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Doctors have criticised state and federal governments over their new drug policy blueprint, accusing them of putting too much emphasis on methamphetamine and not enough on a much more damaging and deadly substance: alcohol.
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The n Medical Association says the recently released National Drug Strategy – which sets out the official approach to preventing and minimising drug harm over the next 10 years – focuses too much on the so-called “ice epidemic”.

Ahead of the Wednesday release of a new AMA position paper on substance abuse and behavioural addictions, Michael Gannon, the president of the doctors’ association, has described the government strategy as “disappointing”.

Photos: Supplied (left) and Arsineh Houspia.

“[It] again lists methamphetamine as the highest priority substance for , despite the strategy noting that only 1.4 per cent of ns over the age of 14 had ever tried the drug,” Dr Gannon said.

“The strategy also notes that alcohol is associated with 5000 deaths and more than 150,000 hospitalisations each year – yet the strategy puts it as a lower priority than ice.

“The government must focus on those dependencies and addictions that cause the greatest harm, including alcohol, regardless of whether some substances are more socially acceptable than others,” Dr Gannon said.

Dr Gannon is also critical that the updated strategy did not come with any new funding commitments from state or federal governments.

The AMA’s new position statement says substance abuse is widespread across , and dependence and addiction often lead to death or disability in patients – yet support and treatment services are “severely under-resourced”. It calls for a “major change in funding priorities from policing and prosecution of substance users to interventions that avoid or reduce use, promote resilience, and reduce societal harms”.

It supports responses that address underlying causes and exacerbating factors such as social isolation, exclusion, poverty, discrimination, criminalisation and poor education.

It says substance dependence and behavioural addictions are chronic brain diseases and people affected by them should be treated like any other patient with a serious illness.

Dr Gannon says the costs of untreated dependence and addictions – estimated at $36 billion a year – are “staggering”.

People affected are more likely to have physical and mental health concerns, and their finances, careers, education, and personal relationships can all suffer. Left unaddressed, the broader community effects include reduced employment and productivity, increased healthcare costs, reliance on social welfare, increased criminal activity and higher rates of incarceration.Research this weekfound the number of methamphetamine-related deaths had doubled in between 2009 and 2015.

The analysis found 1649 deaths linked to ice, with overdose only accounting for 43 per cent. The study published in the journal Addiction found another 40 per cent of deaths linked to ice, speed and other stimulant drugs were from so-called “natural disease” – most notably heart disease and stroke – or uncharacteristically violent methods of suicide.

DRUG USE IN AUSTRALIAAbout 8 million ns have used an illicit substanceNearly 3 million have used one in the past 12 months16 per cent of people reported consuming 11 or more standard alcoholic drinks on a single occasionAbout 2 per cent of people reported having used methamphetamines in the past yearAbout 4.7 per cent of people reported having misused a prescription drug in the past 12 monthsAt least 115,000 ns who were seriously harmed by gambling and another 280,000 were at significant risk

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