Addiction Treatment in Australia

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”ADDICTION TREATMENT IN AUSTRALIA” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]In the recent years, the number of people who require addiction treatment in Australia has doubled yet the facilities available are not enough. Each year in Australia, 200,000 people receive treatment for alcohol and drug problems. According to the University of New South Wales 2014 National Drug and Alcohol Research Center, between 200,000 and 500,000 people in Australia require treatment each year.

Australia’s National Drug Strategy recommends the minimization approach when providing treatment. This approach seeks to reduce the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs to the user although it isn’t a requirement that they stop taking the drugs immediately.

The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) recommends the following methods of treatment to drug users depending on their level of addiction, duration of use and assistance they need; withdrawal, counselling, rehabilitation, pharmacotherapy, peer support, social support, family support and complementary therapies. Withdrawal treatment offered seeks to stop the user from using alcohol and other drugs while minimizing unpleasant symptoms and any risks that can harm the user.

Pharmacotherapy is another treatment method where the user substitutes their drug of use with another drug that is legal and measured in prescribed doses. The alternative drug prescribed has similar effects with the harmful drug they use. However, the prescribed drug takes away the cravings over time. Some of the common drugs used as alternatives in Australia are methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine and are used for treatment of opioid dependence. It is worth noting that this form of treatment in Australia can only be used for specific drugs but not all.

Counselling is the most common method used for drug treatment in Australia. Majority of treatment centers seek to change thinking patterns of drug users by talking to them and making them learn new methods of approaching difficulties. Counselling is provided in several treatment centers like outpatient centers, inpatient centers, clinics and hospitals. Counselling is provided either in a group set up or to an individual. In Australia, the National Council on Drugs encourages counselling to be provided in the presence of family and loved ones.

Treatment and management options are minimal and least advanced when it comes to treatment for ice. In Australia, many people are moving to other parts of the world mainly Thailand, to get treatment there. A substitute drug for methamphetamines isn’t available in Australia compared to methadone that is easily available to opioid users.

According to the researchers at Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Services, the pharmaceutical treatment options for ice are highly undeveloped and the options of treating ice users are limited. These included detoxification, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and residential care which are not as effective since there were many cases of relapse.

According to the 2010 United Nations Drug Report, Australia ranks third for amphetamines use in the world and it was estimated that 2.1 percent of the population used it in 2010. The United Nations Drug Report of 2013 reported that amphetamine use quadrupled from 2011 to 2012 from 426 kilograms to 2268 kilograms. The number of people that were seeking treatment for amphetamine as the primary drug within this period increased two to three times according to the Medical Journal of Australia.

According to the Pennington Institute, the methods being used for treating amphetamine use are not effective since there are high relapse rates. The health sector and other stake holders have been researching on more effective ways of treating amphetamine use.

Heroin is the most common drug of choice for injecting drug users. According to a Survey done by Odyssey House, one in three clients admitted to rehabilitation are addicted to heroin. Majority of heroin users in Australia are treated with pharmacological treatment. There are few non pharmacological treatment options for heroin. The greatest challenge that faces pharmacological treatment options is that not all heroin users respond to them positively and having fewer non pharmacological options and even fewer that have reported success according to the Medical Journal of Australia have made drug users desperate and these people don’t have anywhere to go.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey of 2013 showed that heroin use levels fell low among users that stayed in treatment. It fell much lower among users that spent a longer time in treatment. Residential treatment is the most successful form of treatment when it comes to heroin treatment in Australia and it leads to reduction of deaths and infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Detoxification for heroin users is mostly provided in residential centers although in recent years, outpatient centers have also started providing similar treatment. However, individuals with a strong family support system and who are able to get a new environment are the ones who are encouraged to get detoxification in outpatient centers.

The most common drug used for detoxification in Australia is clonidine. This drug is helpful in reducing withdrawal and distressing symptoms once the drug user stops using heroin. Clonidine is prescribed along other oral drugs that aim to relieve the patient off pain and distress. Some of the drugs that are combined with clonidine include paracetamol to relieve bone pain, loperamide or diphenoxylate to control diarrhea and hyoscine that controls abnominal cramps.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia recommends that heroin users under treatment should take clonidine in doses and they shouldn’t stop taking it abruptly since it can lead to rebound hypertension. Relapse is high for heroin drug users who have undergone detoxification and treatment is recommended to follow suit.

Methadone is commonly used in Australia for opioid use and research has shown that it is the most effective method of treatment since it leads to reduced drug use, it’s able to prevent drug overdose and reduce infections such as HIV and hepatitis. With methadone treatment, the patient can go to a pharmacy or clinic every day for several weeks and get treatment. The treatment is cost effective and in Australia the rates for success according to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey of 2013 are as high as 60 percent. 85 percent of the drug users who go to methadone treatment stay for treatment for 12 months. Those that stay in the treatment for a longer period have higher success rates for treatment. However, many conservative groups in Australia are against methadone treatment since they argue its replacing one drug of dependence with another. Regular patients require a dose of 60 to 100 milligrams in a day. Better results have been achieved among patients who are older or who are receiving subsequent treatment. Intervention programs for methamphetamine users before they turn into heavy users lack funding and aftercare support services are minimal. Some of the common non-pharmacological treatments include outpatient counselling, residential rehabilitation and self-help groups such as alcoholics anonymous.


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