History of Drug Misuse in Australia

Drug misuse has a long history in Australia, with the use of opium and other substances for recreational purposes dating back to the colonial era. In the 19th century, opium was widely used in Australia, both legally and illegally. This led to concerns about the negative effects of opium use on individuals and society, and in 1906 the government passed the Poisons Act, which aimed to control the sale and use of opium.

In the 1970s, there was a significant increase in heroin use in Australia, particularly among young people in urban areas. This led to a government crackdown on drug use and trafficking, including the implementation of strict laws and law enforcement efforts such as the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) in 1985. This campaign focused on reducing demand for illicit drugs through education and public awareness campaigns, as well as increasing the penalties for drug offenses.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a rise in the use of amphetamines and other stimulants, leading to further government action. The National Drug Strategy (NDS) was developed in 1985 and aimed to reduce the harm caused by drug use through a combination of supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction strategies.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of prescription drugs, particularly opioid painkillers, and concerns about their potential for misuse. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the number of deaths from opioid overdose in Australia has more than tripled between 2007 and 2018. Additionally, there has been a rise in the use of synthetic drugs, such as “ice” (crystal methamphetamine), and concerns about their impact on users and communities.

Overall, the history of drug misuse in Australia has been marked by ongoing efforts to address the problem through a combination of law enforcement, education, and treatment. The National Drug Strategy 2010-2015, the National Ice Action Strategy and the National Action Plan on Ice and Other Stimulants are examples of the government plans to tackle the drug misuse problem. The Australian government also provides funding to various organizations and community groups to provide education, treatment, and support services to people affected by drug misuse.


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