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In the vault: Tackling Ice Nationally

by PeakCare Qld
on 24th March 2017

“Its use creates a distinct problem for society. Unlike cannabis and heroin, ice is an extremely powerful stimulant. For some people, it can trigger psychological disturbances or violent and aggressive behaviour. Long term use may damage the brain and cause impaired attention, memory and motor skills. The distress ice causes for individuals, families, communities and frontline workers is disproportionate to that caused by other drugs.” Final Report of the National Ice Taskforce, 2015.

Such was the concern over the growing issue of crystal meth (ice) in Australia that a National Ice Taskforce was convened in 2015. This Taskforce consulted extensively with stakeholders around the country and accepted over 1300 written submissions from organisations and members of the public. Further to this they spoke with over 100 experts from the fields of law enforcement, health, the community sector and commonwealth, state and territory government departments. The common overarching statement was: “ice is a drug like no other, and is causing a great deal of harm across our community.”

Proportionally, Australia uses more ice than most other countries with a growing number of users reported. In 2013 a reported 200,000 users had grown from less than 100,000 just 6 years prior.

Per the Taskforce report, there are factors that, in combination, make ice unlike other illicit drugs that have commonly been used in Australia:

Ice is manufactured from chemicals, not produced from plants, and can be mass produced in industrial scale labs offshore for export into Australia, so any seized product can be quickly replaced.

Methamphetamines, including ice, are the only illicit drug that is both imported and locally manufactured in significant quantities, increasing complexity of the required response from law enforcement agencies.

Ice is easily concealed and trafficked. For example, it can be dissolved in oil and reconstituted as crystals Ice is also a dangerous drug for new users, offering the promise of euphoria, confidence and enhanced sexual pleasure at a relatively cheap price. At $50 per dose in some parts of Australia, it can be cheaper than a night out drinking alcohol.

The effects of ice can be achieved through smoking, not just through injecting, making its use appear safer and more socially acceptable.

Ice is more likely to cause dependence than other drugs, and has a very long withdrawal and recovery phase. Prolonged heavy use can impair cognitive functioning for months after giving up the drug. Relapse is understandably common.

Ice’s unique factors have created a perfect opportunity for organised crime —a growing demand for a highly attractive and addictive substance, which can be sold at a high price in Australia.

The Taskforce deemed that: “Australia’s response must be designed to address the uniquely complex characteristics of the problem we face. The demonstrated buoyancy of the ice market suggests this is not a problem that can be solved overnight.”

Named as the first priority for action is the importance of supporting families, workers and communities to better respond to those affected by ice. It was acknowledged that families, frontline workers and communities are struggling to respond to the increasing issues associated with the growing number of ice users in our community. The immediate priority, therefore, is to support Australians most affected by ice use. This support includes ensuring advice for families on how to assist their relatives who are struggling as a consequence of their ice use. Frontline workers need guidance on how to engage with ice users. This includes safe engagement with those in crisis, in particular where aggressive behaviour or violence is present.

The need to enable communities to play their part was also emphasised alongside the assistance communities require to take action. Communities are considered key to sending strong messages against ice use, supporting users who want to cease usage, and working with police and other services to keep local communities safe from ice.

The report also calls for strengthened efforts to reduce the demand for ice including quit assistance and targeted preventative measures. Appropriate treatment and support services that cater to the needs of ice users including detoxification, counselling, rehabilitation, residential and follow up services are also called for.

Further education and information about ice needs to be broadly disseminated, including through schools. Despite the difficulty in quelling the tide of ice in terms of its ready availability, the Taskforce called for ongoing and considerable efforts to disrupt supply. These need to be coordinated by Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement agencies.

Improved data and more research in the area alongside regular reporting was believed to be another strategy in strengthening Australia’s response and keeping it on track in the face of the unique complexities of the ice problem for Australia and the current gaps in understanding of the market place for the drug. Enhanced up to date data needs to be accessible to all stakeholders. Emerging trends can be identified through this means and allow for more proactive and targeted responses and reporting on progress as opposed to the age-old crisis driven reactions.

Click here to read the full report.

