In the wake of recent estimates that alcohol and harmful drinking is costing the community more than $36billion a year, more than 300 people from across Australia are gathered in Fremantle today for the 17th Western Australian Symposium; ‘Hope, Hype or Hard Evidence: Alcohol and Other Drugs Practice in the New Millennium’.
For more than 20 years, these research symposia have established WA as one of the leading jurisdictions in Australia in responding to alcohol and drug related issues.
Mental Health Minister Graham Jacobs is opening the event which sees international, national and local keynote speakers sharing their expertise with participants from a range of research institutions and health related sectors.
“Participants at this premier symposium will hear that while the WA community is experiencing improvements in relation to the harms caused by tobacco; the burden of death, injury and illness caused by alcohol is increasing,” Dr Jacobs said.
“Earlier this year, I announced the roll out of a world-first media campaign, to raise awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer, and we will continue to get the message out that risky drinking harms you and your loved ones.
“In terms of illicit drugs, while we have seen an encouraging decline in use in WA since 1988, illicit drug use continues to present serious challenges.
“Cannabis use has also been steadily and significantly declining, but remains the most widely-used illicit drug, with the most recent 2007 data showing 10.8 per cent of West Australians had used cannabis in the last year.
“The Liberal-National Government’s repeal of the Cannabis Control Act sends the message to the community that cannabis is harmful and research tells us that it can lead to many serious health and mental health problems.
“The State is also investing more than $6million in cannabis-related prevention and treatment across the next four years, particularly targeted at reaching young people.
“Amphetamine use is declining but here in WA prevalence rates are still above national levels and, although heroin use is very low, recent tragic overdoses remind us that we can never be complacent about dangerous illicit drugs.”
The Minister said that up to one-third of people with mental health problems also experienced issues with alcohol and drugs, which could lead to greater use of health services into the new millennium.
“Responding to this is a central concern for the Government, as policy makers and service providers in all sectors need to develop partnerships, networks and solutions to the complexity of alcohol and drug related issues,” he said.
“Solutions need to be based on the evidence, not driven by popular, and often misguided notions of how harms can be reduced.
“This is why forums like this symposium play a critical role in bringing people together to share their knowledge, and listen to experts in their field talk about their own experiences and findings.
The symposium, being held from August 31-September 1, builds on the success of 16 previous symposia held in Western Australia, and is jointly hosted by the Drug and Alcohol Office and the Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies.
Collaborating partners include Healthway and the tertiary sector’s Curtin University of Technology, Edith Cowan and Murdoch universities, and the University of Notre Dame Australia.
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