IMAGE: Burnet Institute Head, Justice Health Research, Associate Professor Mark Stoové
Australia needs to double its investment in alcohol and drug resources to address unmet treatment needs, according to Burnet Institute Head, Justice Health Research, Associate Professor Mark Stoové in an editorial published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
The editorial, co-authored by Professor Alison Ritter, Director of the Drug Policy Modelling Program at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Sydney, points out that fewer than half of those seeking alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment in Australia have access to appropriate treatment.
“This is an appalling situation, and all the more concerning because we know treatment works and reduces the substantial social costs of harmful AOD consumption,” the authors said.
The editorial describes good AOD policy as “a balance between reducing the supply of drugs through regulation and law enforcement, reducing the demand for drugs through prevention and treatment, and reducing the harmful consequences of use through harm reduction interventions”.
“Australian governments currently spend most on law enforcement, yet research shows that law enforcement responses, notably those related to incarceration, are far less cost-effective than treatment.”
The authors argue that fragmented funding models are contributing to the difficulties of coordinating a national treatment policy, and call for funding and resources to be better targeted and integrated.
“There is little planning and coordination between levels of government in Australia,” the authors wrote. “The National Drug Strategy 2010–2015 is silent on the division of responsibilities between state and federal government, which compounds the problem federalism presents for coordinating effective AOD treatment services.
“We know the extent of unmet AOD treatment need and demand. We also have a good understanding of the complicated funding flows in this area. Social stability factors such as employment, positive family relationships and stable housing are crucial determinants of drug use patterns.
“Alongside AOD treatment, effective responses must appropriately resource integrated services that support people to achieve their AOD treatment goals.”
To read the MJA editorial, click here.