A statement by the ANCD
In response to the report recently released by The Australia Institute titled Drug Law Reform – Beyond Prohibition, the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) would like to add and reiterate the following information to better inform the debate on drug policy in Australia.
According to the latest National Household Survey on Drug Use in 2004 the number of people who used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months has continued to decrease since 1998:
- In 1998 over 20% of people reported having used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months.
- In 2001 around 17% of people reported having used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months.
- In 2004 just over 15% of people reported having used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months.
In regard to marijuana use a similar continual decline was reported:
- In 1998 over 17% of people reported having used cannabis in the previous 12 months.
- In 2001 just under 13% of people reported having used cannabis in the previous 12 months.
- In 2004 just over 11% of people reported having used cannabis in the previous 12 months.
Other information from the 2004 National Household Survey on Drug Use and other reports shows that:
- The average age of people trying illicit drugs for the first time increased from 18.6yrs in 2001 to 19.4yrs in 2004.
- Since 1998 the level of recent heroin use in Australia has decreased from 0.8% of the population aged over 14 years to 0.2%.
- The level of fatal heroin related overdoses in Australia has declined from a peak of over 1,100 people in 1999 to less than 400 today.
- The level of HIV amongst Australian injecting drug users – estimated to be between 1% - 2% is one of the lowest in the world.
Australia’s National Drug Strategy encompasses a balanced approach of supply, demand and harm reduction initiatives. Since 1998 there has been an additional $1.4 billion of Federal funding allocated to address drug and alcohol problems in Australia, with a substantial amount of this funding being provided for the Illicit Drug Diversion Initiative which seeks to divert drug users from the criminal justice system to the drug treatment system. It has also been estimated by the ANCD that at least 50% of this additional funding is being used to provide education, prevention and treatment services for drug users.
The new chair of the ANCD, Dr John Herron stated: "Balancing the need for law enforcement that is tough and effective against those that profit from illicit drugs with the compassion needed for those dependent on drugs is a complex task. Review and evaluation of our approach should always be the key in our endeavours to achieve this right balance. However, we must always take into account all the evidence in reaching any judgement, indeed many lives depend on our ability to get this right."
6 March 2006
The ANCD is the principal advisory body to Government on drug and alcohol issues.
For further information, please contact:
Dr John Herron (ANCD Chair)
0410 369 151
Mr Gino Vumbaca (ANCD Executive Officer)
0408 244 55