The TheMHS Summer Forum got off to a great start with an opening session featuring Jack Nagle and Nicole Lee.
Jack Nagle talked candidly about his personal experience of addiction. He called for more support for families of people experiencing addiction, and highlighted the high degree of shame associated with mental ill-health and addiction. He discussed how it was shame that prevented him from seeking help earlier than he did.
Nicole Lee is the director of LeeJenn Consultants, an Adjunct Associate Professor at the National Drug Research Institute and National President of the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy. In a very interesting, statistics-rich talk she discussed the widely promoted ‘ice epidemic’.
While half of the participants in a recent survey thought 30% to 100% of the Australian population had tried ice, Nicole presented data that shows the actual figure is likely to be closer to 5%.
She discussed how the data suggests that there is a stable cohort of methamphetamine users, rather than an epidemic of new users, but that these existing users are using in more dangerous ways. Over recent years many methamphetamine users have switched from using the substance in the form of speed to using it in the form of ice, and many are using more frequently.
She argued that the data suggests the problem with methamphetamine use in Australia is one of severity, rather than one of numbers, and highlighted that this is a really important distinction as the appropriate response to these issues will be different.
Her presentation prompted some really interesting discussions, especially regarding the accuracy of the data collected via the National Drug Strategy Household Survey and the differences between these data and those often presented in the media. Nicole presents again tomorrow regarding the impacts of ice on the brain.
Dr Louise Thornton
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW
NHMRC CRE in Mental Health & Substance Use