The 2GB breakfast host was speaking about a submission from the New South Wales Bar Association to a Special Commission of Inquiry into methamphetamines, better known as ice.
It has called for the decriminalisation of personal usage of ice and other illicit substances and diverting resources to treatment and rehabilitation, as well as a stronger focus on prosecuting drug producers and traffickers.
“Decriminalisation of personal acquisition, possession and use of illicit drugs would allow the implementation of a comprehensive public health approach,” the NSW Bar Association submission said.
Jones stopped just shy of endorsing the plan but was sympathetic to its merits, pointing out a report this week found alcohol was the most harmful drug in Australia — more so than ice.
The groundbreaking study, the first of its kind, examined 22 drugs and measured the risk to individuals as well as the impact on the broader community. Alcohol came in at the top.
“All I’m saying is, anything we’ve tried to date has failed,” Jones told listeners this morning. “What should we be doing? The current system isn’t working. We need to do something to break this cycle. What we’re doing isn’t working.”
Later on Sunrise, Jones again indicated his openness to the proposal, repeating several times that current approaches have failed.
“I never thought I’d say this, but everything we’ve done to date has failed — everything. So something different has to be done,” he told the Channel 7 program.
“Now, they’re talking about decriminalisation, noting where the drug users are, seeing if we can help them, seeing if we can rehabilitate them … the (system) hasn’t worked, so sensible people have to look at the system.”
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When it was pointed out police spent significant time and resources on detecting and arresting those who possess or use drugs — time that could be better spent elsewhere — Jones replied: “Good point, good point.
“This is a very difficult issue to address. One thing is for sure — there are any number of (studies) to show that ice is taking hold of young people west of the Great Dividing Range,” Jones said.
The issue of ice receives significant media attention and has become a crisis in the country’s regional and remote populations.
Support services there are slim, and dependence often leads to crime, experts say.
Melbourne GP and addiction specialist Paul Grinzi told newsGP ice was an important issue worth discussing but alcohol harm was rarely considered.
”Alcohol is an accepted part of Australian culture, so harms are often under the radar,” Dr Grinzi said. “But as a GP, you can see them front and centre — if you recognise the signs. Hypertension, reflux disease, osteoporosis, cognitive impairment, heart disease. There’s a whole bunch of issues where alcohol can contribute.”
It’s estimated alcohol is related to 6000 deaths in Australia annually, or roughly one person every 90 minutes.
The economic burden from alcohol is $6.8 billion a year compared with $5 billion for methamphetamines.
Alcohol ranked Australia’s most harmful drug
Alcohol inflicts the most overall harm to Australians, according to a national study that found it even surpasses the drugs ice and heroin.