This last week saw the annual Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs conference take place in Melbourne. As a leading drug and alcohol recovery programs in the country, SMART Recovery Australia sent Dr Angela Argent, one of our national SMART coordinators, down with a whopping great poster and all her formidable charm.
Over the course of several days, Ange spoke to countless attendees promoting SMART Recovery, and even met a few of our valued participants. Dr Peter Kelly (who you may recognise from his position on the SMART Recovery Research Advisory Committee) delivered a rousing presentation on our national survey of meeting participants.
Part of Ange’s poster presentation was delivering the results from our first national data collection project, which revealed information about the volume of people attending SMART Recovery meetings as well as the addictive behaviour they were working on managing. As is consistent with findings by the ABS and other organisations, alcohol by far is the most common addiction across all age groups.
Garth Parkhill, of the Victorian AIDS Council, a long-time partner of SMART Recovery, presented a digitally animated harm reduction and peer narrative project about men who have sex with men. Statistically, these men are at a far higher risk of mental illness, preventable disease, and addictive behaviour than other demographics within our society. It is vital that research into this area is ongoing. In his presentation, Garth mentioned the SMART meetings run by, through, or in conjunction with VAC.
One controversial issue in the media these days is that of pill testing. Pill testing kits and stations are often set up in nightclubs and music festivals – or anywhere that might be a “hot spot” for pill consumption – to consumers can find out exactly what they’ve bought. Those who oppose pill testing frequently argue that making pill consumption safer will encourage use and abuse, normalising the behaviour, particularly among the younger demographic who attend clubs and festivals in their droves. It is the view of many drug and alcohol organisations and professionals, including Professor Fiona Measham of Durham University, that pill testing is but one piece in a vast jigsaw of harm reduction. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous dealers and manufacturers add lethal doses of MDMA, or the stimulant N-ethyl-pentylone, which can keep users awake for up to 36 hours at a time. Others contain the horse tranquiliser ketamine and malaria tablets. Professor Measham presented a riveting talk on pill testing, its success at preventing death and overdose in the UK, and the creation of “zones of tolerance” for human rights, rather than the criminalisation which leads to an absence of safety.
All in all, APSAD provided a valuable opportunity for professionals within the drug and alcohol world to share ideas and evidence. Fostering such an environment of collaboration encourages organisations and the individuals within them to work together, creating a supportive framework to continue the work we do keeping people safe and helping them overcome their addictive behaviour.