Police should have the power to test anyone arrested for criminal, violent or antisocial behaviour to see whether illicit drugs played a part in their actions, a report suggests.
The education and health standing committee report, tabled in Parliament yesterday, found illegal drug use in Australia had fallen but rates in WA were still higher than the national average.
The report raised concerns that ecstasy and amphetamine use in WA was among the highest in the world.
Committee chairwoman Janet Woollard said it was imperative the Government developed and funded a plan to reduce use of these drugs.
Hospital emergency departments and treatment services told the committee how difficult it was to deal with people on amphetamines. "They become aggressive, threaten staff and other patients and generally soak up more resources," she said.
Dr Woollard said if police could drug-test people arrested for violent offences it could determine whether alcohol or drugs were the bigger problem.
"Our funding into this area should be based on up-to-date evidence," she said. The report criticised information on illicit drug use in WA, saying it could be up to four years old.
This limited its usefulness in evaluating new policies for the Government. The report recommended data be collected annually and published in the Drug and Alcohol Office's annual reports.
The report also found that an increase in people addicted to prescription painkillers had become a significant problem in WA, with a similar number of people misusing painkillers as there are heroin users.
It recommended the Government fund at least eight full-time pain medicine specialists and support staff.
Included in the report's 24 recommendations was one for improved drug and alcohol training for medical students, nurses and teachers.
Committee member Lisa Baker said the report highlighted an urgent need for programs and services in the justice system for offenders with drug problems.
Dr Woollard said reducing harm to children from parental drug use must become a priority for all government departments.
The committee is expected to table its final report on alcohol from its two-year inquiry at the end of next month.
NATASHA BODDY, The West Australian
May 27, 2011,