Enhancing the Criminal Court Response to Substance Misuse: an Evidence and Practice Briefing (Drug Court Effectiveness)
Records broken at Australian-first drug treatment prison
Australia’s first Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Prison for women has celebrated two years of operation with a rate of return to prison of less than one per cent so far.
This is virtually unprecedented for any prison in Australia with a national average of 46 per cent.
Wandoo Rehabilitation Prison was introduced by the McGowan Government as part of its comprehensive Methamphetamine Action Plan to try to reduce addiction-driven offending.
More than 100 women have graduated from the six-month intensive therapeutic program with just one woman returning to jail.
Some other prisoners have breached parole conditions but overall the Wandoo program is making a significant change in the women’s lives.
The facility was recently praised by the independent Inspector of Custodial Services as being like no other prison in Western Australia, and the transformation of the facility into a treatment prison was ‘a remarkable achievement’.
Wandoo was a privately run facility before it was returned to public hands in May 2018.
To the credit of the Department of Justice and program provider Cyrenian House, the prison was transformed in just a few months and started accepting prisoners who wanted to transform their lives.
The prison has remained drug-free in the entire two years of its operation, which is unheard of for any prison.
Wandoo runs a six-month community-based, therapeutic program, which involves participants facing up to their own truths about their drug addiction and addressing psychological and emotional issues.
As stated by Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan: “When we started Wandoo as part of the McGowan Government’s Methamphetamine Action Plan, I had high hopes for what could be achieved. “But the results after just two years are simply remarkable.
“At the recent two-year anniversary celebration we heard from former Wandoo prisoner Tory who said she had been in and out of jail since she was 19 and never expected it to change.
“But after completing the Wandoo program and facing some really tough truths, she has turned her life around and has been living a fully productive life on the outside for the last year.
“She has a job and savings, but just as importantly a fantastic sense of achievement and faith in herself to keep doing the right thing.
Removing memories associated with morphine use from the brains of mice enables Stanford researchers to prevent relapse and could point to a new approach for treating the opioid epidemic…Both the reward of the drug “high” and the alleviation of agonizing withdrawal symptoms can serve as powerful memory cues that trigger drug cravings and lead to relapse. As a result, Chen said his lab treats drug addiction as a memory problem…The scientists call this silencing of the PVT pathway “erasure” because the drug-associated memory is effectively erased from the brain.
In recent decades the range and patterns of opioids used for extra-medical purposes have changed. The use of pharmaceutical opioids exceeds the use of heroin. In 2017, 63 percent of opioid deaths were attributed exclusively to pharmaceutical opioids, 28 percent to illicit opioids and 8 percent to both illicit and pharmaceutical opioids (aged 15-64 years).
The objective of this report was to estimate the social costs arising from extra-medical opioid use in Australia for the financial year 2015/16. Due to data limitations in most cases we only estimated the costs occurring in this 12-month period. For example, on-going care of chronic conditions was not included. The exceptions to this were for certain harms which occurred in 2015/16 but which had longer-term ramifications, for example premature deaths, where discounted streams of future costs (lost economic activity and lost contributions to household chores) and partially offsetting savings (future health expenditure ’avoided’ by premature deaths) were estimated. The authors also included the long-term costs of road traffic accidents, as were the expected future costs of opioid attributable imprisonment for those sentenced in 2015/16.
For complete report go to APO - Quantifying the social costs of pharmaceutical opioid misuse
Policy Reflection – Dalgarno Institute: The misuse of OST (Opioid Substitute Treatments) or MAT (Medically Assisted Treatments) or any other pharmaceutical displacement mechanism that does not have a sunset clause to usage, will continue to be a major contributor to both morbidity and mortality. This can either occur over a longer time simply due to the toxic nature of persistent opioid use on the human biological unit; or short term, by direct misuse of the legal opioid for ‘recreational’ or self-harming purposes, by either the client or their network.
This growing issue continues to be overlooked or deliberately discounted by certain sectors. Which means that this, arguably well-meaning, but poorly implemented ‘harm reduction’ mechanism continues to add to the drug using cohort and the increasing harms this ‘pairing’ collectively bring.
The net result of a no-exit, perpetual use of opioids, whether licit or illicit, only causes harm, the very thing the policy pillar was supposed to reduce.
If sunset clauses and exit strategies are not harnessed to these chemical mechanisms, then we will only see these harms grow, along with an ever-burgeoning pressure and cost to the health-care system. This is not best practice health care, and no longer rates as a positive ‘net community benefit’ economic rationale either.
Reducing drug use is the primary objective of the National Drug Strategy, and in both its intent and specifics does not promote, or we would argue, condone this policy and people failing measure.
Drug use exiting recovery is not only possible, but consistently achieved when actively facilitated in its best practice format too.
We will leave you with a very provocative quote (now 14 years old) but perhaps even more relevant today? A statement that could have only been published then, but with the ‘cancel culture outrage’ in play at present, may well be ignored now and for the very reasons it confronts.
“The medical profession and the addicted community have a complex, symbiotic, mutually dependent relationship that does none of us any good. Basically, they pretend to be ill and we pretend to treat them. And thousands of public employees make a good living out of it. Prescribing for opiate addicts is like throwing petrol on a fire; pointless, counterproductive, stupid, self-defeating. And yet we keep doing it.”
Dr Phil Peverley, PULSE, 22 June 2006