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Canberra
Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Two-thirds of Canberrans support pill testing

Canberrans are generally smoking fewer cigarettes, drinking alcohol at safe levels and overwhelmingly supportive of drug and pill testing at designated locations, new data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey of 2019 shows.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare survey has been conducted every three years since 1985 and looks at drug use and attitudes of Australians over the age of 14.

It found two-thirds of Canberrans support drug and pill testing at designated locations.

Directions, Pathway to Recovery CEO Bronwyn Hendry said she applauded the ACT Government for its stance on pill testing at festivals and their willingness to consider taking further steps towards harm reduction.

“We know drug use doesn’t just happen at festivals,” she said.

“Occasional drug use happens at night clubs, parties and even inside the home.

“We’ve submitted a proposal for a drug testing facility at a fixed site with medical supervision and the ACT Health Minister has indicated she is willing to look into it.”

The nationwide trend against tobacco use continues, with only one in 12 Canberrans smoking cigarettes daily, but the use of roll-your-own tobacco and e-cigarettes has increased slightly.

The report found smoking rates around the country increase with socioeconomic disadvantage, but illicit drug use is highest in the most advantaged areas.

Ms Hendry said increasing the cost of cigarettes has worked well within the general population, but it was less effective in the population of those with high-risk factors for smoking.

“Those with high levels of psychological distress and mental illness are at high risk of being a smoker, along with unemployed people, those with low levels of education, people experiencing homelessness and single parents with dependent children.

“There is considered to be a tipping point where increasing the cost of tailor-made cigarettes is not actually useful anymore because it is not an effective deterrent in the most vulnerable people and just perpetuates the cycle of poverty.”

Cocaine use is at its highest level in almost two decades, with 4.2 % of Australians using cocaine in the last 12 months. It has become Canberra’s second most popular illicit drug after cannabis.

Around 10% of Canberrans report using cannabis and that has not changed in the last 20 years.

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