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Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy: Joint Communique, 15th December 2006

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Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy Joint Communique 15th December 2006

The Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy (MCDS), the peak national policy and decision-making body for licit and illicit drugs, met in Sydney today to consider national drug issues. The Council comprises the Australian Government and State and Territory Health and Law Enforcement Ministers, including Justice and Police Ministers and the Australian Government Minister for Education. The New Zealand Government is also represented on the MCDS.

Today's meeting was chaired by the Hon John Hatzistergos MLC, Minister for Health, New South Wales.

Issues discussed by the Ministers included:

Drug Terminology

Led by South Australia, Ministers agreed to the adoption of a strategy that all jurisdictions notify their government agencies, and the organisations in receipt of government funding, of the preference not to use language that glamorises or promotes the use of drugs (such as the terms “recreational” and “party”) to describe drugs or drug use - in public statements, correspondence and reports. These requirements do not apply retrospectively.

The development of a National Amphetamine-Type Stimulant Strategy

Ministers noted the resolutions of yesterday’s Leadership Forum on Ice and received an update on the development of a National Amphetamine-Type Stimulant (ATS) Strategy which is being undertaken with the assistance of Professor Steve Allsop, Director of the National Drug Research Institute, in partnership with Dr Toni Makkai, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. To be funded by the Commonwealth government, Professor Allsop has provided a comprehensive and appropriate proposal that follows the model used in developing previous strategies. It is expected that the final draft National ATS Strategy will be provided to the MCDS for consideration at its November 2007 meeting. It will focus on prevention, reduction of supply, reduction of drug use and related harms, improved access to quality treatment, development of workforce, organisations and system, strengthening partnerships and identification and responses to emerging trends.

Ministers also agreed in principle to the proposed Law Enforcement Component of the National ATS Strategy 2006-2009 as a framework for a coordinated, integrated response to reducing drug-related harm in Australia. It would be considered in the development of the National ATS Strategy.

National Clandestine Laboratory Database

Ministers supported the development of the National Clandestine Laboratory Database to be hosted within the Australian Crime Commission which will significantly enhance law enforcement intelligence. It will assist in clandestine

laboratory detection and identifying trends in illicit drug manufacture on a national basis.

Neuroscience - emerging approaches for dealing with addictions.

Led by the NSW government, Ministers acknowledged the potential for neuroscience to provide new insight into the drivers of substance abuse and addiction and to possibly inform more effective prevention, education and treatment responses. For many drug addicts the most effective treatment to date is substitution therapy and a long term maintenance approach. Ministers noted that using neuroscience to identify biological drivers of addiction, it may be possible to develop “cures” which can directly correct the brain adaptation and reverse the motivation to use drugs. Such approaches may include:

• cognition enhancers to reactivate control and break the addiction cycle, • vaccines to stop the euphoric effect of drugs (which is being developed for tobacco, and, • psychoactive medication to “unlearn” addiction and “repair” the brain

adaptation caused by the drug.

Ministers agreed to monitor neuroscience advancements, noting also the field of genetics and mapping of the human genome may enable identification of individuals at risk of addiction and assist in the development of preventive measure to stop the uptake and use of drugs.

Use of amphetamines by long distance truck drivers

Ministers noted that the NSW government had established an interagency taskforce to combat the use of stimulants in the industry and agreed that amphetamine use by truck drivers is an issue of concern for all states and territories with trucking routes. Stimulant use in the transport industry, particularly in long distance truck driving, has long been recognised as a matter requiring attention and action. A recently commissioned report by the University of NSW - Predictors of the Use of Stimulants by Drivers in Long Distance Road Transport - identified use of stimulants for fatigue management to counter economic and organisational pressures as a prevalent issue within the long distance road transport industry. Ministers requested that the NSW taskforce report to and work with the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs (IGCD) and the Intergovernmental Committee on Transport/Road Safety Council to progress any recommendations for national or interjurisdictional action, as approaches to fatigue management and stimulant use need to be coordinated and consistent across jurisdictions.

Responsible Service of Alcohol on Cruise Ships

Ministers expressed concern over responsible service of alcohol on cruise ships, acknowledging the complexities for cruise ships in complying with varying state and territory liquor laws and responsible service of alcohol requirements. In addition, as cruise ships are often only in Australian waters for a limited period of time, it is

difficult to require or enforce licensing systems and responsible service of alcohol requirements. However, Ministers were concerned that the current NSW coronial inquest into the death of a cruise ship passenger has revealed alleged levels of alcohol and drug related anti-social behaviour on some cruise ships which raises concerns about the safety of Australian citizens aboard. Ministers agreed to seek advice from

the Commonwealth Attorney General’s department and refer this issue to the IGCD for further work, including investigating the outcomes of moves by the Ministerial Council on Gambling which is looking at the related issue of gaming on cruise ships in international waters.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Ministers heard a presentation by Professor Elizabeth Elliot on the findings of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Working Party. FASD has been an issue of concern for the MCDS since 2004. At its meeting in November 2004, the MCDS agreed that the IGCD should advise Ministers of developments in Australia and overseas in regard to FASD and to identify best practice approaches to reduce the incident of FASD, particularly in Indigenous communities. Chaired by Mr Keith Evans, Executive Director of Drug and Alcohol Services in South Australia, the FASD Working Party has been working on issues including approaches for women who are pregnant or might soon become pregnant to be included in the review being undertaken by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of the Australian Alcohol Guidelines on alcohol and pregnancy; documenting the policies of

English speaking countries on alcohol and pregnancy; undertaking audits of Australian states and territories and overseas models in relation to FASD; convening a national education workshop in mid-2007, and publication of a National Drug Strategy monograph to report the findings of the Working Party. Ministers also noted that New Zealand has lodged an application to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to require health advisory labels warning of the risks of FASD on alcohol products. Ministers noted that considerable progress is being made by the Working Party on all of its identified priorities.

Indigenous Alcohol and Other Drug National Train the Trainer Programme Stage 1

The MCDS endorsed the report of State 1 of this programme. The Commonwealth government will support funding for Stage 2, which is currently underway, of over $2.3 million. Stage 2 will support the capacity of states and territories to deliver nationally recognised and culturally secure alcohol and drug training to the alcohol and drug Indigenous workforce.

Media contact: Kay McNiece, Media Adviser, MCDS, 0412 132 5