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In the vault II

by PeakCare Qld
on 17th March 2017

As we delve into the varying articles members have shared with us regarding ice, addiction and the multitude of arguments for changing the way we look at addiction and treatment, a few perspectives stand out. This week we focus on a blog post in the Huffington post focused on changing the criminal manner with which we respond to ice users.

Independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich penned Treating Ice Users Like Criminals Won't Fix the Problem through which he argued for a rethinking of the ways in which our institutions react to drug addiction. One of his key concerns was media hype and hysteria, moral stances and stigmas associated with ice usage and the way such reactions impede those struggling with this problem in seeking assistance: “Drug experts tell me that many prevention campaigns and media reports are damaging when they focus on extreme examples, stigmatising people who use ice, thereby discouraging them from seeking help.”

His other concern was the common usage of ice as a recreational drug with research suggesting that 70% of those who use do so less than once a month. This reality alongside governments tackling the issue through law enforcement is a nonsensical reaction rather than a thoughtful response, according to Greenwich.

He notes that: “The drug-detection dog laws introduced in 2001 were supposed to identify drug trafficking and deter use. A 2006 Ombudsman review found they targeted low-level users, with most people searched not found with drugs. The Ombudsman recommended withdrawing the program, but drug dog searches have doubled since 2009 with 16,000 people subject to an intrusive search every year. During this time drug use increased from 12.1 percent to 13.8 percent.”

He calls for harm reduction approaches and a change away from the emphasis on criminal responses as they discourage young people seeking assistance if they become ill and focuses criminal processes on users rather than on traffickers and suppliers.

Greenwich asserts that in addressing ice problems in a manner that is evidence based and consistent with human rights, we must engage with those using ice to work together to find solutions rather than stigmatising this population.

To read the full article click here.

If you have any research, case studies, personal or professional experiences you’d like to contribute to the ice bank, please email Lorraine Dupree.

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In the vault

by PeakCare Qld
on 9th March 2017

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) is committed to preventing the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs in Australia with their focus being on primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. ADF is working towards new and effective approaches to drug and alcohol issues in Australia, particularly in light of the research and knowledge that prohibition doesn’t alleviate harm. As such, ADF supports the principle of decriminalisation of the personal use of illicit drugs with a focus on treating the usage as a health issue. Greater access to treatment and harm minimisation measures are also required.

ADF supports primary prevention as the best way to improve rates of harm from alcohol and other drugs. They endorse growing funding for primary prevention, focusing on education for parents in early childhood, with ongoing support for parents, particularly those at risk. ADF is looking to partner with others to improve the protective factors or social determinants that put families at risk generation after generation.

Established in 1959 to support war veterans suffering from alcohol dependence as a release from the trauma of war, ADF acknowledges that trauma continues to be a major factor for individuals and communities who find themselves facing the challenge of alcohol and other drug misuse. To help overcome this, they are increasing their focus on building safe, healthy, and resilient communities.

ADF is evidence-based and independent. Their expert knowledge and research reaches millions of Australians in their communities through sporting clubs and workplaces, by supporting and informing drug and alcohol prevention programs, and through the provision of educational information.

ADF’s information on ice is both comprehensive and succinct. It offers an excellent overview of the key information and highlights issues such as immediate and long term effects, withdrawal, legal aspects and statistics.

To access the webpage click here.

If you have any research, case studies, personal or professional experiences you’d like to contribute to the ice bank, please email Lorraine Dupree.

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In the Spotlight: Lowood shines in integrated service delivery

by PeakCare Qld
on 16th February 2017

Whilst Mercy Community Services (MCS) has delivered outreach services to Lowood and the surrounding community for many years, last year saw the introduction of innovative services to expand support to families and the community.

Centrelink contracts multiple agents across the country in semi-rural areas through funded agreements with local organisations. In mid-August 2016 MCS operationalised their Lowood Centrelink Agent and Access Point Service. This affords those in the local community the opportunity to receive support to access computers and front end intake to be assisted with matters ranging from lodging forms to setting up a myGov account to general information and referral. The on the ground support not only offers assistance with Centrelink related enquiries to countless family and individual community members, it also offers clients information about the myriad of other available services and programs of assistance.

Following closely behind the set-up of the Centrelink Agent and Access Point Service, MCS and the Queensland government established their Integrated Early Years and Targeted Family Support Programs in September 2016. The official partnership is between Mercy Community Services and the Queensland Department of Education and Training and the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services who fund the Integrated Early Years’ Service and the Targeted Family Support.

