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Workforce shortage hinders fight against ice addiction in WA

Photo: Workforce shortage hinders fight against ice addiction in WA
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Western Australian Branch (RANZCP WA Branch) has expressed concern about the increasing use of methamphetamine (commonly known as ‘ice’) across Western Australia (WA) and the lack of specialist addiction psychiatrists to address this burden.  

The impact of methamphetamine and the workforce factors limiting the medical community’s ability to tackle the use of ice, in our communities, will be amongst the topics discussed at the WA Addictions Symposium this weekend.

The RANZCP WA Branch Chair, Dr Megan Galbally has welcomed the government’s commitment to further funding for treatment services.

‘Whilst we know that the WA Government is committed to funding treatment services for methamphetamine, they also need to address the issue of workforce here in Western Australia.
‘Mental health services face increasing presentations of ice effected patients and we do not have enough addiction specialist psychiatrists in the state to assist in managing the underlying problems of methamphetamine addiction and its related harms.’

Keynote speaker Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin, of the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University, highlighted the increasing use of high purity crystalline methamphetamine in Australia over the past decade.

‘Particularly the smoking and injecting of this form of methamphetamine has been associated with an increase in harms including dependence,’ said Associate Professor McKetin.

‘Treatment admissions for methamphetamine have increased from 10,029 in 2009-10 to 49,670 in 2016-17.

‘Mental health problems are a significant concern, with use being associated psychosis and violence.’

RANZCP WA Branch representative on the Faculty of Addiction Psychiatry and chair of the symposium, Dr Mat Coleman, says the lack of specialist positions is concerning against the backdrop of the steep increase in methamphetamine addiction presentations to health services.

‘To date, Western Australia has never graduated a single specialist addiction psychiatrist. And there continues to be no specific positions for addiction psychiatrists within the entire WA public health system.

‘To be able to effectively combat the problem of ice, head on, we need more than funding for treatment centres.

‘We need trained addiction specialists to assess, treat and coordinate the type of care needed for people who present in acute crisis, are seriously mentally ill or have life threatening medical complications.

‘Expecting people to walk into residential rehabilitation is often unrealistic for many addicted users. Their families and loved ones know that from experience.

‘There are currently too many missed opportunities to provide specialist care when people present to emergency departments, mental health clinics and other acute care settings as the expertise to manage these complex presentations is just not there.

‘We would like to work with the Government to find affordable, practical solutions so that people with ice addiction can access the specialist care they require.’

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