Prime Minister John Howard has announced the federal government’s plans to inject a further 150 million dollars into the war on drugs, in particular to fight against what the media has coined as the “ice epidemic”. It seems rather odd that the PM would say that he is proud of his zero tolerance approach to the drug problem when almost 75 percent of this new funding will be directed towards the addiction treatment industry and a mere 40 million to be allocated to law enforcement. It would seem that Howard has fingers in all pies when he attempts to placate the masses with rhetoric about what is essentially a highly emotive social disorder. It is also amusing that Howard takes possession of the falling heroin overdoses, which is somehow a reflection on his government’s tough on drugs stance. It is clearly a result of Asian crime syndicates moving away from the poppy fields into the more profitable business of amphetamine manufacture and distribution. I guess all the Howard government’s rhetoric is just a ploy to gain votes in an election year.

I personally would rather see the funding going into research, only because the treatment of addiction is statistically an abysmal proposition. At best what we as a community can hope for, is a 10 to 15 percent success rate out of any treatment method and those figures are highly optimistic. If we are to fund the treatment of addictive disorders then I’d like to see the a good proportion of this funding in alternate approaches to addiction treatment, alternatives like SMART Recovery. The mental health services, which is the front line is in the battle with crystal Methamphetamine could do with a significant boost from this allotted election bribe as the most dangerous affect of amphetamine use is psychosis. It would be a pity and seem like a waste of funds if the greater proportion of 80 million dollars were only available to prop up existing rehabilitation centres that are affiliated with traditional 12 Step therapy which is arguably non treatment. We’d be fooling ourselves if we believe that a system that coerces substances abusers into treatment programs that promote 12 Step philosophy as the only way to treat addictive disorders will benefit the community in a significant way. Some not so favourable insights into into the effectiveness of 12 Step treatment can be found in the Orange Papers, it is compelling reading for anyone interested in the treatment of addiction. Wasting funding on drug diversion programs such the drug court is in my opinion tax dollars going down the drain. No one can force a person into sobriety so sending criminals to rehab is not going to have any significant impact on the successful treatment outcomes of these individuals.

It is an ineffectual use of resources that could be better spent in the long term on developing policy that decriminalises substance abuse and promotes real education rather than half baked educative programs that depict some misinformed sensationalist message aimed at political votes rather than useful information on harm reduction and prevention. Spending more money in social services and mental health will be a better instrument in fighting addiction rather than passing the buck into a no responsibility hands in the air rehabilitation system that has essentially no better outcomes than no treatment at all.

I can see why the government is happy with their system, it is a system that requires a minimalist expenditure in a short sighted vision. If the addicts are passed into a system that perpetuates for the most part 12 Step self help and away from relatively expensive professional therapy the costs seem an advantage. Voters aren’t going to be happy if the government supports a program of professional help for what the community at large sees as a moral failing. However the costs are a misleading when one considers the high relapse rates of addicts and consequential hospital admissions with further detoxes and rehabs and damage that relapses often incur. Ultimately the tax payer dishes out for these failures and it is swept under the cover of yet more treatment through coercion.

The cost adds up and it may be time that we voters seriously began to look a little deeper than an added 150 million dollars.

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