The Integrated Early Years’ Service provides comprehensive service delivery systems for parents and carers and their children. The services are aimed at enhancing parenting skills and capacity as well as child development and well-being. The specific focus is on children aged up to 8 years.

Service delivery is both place-based and via outreach. Programs and activities are offered from the Lowood Community Centre as well as from sites across the catchment such as local schools and child care centres. The Targeted Family Support component of the service is largely outreach with workers attending each family in their own home.

The services offered to families engaged with Targeted Family Support include case management, practical in-home support and group work. Topics covered in groups include parenting courses and information such as Circle of Security. Assisted referrals to other key services are also an integral part of the services offered.

The anticipated outcomes of both services are to increase parents and carers awareness of and engagement with each child’s development as well as their parental capabilities. Increased connections leading to healthy and happy children is the optimum aim. In order to achieve this, ensuring families have access to the right services at the right time is fundamental to the intervention processes offered. The attainment of these aims is enabled through the work of each member of the partnership as well as collaborative relationships with a range of local government and non-government services, schools, day care providers and community groups.

This collaboration operates across two sites in Lowood. The Lowood Hub site is home to the Centrelink Agent service, Integrated Early Years and Targeted Family Support. The Lowood Community Centre coordinated by MCS is home to many organisations and allows for the operation of a placed-based model of service delivery. Partners include: Kambu, Kummara Association, Domestic Violence Action Centre, Anglicare Southern Queensland, Ted Noffs, Open Minds, Ipswich Community Youth Services, Child Health Nurses, Parkinson Support Group, Enterprise Employment and Lowood Women’s Group.

Martin Greller, Senior Operations Manager is enthusiastic about what is being achieved. Of particular note is the success of the partnerships that underpin this key work: “Mercy Community Services appreciates the investment and trust of the Federal Department of Human Services, the Queensland Department of Education and Training and the Queensland Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. It enables our organisation to provide families with access to a range of early childhood activities and parental supports including playgroups, parenting programs, community events and personalised family support. It also enables us to work collaboratively with other services and to listen and respond to the local needs of individuals, families and the community.”

In the short period Lowood’s Integrated Early Years Services have been operational almost 200 parents, carers and children have accessed these supports. At any given time, approximately 6 families access targeted family support and countless individuals access the Centrelink Agent services daily.

For further information please go to http://www.mercycs.org.au/ or http://www.mercyfamilyservices.org.au/

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Crystal Meth: What you said in 2015 and 2016 is In the spotlight

by PeakCare Qld
on 10th February 2017

Crystal meth is short for crystal methamphetamine. As crystal meth’s effect is highly concentrated, it is considered addictive from the first time of use. Consequently, it is reported as being one of the hardest drug addictions to treat and the fatality rate is high. Crystal meth is commonly known as ice or sometimes glass.

Over recent years, ice has periodically drawn strong media attention and public concern. The following re-caps and summarises views and concerns raised with PeakCare by Member agencies who were represented at Roundtable meetings held in various locations across the State in 2015 and 2016. The full range of observations, experiences and opinions told to us were reported in PeakCare’s Roundtables Report UPDATED 2015 and Roundtables Report 2016. Here’s a snapshot of what was said during our Roundtables:

2015

Anecdotal evidence was given about increased access to and use of ice by children, young people, young parents, and parents generally and the “devastating impact on families and community functioning”.

Roundtable participants reported that the impact appears to vary for different cohorts and is “more prevalent in some geographic areas than others”.

Both family support and out-of-home care providers reported pressure being placed on their services to develop “new knowledge and skills” and/or obtain access to “specialist services” that are better equipped to work with children, young people and/or families where the use of ice is an issue of concern. The concern was expressed that these specialist services do not exist in many areas of the State or, where they do, are over-stretched and difficult to access in a timely manner.

An Eight Miles Plains roundtable participant whose organisation delivers services in north Queensland noted her observation that “unwritten rules about not using children to deal” in the sale of illegal substances are not being observed in relation to the distribution of ice and this is causing additional problems in some communities.

