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Illicit drug use and NSW Health

NSW Health are not showing the same long-term focus on prevention of commencement of illicit drug use. There have been no visible education and other campaigns targeted to potential users with a view to prevent commencement of illicit drug use and the associated health risks.

The Cancer Council and allied groups have driven a strong and successful public education campaign around the health risks to both the individual and the community arising from tobacco consumption. Their campaign has succeeded in dramatically reducing the rate of commencement of smoking whilst driving the supply of “rehabilitation” services to significantly reduce the number of practicing smokers. It has also reduced the costs of treating smokers for the medical damage they have sustained arising from their use of tobacco.

Other countries, e.g., Sweden, have focussed their efforts to minimise/eliminate illicit drug use on prevention of commencement of use with major success and associated benefit to the populace of Sweden. The success of their policy focus and implementation strategy has, as a flow-on effect, significantly reduced the spread of blood borne virus in the Swedish community. These successes came about when Sweden shifted its focus from post-addiction damage control to prevention of commencement of addiction.

A director of the Canadian Justice Review Board has called into question the effectiveness of harm reduction both as a means of reducing and treating drug use. The director also drew attention to the class based differences in treating addiction that exist in Canada.

Harm minimisation used to be a fellow traveller of rehabilitation/abstention. Harm minimisation now facilitates illicit drug use in a medically safe manner and pays lip service to withdrawal and/or abstinence.

It is self evident that prevention reduces the health risks to both the individual and the broader community arising from illicit drug use.

The fear that some people have is that NSW Health’s long-term focus on control of post-addiction ongoing health risks is drawing resources away from the prevention of commencement of addiction.

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