In particular, law enforcement efforts have severely curtailed the supply of heroin to Australia over the past decade which has had a significant impact on consumption, overdose, deaths and other associated harms. There have also been increasing cooperative measures with industry. The implementation of Project STOP, involving co-operation between law enforcement agencies and pharmacies, has also had an impact in restricting illegitimate access to the precursor chemical pseudoephedrine used in the manufacture of methylamphetamine.
Research has shown that demand for drugs can be curbed through information and education, targeted social marketing campaigns, brief interventions and other psychosocial treatment (such as those based on cognitive behavioural therapy) and pharmacotherapy treatment for people with opioid dependency. Early intervention and diversionary approaches have been increasingly adopted and evidence of their success is growing. There is also an increasing body of knowledge about successful approaches to drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation.
Excessive alcohol consumption is often a major factor in violence, antisocial behaviour and crime. Police, in concert with liquor licensing authorities, play an important role in reducing alcohol related harms by enforcing legislative requirements which restrict the sale of alcohol and in assisting in the management of the local environments around entertainment precincts and at special events.
Efforts to reduce the harms associated with substance use have also been successful. Law enforcement initiatives such as random breath testing have proven effective in reducing harms associated with alcohol. The supply and safe disposal of syringes through needle and syringe programs has helped Australia maintain low rates of HIV infections and other blood borne viruses. Graphic health warnings on tobacco products have increased consumer knowledge of the health effects relating to smoking, have encouraged the cessation of smoking, and discouraged smoking uptake or relapse.