Time is now to put addiction on election agenda

Posted on: Wednesday, 15 June 2016

A leading addiction expert is calling for drug and alcohol issues to be put on the Federal Election agenda, believing a clear national approach was needed to give hope to individuals and families struggling with addiction.

Turning Point Director Prof Dan Lubman said it was important that alcohol and drug addiction was treated just as importantly as other health issues.

“In Australia’s health system, treatment for cancer has advanced significantly, with strong support structures. However, for people battling addiction, the situation is complex and difficult to navigate.”

Prof Lubman said while 200,000 people receive alcohol and drug treatment in any one year across Australia, anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 people were missing out.

“Unlike the treatment of cancer and other major health disorders, we do not have in place a nationally consistent clinical approach to addiction. We lack a system which guides both the patient and health care provider through the journey to recovery.

“We know there are inadequacies in system provision, that gaining access can be confusing and challenging for someone in need of help, as well as their families, and that we have a workforce which varies in qualifications and capabilities in providing evidence-based treatment.”

Prof Lubman said Australia was at the crossroads when it came to drug treatment policy.  “We can choose to continue to pour money into a system that is broken, or we can embrace evidence-based treatments delivered through a world-class workforce.

“More funding and a greater focus on this issue is an important start, but without clear national guidelines and investment in a workforce that is equipped with evidence-based approaches, outcomes are unlikely to improve. We must give a national voice to those who have experienced recovery so that, akin to cancer, the community can feel that those experiencing addiction are not without hope, and that not only is recovery possible, it is the norm.”

Prof Lubman’s comments come as Turning Point hosts Christopher R Wilkins Sr, Founder and President Emeritus, Loyola Recovery Foundation, Pittsford, New York President, CHESS Mobile Health, Inc. at a special seminar on Thursday. Mr Wilkins topic for discussion is Leveraging Mobile Technology to Build Concurrent Addiction Recovery Monitoring and Relapse Prevention Capacity. Mr Wilkins believes in a more holistic approach to tackle addiction issues.

Professor Lubman and Mr Wilkins will also discuss the issues brought up by the Global Drug Survey in the context of Australia’s needs, and a call from St Vincent’s Health Australia for the Coalition, Labor and the Greens to sign up to reduce alcohol-related illness and injury in Australia by 20% by 2025.