The Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs

Doctors from the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD) strongly oppose the Federal Government’s Welfare Reform Bill and its planned drug testing ‘trial’ for welfare recipients.

Chair of the APSAD Medical Special Interest Group, Dr Tony Gill, said the ‘trial’ will harm the health of people who use drugs, and waste a great deal of money that could be far better spent on providing voluntary treatment.

“Our Group represents addiction medicine specialists, general practitioners, psychiatrists and other doctors in the APSAD membership,” said Dr Gill, who is APSAD Vice President/President-Elect and has worked as a specialist in the alcohol and other drugs field for more than 25 years.

“As medical practitioners who work with patients with drug and alcohol-related problems, we are very clear that the drug testing ‘trial’ as currently planned is unworkable for numerous reasons.

  • The ‘trial’ is not supported by any scientific evidence, medical groups have not been consulted and have had no input into it, and it is widely opposed by relevant experts

  • Similar attempts have been found to be costly and/or unworkable in New Zealand, Canada, the USA and UK

  • The cost will be considerable, with few, if any, benefits

  • The ‘trial’ may result in people with significant health problems having reduced, or  in some cases no, access to income

  • The ‘trial’ will further widen the Gap of Health status for Aboriginal people

  • A ‘trial’ cannot be relevant to many parts of the nation as there are many areas, including rural and regional ones, with very few drug and alcohol services as well as  poor access to pathology services

  • Already there are not enough drug and alcohol services available in Australia to provide access to treatment for people who need them. Many people who currently want treatment face long waiting periods. This will be made worse by automatically referring

    in a whole lot of people who don’t need specialist treatment under the proposed ‘trial’
  • Some APSAD members believe the trial is unethical and may decide to refuse to participate.

“Problematic drug use should be treated as a health problem, not a reason for increasing stigma and reducing access to welfare,” Dr Gill said.

 “The causes of drug problems in individuals are complex. Effective treatment for people with drug problems and support for their families is the right approach, not increasing stigma towards people who use drugs. 

“The Federal Government’s planned ‘trial’ of drug testing for people receiving welfare payments is a bad idea.

“It makes no sense to spend so much money unnecessarily on something that doesn’t work,

when we know that treatment services are already chronically underfunded.

“This scheme would either rely on cheap tests that are inaccurate, in order to save money, or spend exorbitant costs on high quality yet still inconclusive testing.

“Furthermore, there is no evidence that it will actually assist people to get back to work,” he said.

 

Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD)www.apsad.org.au

The Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugsis the Asia Pacific's leading multidisciplinary organisation for professionals involved in the alcohol and other drug field. APSAD is dedicated to:

  • promoting evidence-based improvements in the treatment and prevention of drug and alcohol-related problems
  • raising awareness about the problems related to the use of alcohol and other drugs
  • promoting best standards in research in the drug and alcohol field
  • providing development and support to professionals working in the drug and alcohol field. 

Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee’s inquiry into Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017

APSAD is closely involved with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), particularly with its Australasian Chapter of Addiction Medicine (AChAM).

APSAD formally supports the RACP’s submission to the Senate inquiry, which strongly opposes the measures contained in schedules 12, 13 and 14 of the Bill and urges they not be pursued. 

www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Community_Affairs/WelfareReform/Submissions