A former ice addict from Wagga has backed medical – not criminal – treatment of drug users.
It comes after The Greens declared the war on drugs a loss and promoted a shift away from treating addicts like criminals in favour of drug and alcohol rehabilitation and harm minimisation techniques.
Budding social worker Jay Morris – who splurged $700-per-day on ice – claimed incarceration is the worst possible way to deal with people who are potentially homeless, suicidal and violent.
He said fear and stigma are only worsening the epidemic.
“The biggest challenge for users and abusers is to reintegrate themselves into a normal community,” he said.
“If they are locked up in prison, that becomes very difficult.”
After overcoming two years of extreme ice abuse that forced him to undergo an operation to repair one of his heart-valves, Mr Morris believes all addicts can turn their lives around.
“The worst thing we can do is make people feel like they’re beyond help and doomed,” he said.
“Nobody gets out of bed and looks forward to shooting up – it’s a horrible cycle.
“People need help and direction, not punishment.”
Official NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics reveal the Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment (MERIT) program – also referred to as drug court – reduces the risk of reconviction for a further offence.
MERIT deals with drug users by using programs, recovery courses and rehabilitation.
Wagga police commander, Superintendent Bob Noble, said the initiative was worthwhile.
“If addicts undertake rehabilitation, it can keep them out of jail,” Superintendent Noble said.
“If they can reform and get on with their life, that’s a better outcome than incarceration.”
Police have arrested 113 people in the Wagga municipality for possession of amphetamines in the 12 months to June, as well as 268 for possessing pot and 19 party-goers were found with ecstasy pills.
“Cracking down on drugs is very resource-intensive, costs a lot of money and is inherently dangerous,” Superintendent Noble said.
Anyone who is struggling with drug addiction is urged to contact DirectLine on 1800 888 236.