Defence on front foot in drugs battle
ON the surface, the findings about drug use in the Australian Defence Force are disturbing.
Almost 80 Townsville army personnel have been kicked out in the past five years after testing positive for drugs. The illicit substances included ecstasy, cannabis and steroids.
One person was caught using opiates and 10 were busted for using benzodiazepines. Another six tested positive for cocaine use. That is concerning. But other factors should be taken into account.
There are more than 6000 Defence personnel in Townsville and only about 1.3 per cent have been kicked out of the military for drug use.
Compare that with the national average in Australia. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare about 42 per cent of people have used drugs in their lifetime and 15 per cent use drugs regularly.
And the ADF is working hard to make a change.
As Defence Personnel Minister Dan Tehan rightly said, the use of drugs is incompatible with an effective and efficient defence force.
The ADF will now investigate using new testing techniques by examining hair and saliva samples.
But there could be a deeper issue at play here.
Are members of the defence force struggling to cope?
Is the drug use a symptom of an underlying problem?
Is there enough mental health support available to our troops?
It’s clear some members of Defence struggle to transition back into civilian life after service.
Let’s not forget at the end of the day the people who sign up are making an enormous sacrifice — potentially the ultimate one.
That should always be taken into account. The ADF rightly has a zero tolerance approach to drugs.
It should go without saying there is no place for drug use by the ADF, especially on the front line.