Trade workers and those in the hospitality industry are among the biggest users of the drug ice in the workforce, an analysis of national drug data has revealed.
The figures also show that while unemployed people in percentage terms were more likely to use the drug ice than those with jobs, there were many more ice users in the workplace than the unemployment queue. Flinders University drug and alcohol expert Dr Ken Pidd analysed data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey and spoke about the findings at a methamphetamine symposium in Melbourne today. Dr Pidd found there was ice use among all occupations, but it was more prevalent in some fields.
"Tradespersons, blue-collar workers, people who work in industries such as construction, mining, manufacturing and hospitality are the main industry and occupational groups with higher prevalence levels," he said. "2.3 per cent of the workforce have used methamphetamine at least once in the last 12 months, and that equates to about 230,000 people," he said. "That compares with about 5.6 per cent of unemployed people who have used, which only equates to about 50,000 people."
Workplace drug testing alone 'the worst way to go'
As the National Ice Taskforce prepares to report its interim findings to Prime Minister Tony Abbott mid-year, Dr Pidd said overlooking the use of drugs in the workforce would be a mistake.
"I would argue that the workplace is an ideal intervention setting due to those large numbers of drug users that are employed," he said. But he warned any attempt to address ice use in the workplace must go beyond drug testing and focus on early intervention. "Introducing drug testing as a standalone strategy was probably the worst way to go," he said. "Instead of changing behaviour to reduce any risk due to drug use, it can change behaviour to avoid detection, without reducing the risk to drug use."
Professor Richard Murray, Dean of the National College of Medicine at James Cook University and a member of the National Ice Taskforce, provided the symposium with an update on the taskforce's progress. Professor Murray said he hoped to see new ways to address the ice problem at a local level, involving effective policing and frontline health services.
"At the level of the local is I think a really vital aspect of the work that the taskforce and governments — all of governments in Australia — can help eliminate," he said.
Ice strategy must tackle abuse of other drugs
The symposium was organised by the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University. Its director, Professor Ann Roche, warned that a national strategy which focused just on one drug could miss the mark.
"Methamphetamine needs to be seen in conjunction with the range of other substances that people are using," she said. "People who use methamphetamine pretty much always use other drugs as well. So it's not simply a focus on methamphetamine that's required, it's a focus on people who have problems and problems with drugs."
The National Ice Taskforce begins community consultations in Mount Gambier in South Australia's south-east later this week and is due to report interim findings to the Prime Minister by the middle of this year.
Questions raised over Government's confronting ice campaign
As well as launching an ice taskforce, the Government also funded a series of confronting new television advertisements that show the effect of ice on drug users. The graphic campaign depicts a mother being bashed and robbed by her drug-addled son, a woman who believes bugs are crawling under her skin and a man who goes berserk and attacks hospital staff. The campaign cost $9 million and will air for six weeks.
But one expert, who had previously questioned the effectiveness of similar campaign in the United States, believes the hard hitting approach of the Australian campaign may miss the mark.
"From what I've seen so far, the Australian ads look very similar to those that are run in America over the past few years, so I'm sceptical that they'll be effective," Australian mental health researcher at the University of Western Australia, David Erceg-Hurn said.
Source: ABC News