Salvos fired up in de­fence drug claim

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today - by Nathan Paull nathan. paull@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

THE Sal­va­tion Army is not sur­prised to hear claims of a de­fence force drug cul­ture, say­ing it would be a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion from a ma­jor al­co­hol prob­lem grip­ping Townsville sol­diers. The Bul­letin yes­ter­day re­ported claims drugs and steroids were com­monly used and traf­ficked into Aus­tralia by sol­diers as the De­fence Depart­ment con­firmed it had started an in­ves­ti­ga­tion with the Queens­land Po­lice Ser- vice into the al­leged abuse of il­licit drugs.

The lack of sur­prise from the Sal­va­tion Army’s sup­port staff comes as for­mer de­fence chief Peter Cos­grove yes­ter­day told the Bul­letin there was no drug cul­ture while he was at the helm six years ago.

‘‘ I was ob­vi­ously never aware of any­thing,’’ he said.

‘‘ If I had thought there was a drug cul­ture there ( in Townsville), I would have been all over them like a tonne of bricks.’’

The depart­ment yes­ter­day re­fused to com­ment on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and would not re­spond to the al­le­ga­tions or say how many sol­diers had been im­pli­cated.

Sal­va­tion Army Drug and Al­co­hol Ser­vices man­ager Ma­jor Bruce Harmer said he was not aware of a drug prob­lem among sol­diers, but it could be the next step in sub­stance abuse.

‘‘ I am very much aware of a fairly well-de­vel­oped and long-stand­ing drink­ing cul­ture at the bar­racks,’’ he said.

‘‘ Al­co­hol and to­bacco are ‘ gate keeper’ drugs, so when peo­ple use those things to ex­cess, they can of­ten lead to other sub­stances, so with such a strong drink­ing cul­ture in the place, it would prob­a­bly fol­low that there would be a num­ber of peo­ple us­ing drugs as well.’’

Maj Harmer said the army’s strong drink­ing cul­ture had to be ad­dressed be­fore other prob­lems could be fixed. He said while the prac­tice was built on ca­ma­raderie and bond­ing, it could quickly spi­ral into ‘‘ self­med­i­ca­tion’’.

‘‘ By us­ing al­co­hol or drugs, you’re about to hide the pain, the shame or the guilt or what­ever it is,’’ he said.

‘‘ Un­for­tu­nately, you need more each time to get the same ef­fect and that’s why peo­ple find them­selves in trou­ble.’’

Maj Harmer said any ze­ro­tol­er­ance poli­cies within the de­fence com­mu­nity could also hin­der re­cov­ery, given sol­diers would be con­cerned about los­ing their jobs.

He said he wel­comed news the de­fence force was look­ing to hire al­co­hol, to­bacco and other drugs co-or­di­na­tors.

‘‘ If some­one in the army reads this ar­ti­cle, reach out to those peo­ple,’’ he said.

‘‘ I would imag­ine they will help with­out dis­clos­ing to their su­pe­ri­ors.’’

Maj Harmer said those want­ing help for sub­stance abuse prob­lems could also call the Salvos’ Drug and Al­co­hol Cen­tre on 4772 3607.

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