DRUG USERS SAY: “WE ARE PART OF THE COMMUNITY AND DESERVE TO BE TREATED WITH RESPECT AND DIGNITY”
The national peak organisation representing people who use illicit drugs, the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL), is joining with communities of people who use illicit drugs from around the world to celebrate International Drug Users Day on 1 November 2009.
In celebrating this day we are speaking as people who use illicit drugs to tell the world that we are valuable members of the community, who come from all walks of life and are people who care about the world we live in. We are proud of our survival in a climate that criminalises, demonises and stigmatises all people who use illicit drugs as worthless, selfish, criminals.
Annie Madden, AIVL Executive Officer stated “We are not a small and insignificant group of people; we are your family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, in short, we are part of your community. We deserve equitable access to health services, civil and human rights and same respect and opportunities afforded all members of Australian society.”
We live with the constant grief of losing loved ones due to overdose and diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Love ones whose lives could have been saved had we removed the criminalisation of drug use and provided access to an expanded range of drug treatments now available in many countries around the world. As a community we have fought hard for our right to access drug treatments that are accessible, affordable and meet our needs.
On International Drug Users Day 2009 AIVL is calling for an expansion to the range of treatment options available including heroin prescription programs and injectable methadone, buprenorphine and morphine. “The international evidence is indisputable in relation to the efficacy of these programs. Numerous evaluations have now shown that providing injectable pharmacotherapy programs has improved people’s health, their social and living conditions, their ability to participate in study and employment and reduced crime.” Ms Madden added.
AIVL believes one of the most important aspects of these programs is that they save lives. Australian and international studies have shown that people who access drug treatment programs are significantly more protected from dying due to a drug-related overdose than those not in pharmacotherapy treatment. One Australian study has shown that; one in 100 people using heroin on the street die from overdose compared with one overdose death for every 485 people for those on a methadone pharmacotherapy program.
“Australian drug users deserve access to programs that protect their lives and should be given the opportunity to choose from the widest possible evidence-based drug treatment options in order to get the best ‘treatment fit’. Furthermore, we want these choices now, not as a last option when we have hit so-called ‘rock bottom’. Being able to engage in a drug treatment option of our choice, that suits our needs, should not have to come at the price of our lives being in devastation before we are offered or become eligible for these programs” stressed Ms Madden.
Too often heroin prescription programs are talked about only as an option of ‘last resort’. AIVL is concerned that we are thinking about heroin prescription in the wrong way. It should be offered alongside other treatment options for anyone seeking to manage an opioid dependency. “We believe we should have access to the full range of treatment options available, anything less is an infringement upon our human rights and potentially exposes many people to discrimination, criminalisation, disease and death simply because we have refused to heed the now overwhelming evidence supporting such programs” Ms Madden concluded.