Dole plan for ice users fraught, says Alice NGO


Sir – Scott Morrison, the Minister for Social Services, on Channel 7 this morning announced that the Government is considering taking ‘Ice’ users off welfare.
Such an action, as a part of a response, does not accurately address the issues.
What are we referring to when we talk about ‘Ice’? This is the name used for the purest form of Methamphetamine (Meth) and one which is so expensive that it could never be sustained by the use of welfare payments.
It is our understanding that actual ‘Ice’ users are more likely to be those who are reasonably well off or those who already use crime to supplement their habit.
If we are referring to Meth in general, in its various forms it can be obtained quite cheaply or made with ingredients readily available over the counter.
The word ‘Meth’ should probably be used when describing the increase of drug use impacting on our communities. How would we identify users of Meth?
According to social media comments, the general public supports a drug testing regime before Centrelink payments are made. This leaves Centrelink, a Commonwealth agency, in the situation of undertaking such tests and then dealing with what that reveals, which could be very unreliable data.
A urine sample from a Meth user can be clear a very short time after the drug was taken. A person can stop using the drug (depending on usage) for a few days before Centrelink testing and not be detected at all.
Many drugs are difficult to detect and they have very different time frames for simple forms of detection.
On the other hand, marijuana can remain in the system (once again depending on usage) for several months after cessation of use.
So how, without a control test in the initial stages of testing, do we determine usage when there is no data to compare it with?
Popular statements or those uttered to appease the general population are understandable but must be thought through.
It also needs to be understood that addicts with children and who are on welfare, still for the most part, feed their children. We have to be very careful not to put more innocent children in jeopardy in order to punish parents with an addiction.
There also seems to be a call for mandatory rehab for users.
The NT Government has already introduced a mandatory alcohol treatment program, which is enforced under certain circumstances.
This could possibly be extended to drug users. However it is far too soon to determine the success or failure of this treatment and until there is some firm evidence around this initiative, I would be cautious and reluctant to extend it to drug use.
There is significant evidence that indicates that a person who enters a rehab program of their own free will is more likely to succeed.
In DASA’s experience, a person addicted to alcohol, whilst often more difficult to “come down off” is less likely to suffer some of the more aggressive or paranoid type behaviours as that of certain other drug addictions.
We do find that even though we do take people coming down from Meth on a voluntary basis, they are much more challenging to manage as clients.
In larger numbers they could make life and treatment for other residents and staff much more difficult.
Also, should mandatory treatment for Meth or other drug addicts be introduced, organisations such as ours would require a higher funding base to take the greater numbers.
The alcohol and other drugs sector is already quite underfunded. We are all being asked to do more with less and to respond to what is described as a national crisis.
What this problem needs is the Government to draw on the expertise of those already working in the sector. They need to look at best practice overseas and locally and having done that, take some of the difficult decisions that may or may not be popular in order to deal with it.
There is no single answer. We need to look at supply, reasons for addiction, prevention, education and rehabilitation.
If we are serious about dealing with this situation, we need to stop making kneejerk statements and actually do something practical and lasting to address this problem in the long term.
Carole Taylor
CEO, Drug and Alcohol Services Association (DASA)
IMAGE: Drug pipe offered for sale on the web.


  1. For the most part, government funds and relies on NGOs to deliver community services. They also hope to obtain sensible program and policy-related advice in the NGO’s area of expertise.
    Putting aside the inevitable plea for more funding in the DASA CEO’s letter, what sensible input has she offered?
    (1) People on welfare can’t afford ice so Scott Morrison’s policy thought bubble is pointless. You can’t withhold welfare payments from people who aren’t on welfare;
    (2) Tests for recent ice usage are unreliable so what’s the point of testing.
    (3) Attempts to penalize the ice user have the unintended consequence of penalizing children and other dependents.
    (4) There’s no evidence mandatory treatment works, but users who voluntarily enter treatment seem to have better outcomes.
    If NT government funds paid to DASA include a component for policy advice, maybe it’s time to seek repayment of that amount.

  2. The Government would be wrong to withhold welfare payments of any drug users. As Carole states the wrong people are punished and crime will increase accordingly.
    There is already crime occurring because of the cost of it, tackle the manufacturers, the sellers and yes there are some “pillars of society” using this junk and they in turn employ drug addicts and so the erosion sets in.
    If the Government really wishes to curb the use of this and other substances maybe the drug testing should start with their own employees … at all levels and in all their institutions.

  3. No one on recreational drugs ever died from not getting drugs. That said, it can be difficult to give up.
    Meth is similar to heroin in the way it covers the nerves and as users stop using then the uncovering of the nerve points is very painful indeed.
    In the case of meth it also brings on acute paranoid psychosis, very difficult to deal with. I’d like to see those in power spending 24 hours with a patient instead of sleeping out for 24.
    But not getting it does not kill.
    The drugs themselves do, they kill indiscriminately, an overdose can occur when the user thinks they are in total control.
    All the points made by Carole Taylor are valid and thought out from many years of dealing with troubled human beings, these things can be beaten, and if those in power consulted with those who work in the field, lives could be saved. Trouble is those in power never do.

  4. My brother in law is addicted to meth and ice and is on a disability pension.
    By no means is he looking for a job, or looking at changing his lifestyle.
    He lives with his 80 year old mother who feeds and houses him and who is of the belief he is “getting better”.
    He stole $10,000 from his brother and has admitted being an addict for the last 10 years. He claims he has a memory problem and can’t remember to attend the Centrelink scheduled appointments due to a car accident. His drug addicted girlfriend is trying to get money for an accident due to injury.
    The reality is this, these people syphon off whoever and whatever they can to enable this affected state and get their next hit.
    This is the only thing a drug addict cares about. Not in the least what you think of them. Unless forced to change, they simply will not change their way of life as most enjoy the euphoria of the drugs.
    To change, they need to be taken away from their homes and forced off the drugs.
    After all, are we a society that pays individuals to harm themselves?
    Will we taxpayers pay for this drug induced state for the length of their lives?
    I know he will never want to change, he likes his drugs and he knows that his mother will never throw him out into the street.
    He trots off to his drug friends’ houses, has his drugs, falls asleep and comes back to his mother’s house to eat.
    Time and time again, when asked are you looking for work, he looks at me plainly and says no.


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