A range of data sources identify that the Western Victorian region has high levels of alcohol and other drug use, particularly relating to short term consumption of alcohol linked to social isolation. Western Victoria Primary Health Network will increase the awareness and knowledge amongst GPs about best practice for the management of alcohol and other drugs in primary care.

Linking with the health and wellbeing plans from the Local Government Agencies and the State Government and evidence based guidelines for general practice; Western Victoria Primary Health Network will support GPs to manage alcohol and other drugs in the primary care setting. Guidelines include RACGP Prescribing Drugs of dependence in general practice, Part A and Part B.

Direct strategies:

  • Increase knowledge and skills for GPs and practice nurses in managing patients with issues with alcohol and other drugs through Continuing Professional Development and education programs
  • Development of specific HealthPathways for the treatment and referral of patients with alcohol and other drug issues
  • Promotion of pharmacotherapy programs currently available throughout the region.

Harm minimisation

Harm minimisation aims to address drug issues by reducing the harmful effects of alcohol and other drugs on individuals and society. It focuses on the prevention of harm, rather than on the prevention of drug use itself, and the focus is on people who continue to use drugs. It does not condone drug use but rather acknowledges that some people in societies will use alcohol and other drugs and therefore incorporates policies which aim to prevent or reduce drug related harms.

Harms associated with using substances other than the way prescribed include: – people may engage in illegal activity in order to acquire substances; people may administer substances in an unsafe manner i.e. used syringes; the effects of intoxication can directly affect a person’s health; behaviour whilst intoxicated can lead to a risk of physical injury or trauma; there is a risk of harm during withdrawal; people may take undue risk in order to conceal their substance misuse behaviour.

The harm minimisation approach is based on the following:

  • Drug use, both licit and illicit, is an inevitable part of society.
  • Drug use occurs across a continuum, ranging from occasional use to dependent use.
  • A range of harms are associated to different types and patterns of drug use.
  • A range of approaches can be used to respond to these harms.

AOD harm minimisation

Harm minimisation can be broken down into three strategy areas:

  • Supply reduction aims to disrupt production and distribution of illicit drugs. Examples include legislation and law enforcement.
  • Demand reduction means reducing the demand for and the uptake of harmful drug use. Examples include community development projects and media campaigns i.e. “every cigarette is doing you damage” national tobacco campaign
  • Harm reduction include strategies that aim to reduce the harm from drugs for both individuals and communities. Examples include needle syringe services, pharmacotherapy (methadone & buprenorphine) maintenance, brief interventions and peer education.

Most people think that the reason why people become addicted to drugs is solely because of the drugs themselves. This, however, is far from the truth, as shown repeatedly by scientific studies on drug addiction. This brilliant short animated video will explain why drugs don’t actually cause addiction.

Australian Story on Monday 30 March 2015 was about a family who has been tragically affected by the heroin overdose of their husband and father, Peter Jackson. Formerly a Rugby League star, Peter turned to heroin due to school sexual abuse that he suffered as a teenager. Watch the episode.

Over the counter combination analgesics, containing codeine can inadvertly cause death as this recent media article in the Brisbane Times outlines in a case of paracetamol poisoning.

Western Victoria Primary Health Network's Pharmacotherapy programs fall under “harm reduction”. The harm reduction approach acknowledges that it can be more effective for individuals and communities to reduce the harms associated with drug use than to support attempts to eliminate drug use altogether.