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US expert says Queensland leading way on drug fight

A UNITED States drug control expert, who worked with the Obama administration for more than three years, says he has learned a lot from Queensland's approach to drugs.

National Drug Control Policy Office director R. Gil Kerlikowske said, after a meeting on Tuesday, that Queensland had a "rich history" of combining law enforcement with strategies from health agencies to reduce drug problems across the state.

Mr Kerlikowske, a former police officer himself, said he also was keen to learn how Queensland police had reduced drink-driving and drug-driving which were significant problems in the United States.

He was also full of praise for the State's activities in seizing assets and cash from organised crime groups around the country, something the treasury in his own country had great support for.

"Quite often we focus on the number of arrest and seizures of drugs," he said.

"Putting more money and focus on cutting off the head of the snake, which is the funding, is key."

Mr Kerlikowske said Colombia was a success story, reducing its status as the world's number one cocaine producer to number three.

He said that was partly due to hard methods such as increased border security but also softer approaches such as reducing demand for drugs, intercepting drugs, treatment programs for addicts and drug education at a grassroots level.

Mr Kerlikowske said the nation also had appealed to younger, environment-conscious demographics about eight to 12 indigenous plants extinct after being replaced with cocaine plantations.

Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the partnership between health agencies and the police service was critical to minimising harm in the community from drugs.

He said the State's three biggest drug problems were alcohol-fuelled violence, an expanding cocaine market and misuse of pharmaceuticals.

Mr Stewart said meeting with people like Mr Kerlikowske gave Queensland Police Service executives an opportunity to exchange ideas and learn more ways they could protect youth and "get them through their exuberant years without harming themselves".

He said misuse of legal pharmaceutical drugs was also a growing problem in Queensland - through illness misdiagnosis, drugs prescribed inappropriately and misuse by end users.

Mr Stewart said it was too often because addicts were unable to control their urges.

Mr Kerlikowske said prescription drugs caused 16,000 deaths a year in the United States, with 70% of abusers getting the drugs from family members or a friend and returning veterans increasingly developing addictions.

He urged people to clean out their medicine cabinets, especially looking for old opiate-based pain killers that were no longer needed or had expired.

Topics:  drugs, national drug control policy office, queensland


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