July 16th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY 2016 election: Malcolm makes allies malcontents

CANBERRA OBSERVED Electorate shock: PM touches reality's live wire

WA BUSHFIRE INQUIRY Ferguson report a beauty, but now the fight begins

AGRICULTURE Sweet success for farmers in Queensland sugar market


ECONOMICS Ignore scaremongers; Britannia rules apply

PUBLIC POLICY WA Meth Strategy 2016 a most welcome first step

EUTHANASIA Measure of success of Dutch tests will be death

HIGHER EDUCATION Trigger warnings: an infantile tyranny

FREE SPEECH From disagreement to discrimination: section 18C, Part 2

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY Middle Kingdom brings eternal Now down under

MUSIC Weighing up sounds and silence in John Tavener

CINEMA Memory, self and family: Finding Dory

BOOK REVIEW Mao Maoing a culture

ERICH VON MANSTEIN: Hitler's Master Strategist

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Meth Strategy 2016 a most welcome first step

by Charles Slack

News Weekly, July 16, 2016

Methamphetamine use is now an epidemic with debilitating and destructive consequences for individuals and society. And Western Australia has the highest incidence of meth use of any state in the nation.


So, the West Australian Government is to be commended for fully acknowledging the crisis in its Meth Strategy 2016.


The strategy focuses on treatment and rehabilitation, as well as supply disruption and prevention. Premier Colin Barnett says the Government is committed to “fighting the meth scourge”.

Supply and demand

By all indications the illegal supply to and consumption of methamphetamine in Western Australia have increased alarmingly. The number of drug labs producing meth in the state has decreased but the amount of product imported from overseas has increased. Smuggled imports now exceed local manufactures.

Therefore, WA Police has developed a Meth Enforcement Action Plan to reduce illegal supply by improved search of transport vehicles, greater cooperation between agencies, specialised meth teams within the Organised Crime Squad and improved roadside drug testing.

The state strategy for reducing demand focuses on extra support for the Mental Health Commission and for treatment and rehabilitation services. Extra millions will be spent on extra treatment beds and other aspects of residential and community-based treatment. The statewide network of Community Alcohol and Drug Services (CADS) will also receive extra millions.

Initiatives of the strategy include:


  • The establishment of a new specialist meth clinic.

  • The employment of more drug-support nurses at hospital emergency departments.

  • The establishment of a dedicated State Ice Hotline.

  • The development of a model involuntary treatment program.



The Mental Health Commission and the Department of Education are developing meth-specific education programs. These include a school “meth awareness pack” and resources for school staff, such as a dedicated online resource portal, an online professional development module and statewide professional development workshops.

School curriculum improvements will include drug-awareness education from Year 6 to Year 10.

Since a large proportion of the WA prison population have substance-abuse issues, the Department of Corrections will spend an extra $5.6 million this year on intervention and treatment, including Court Assessment and Treatment Services (CATS); Breaking OUT, a community-based program; the Pathway Program employing Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT); and the PAST Program for repeat offenders.

So at last the Government is really trying to have a genuine impact on the crisis in methamphetamine use, abuse and addiction. What a relief! But …

Nothing is actually wrong with the strategy but it has shortcomings.

1 While rightly focused on the evils of methamphetamine use, the strategy lacks emphasis on the benefits of sobriety and the positive value of accurate perception of reality. Upon taking methamphetamines for the first time, the user is likely to think: “They lied! There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s exciting. No harm in a bit of a thrill.”

What needs to be taught at this point is that life is all about reality! The benefits of sobriety need promoting. Everybody knows drugs are supposed to be bad. Everybody does not know that a “clean brain” is good, and necessary to experience real life. Unfortunately the word “sober” has a bad reputation. Continue to tell the truth about methamphetamines – but also promote the truth about sobriety and reality.

2 The strategy supports treatment of various kinds but says nothing about enduring after-care fellowships necessary to prevent relapse. Treatment alone without follow-through support group programs has a notoriously high relapse rate.

Of course I am not suggesting that treatment be abandoned just because it is so often unsuccessful but it is what happens after treatment that causes treatment to be successful. The solution to the meth problem resides in successful support of all forms of after-care that promote and maintain abstinence.

3 No attention is paid to highly successful NGO programs and fellowships such as Twelve Step programs, secular groups and religious societies. Non-professional fellowships and organisations that promote abstinence in members are just as important in solving the drug crisis as are professional treatments.

Not that the Government should financially support these ventures, but the Government can help maintain NGO effectiveness in other ways. Narcotics Anonymous, for example, is always in need of venues for meetings. Lack of cheap meeting places limits its growth.

4 Self-help and self-supporting groups sometimes feel that the Government is actually opposed to their efforts. Even though financial/political support is impossible, ethical support should not be denied to self-help groups and similar programs.

Charles Slack, PhD in Psychology, Princeton (1954), was an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology, Harvard (1955–60). “Research” into then-legal hallucinogenic drugs led to abuse, addiction and career decline in the 1960s and 1970s. As of this writing, Dr Slack has been totally abstinent from all mind/mood altering drugs and alcohol for over 40 years and writes from his experience in helping others to recover from substance abuse and addiction.

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