2016

In 2016, some participants stated that their concerns about ice use noted in 2015 had not altered and they reported on their experience of extensive use of ice in particular geographic areas and/or by particular cohorts such as young parents during pregnancy.

Others stated anticipated increases in their services’ contact with people using ice had not occurred. “There is not a rise in people taking ice but there is a rise in people blaming ice”. Some participants thought that government attention to the issue had seen the “discussion die off”. Some described localised responses that had been initiated such as Police Officers conducting community education sessions for workers who, for example, felt unsafe going into homes.

Many participants expressed a view that there was often local area differences and fluctuations in the use of substances and the preferred use of some substances over others based on variations over time in the ease of access to, and the cost of, certain substances. Irrespective of the contrasting perceptions held about changes in the number of people using ice, most agreed that when ice is being used, there are significant challenges posed in providing an effective service response, including:

  • It is problematic when it is assessed that there is ‘insufficient’ use of ice (and/or other substances) to warrant a person’s access to rehabilitation services, if these services exist
  • There are often “unsafe releases” of young people from hospitals following emergency treatment in circumstances where these young people have “nowhere to go” which increases the likelihood of their engagement in self-harming behaviours, the emergence or exacerbation of mental health issues, their participation in committing property offences and/or re-admission to hospital
  • It is very difficult to obtain a “holistic, cross-stakeholder response” for individual young people.

Some Roundtable participants stated that a significant increase in chroming in some areas of the State was of greater concern to them. They noted that, in addition to the health problems this created, chroming often led young people into a cycle of “offending, detention, release, and re-offending”. Some described local initiatives that had been undertaken with shop-keepers who agreed to remove substances from display stands and shelves which successfully reduced the number of children who were opportunistically shop-lifting and regularly ‘sniffing’ substances.

2017

Much is currently being said about ice in media and through documentaries such as ABC’s Ice Wars, part 1 of which aired earlier this week. You can catch up on ABC iview.

PeakCare is interested in adding to the conversations from 2015 and 2016 and hearing what you have to say in 2017 about ice and the impact this drug may be having on your families, communities and workplaces.

As reported on elsewhere within this week’s edition of eNews, PeakCare is setting up our ‘Ice Bank’ to collect, collate, disseminate and share knowledge already held about ice and promising service responses benefitting young people, parents and families whose lives have been impacted by this substance. I look forward to receiving your deposits into our Ice Bank and assisting you to draw on the interest that’s generated. Your deposits of case studies, descriptions of local initiatives, links to published articles and resource materials can be emailed to ldupree@peakcare.org.au. Our Ice Bank is open for business from Monday 20th February until cob Friday 10th March 2017.

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Prevalence of ICE in families of children entering care: DCCSDS study

by PeakCare Qld
on 10th February 2017

In late 2016, the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services conducted a once-off study based on a representative sample regarding the prevalence of methamphetamine use amongst parents whose children came into care (either intervention with parental agreement or child protection order).

The major findings of the study included:

  • One in every three children who came into the care of the Department had a parent with a current or previous methamphetamine use recorded
  • For the vast majority (over 80 per cent) the methamphetamine type was recorded as ICE
  • In the majority of cases (65 per cent) where parental ICE use was recorded, the use of ICE was reported to have occurred in the last 12 months, but not prior to that.This indicates most of these parents had only recently begun using ICE.
  • The findings suggest that methamphetamine use by this particular cohort of families is now more prevalent than alcohol misuse.Approximately ten years ago (2006-07) alcohol was the most common substance misused (51 per cent), followed by marijuana (23 per cent) and heroin (7 per cent).

It is important to not read more into these findings than was intended. For example, the representative sample was limited to those families whose children became the subject of intervention with parental agreement or a child protection order and making assumptions based on these findings about the prevalence of methamphetamine use by parents within the general population should be avoided. It’s also not possible to deduce from these findings the proportion of families who, for reasons other than their use of methamphetamines, may have come to the attention of the Department and/or been made subject to these particular interventions. The findings are nevertheless disturbing and strongly suggest a need to examine the service models and responses being provided by both government and non-government sector agencies. Are they designed and being delivered in a manner that effectively caters for the needs of children, parents and families where methamphetamines are being used? Are there differences to be taken into account when working with parents who are using methamphetamines compared to parents who mis-use alcohol and/or other substances?

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