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Drug addiction at new highs after lockdowns

New data pointing to a spike in drug use and addiction has painted a harrowing picture of the impact of lockdowns on the lives of vulnerable Victorians.

An Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission report, released today, highlighted a massive 30 per cent increase in Ice use in regional Victoria between December 2020 and April this year, with an 11 per cent rise in Melbourne in the same period.

Melbourne topped the nation for heroin abuse, while regional Victoria recorded the highest abuse of prescription drugs, like oxycodone.

Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy said devastatingly high levels of drug abuse in Victoria before the pandemic had only worsened in the past 18 months.

“Illegal drugs are destroying lives and livelihoods, but lockdown, social isolation and being prevented from doing the activities that are a positive boost for our mental health, like community sport, has made the problems worse,” Ms Kealy said.

“Victorians at rock bottom are being told they’ll have to wait months to get help from psychiatrists or counsellors, or being turned away from residential rehabilitation.

“It’s worse in regional Victoria, where people who are at breaking point have to travel hours away from their support networks and the familiarity of home to access the treatment they need.

“We’re now seeing the result of the pressure of lockdown and the Andrews Government’s failure to make the right investments where it’s needed with spikes in abuse of Ice and heroin.”

ACIC’s National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report showed methylamphetamine doses per 1000 people a day jumped from about 34.1 to 45.2 - or 32 per cent - across regional Victoria. It increased from 37.1 to 41.2 does per 1000 people a day in Melbourne.

Ms Kealy said the devastating mental health toll of lockdown, job losses and business closures came as Victorians faced waits of up to a year for residential rehabilitation.

"Countless reports right now are telling us that this pandemic has done devastating harm to the mental health of all Victorians - no matter your age," Ms Kealy said.

"The Mental Health Royal Commission made important recommendations to fix our broken system but there's changes the Andrews Government could be implementing right now to make a real difference in Victorian’s' lives.

"This includes adopting the Liberal Nationals' proposal to unlock 4000 extra mental health specialists to provide counselling support.

"We need to provide better help and more access to services for those who want to beat their addiction which is why we can't ignore the simple changes that can be made today to get Victorian's lives back on track."

Emma Kealy MP

Shadow Minister for Mental Health

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