The ADFs perspective on drugs and drug use Drug users are people

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					                     The ADF’s perspective on drugs and drug use

Drug users are people first.
The ADF believes drug policies and measures taken to control or reduce drug problems
must be evidenced based, humane and respect human rights. People who use drugs, and
those who experience drug-related problems, should be treated with the same respect and
be afforded the same rights as all other people.

The ADF response to drug issues takes account of the cultural and political norms of
Australia: a democratic, pluralistic, multi-cultural society in which - within the limits of
the law - adults are endowed with rights and freedoms that allow them to act in
accordance with their personal values and cultural traditions.

A drug using society
The use of drugs for therapeutic or medical use, and for ‘recreational’ use, is present in
virtually all human societies. Therapeutic use occurs when a drug is administered or
prescribed by a medical practitioner and recreational use occurs when a drug is consumed
for enjoyment or for its pleasurable effects. A hybrid form of drug use is ‘self-
medication’. Sometimes this occurs when a drug is taken to deal with or control a
disturbing symptom or condition that may require professional attention. Drug problems
or drug related harms, including drug dependency, can arise from each type of use.

The drugs of concern.
The attention of the ADF is concentrated on non-medical usage. The drugs of most
concern to our community and the ADF are psychoactive substances. These drugs act on
the central nervous system. People take them to change their mood, perception or
behaviour. They include analgesics, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs like
benzodiazepines, cannabis, opioids, and a range of synthetic drugs such as amphetamines
and ecstasy. Other substances like glues, petrol and solvents are used as substitutes for
psychoactive drugs.

The use of some illegal drugs is reasonably common in Australia. For some, their level of
use is very minor and accepted among some groups. The use of legal drugs is accepted
widely. These are the most common drugs Australians use for recreational purposes and
self-medication, and include alcohol and tobacco and pharmaceuticals. They are also the
drugs that cause the greatest harm in Australia.

Managing drug issues into the future.
Drugs can be attractive because the user perceives actual benefits from their use. There is
little prospect that humans will cease the non-medical use of drugs. Drugs are
increasingly widely available – a situation that appears likely to continue. It is, therefore,
crucial that societies learn to manage drug use and drug issues so as to reduce the
preventable harms and problems.

When use becomes a problem
The ADF’s view is that drug use is undesirable when it reduces or threatens the health or
welfare of the individual or the broader community. Drug use can harm the individual via
injury, disease and loss of income, employment, relationships and quality of life. It can
harm society economically, socially and in other ways through, for example, its impact
on health costs, law enforcement costs and corruption.

There are times and circumstances when recreational drug use may be acceptable and
relatively harmless (such as social drinking of alcohol). Whether a particular form of drug
use is acceptable or harmful will depend on a range of variables including the
characteristics of the individual person, the type of drug, the amount taken, the legal
status of the drug, the purpose of use, the location and culture in which drug use occurs,
and the likely effect on the user and on other people. The use of different drugs at the one
time (polydrug use) is a common occurrence that brings increased risks and problems.

Young people most at risk
Although drug use and consequent problems are common across all ages the ADF
chooses to focus on younger people under 30 years of age. Drugs have a particular
attraction for young people who frequently use them out of curiosity, the need to
experiment, as well as the pleasurable effects that are expected to follow use. Many
young people use drugs as a form of escape for relief from psychological pain and stress.
Young people have the highest usage of illegal drugs, which can carry increased hazards,
and they tend to use drugs in the most dangerous manner and circumstances. As a
consequence they are at greatest risk of injury or loss of life through drug-related
behaviour. However, for some young people this use is considered normal behaviour in
certain circumstances or settings.

Drugs and mental health.
Many people using drugs problematically also suffer social disadvantage and other health
problems. In particular, mental illness is a growing issue for the Australian population.
Significant numbers of people, and growing numbers of young people, are being affected
by depression and anxiety. In addition, there is evidence of a relationship between mental
health and substance use. Co-morbidity must be considered when developing responses
to drug misuse strategies.

From supporting non-use to managing problematic use
The ADF’s core purpose is to delay the onset of use and prevent risks and harms when
use does occur. The ADF’s use of the term ‘prevention’ can be described as a continuum
with the ADF’s strategies, interventions, programs and projects located along this

Our prevention responses will help people to remain safe if, when, and while they use
drugs. In some circumstances the ADF may advocate the non-use of a particular drug or a
reduction in the prevalence or incidence of drug use. However, some people will continue
to use drugs and the ADF may advocate a reduction in the harmful effects of a particular
form of drug use while not necessarily seeking a reduction of drug use in the first
The ADF does not encourage the use of any drug for purposes of recreation or self-
medication. The non-use of drugs, or a reduction in use, are important ways of avoiding,
preventing or reducing the incidence of drug-related problems and harms.

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