“I am a senator of Australia and I have a 21-year-old son that has a problem with ice,” Independent senator Jacqui Lambie told the Australian parliament in August 2015.
Lambie is a self-made woman. As a senator she has status. Only months before, in May 2015, she launched her own political party – the Jacqui Lambie Network, to fight for the “rights of average Australians”. Before politics, she’d achieved the rank of corporal in the Australian Army.
None of this mattered because, at home, facing a 21-year-old son she used to know, Lambie realised her possessions were going missing. That her son, Dylan, was stealing from her to fund his habit. She had no control. She couldn’t make him listen. He wouldn’t get help voluntarily: “I’m not talking to my son anymore, I’m talking to a drug,” she told the parliament.
She pleaded with the government to introduce legislation that would allow parents to force their children into rehabilitation. “Getting some involuntary detox so the parents can take control of the child’s situation and get the kids the help they need is the best way forward,” she said.
Last month, another mother asked the same thing.
Leanne Thompson was flying to Melbourne from Brisbane each week to visit her son Daniel, 25 – a marijuana addict, living on the streets of Melbourne’s CBD.
“I have on a number of occasions slept nearby him on the street. I’ve taken a sleeping bag, blankets and garbage bags,” she told 3AW‘s Tony Jones early in July. “I’m keeping an eye on him to make sure he’s okay and to let him know that we still care about him and we’re there for him if he needs us.”
Like Lambie’s son before him, Daniel “doesn’t feel he has a problem”. Thompson said: “I would put our son into rehab tomorrow if he were to agree, but he won’t.”
Dylan Lambie did end up receiving treatment. He attended a rehabilitation centre in Queensland in October 2015 after facing court for offences around counterfeit money, drug possession, and driving while his licence was suspended.
The sole reason he went to rehab? His probation orders stipulated he be admitted to a full-time program and it’s a story shared by thousands.
In most states in Australia, drug users can’t be forced to receive help unless they’ve committed a crime.
In South Australia for example, police are required to refer people who are arrested for drug possession into treatment instead of the justice system as a first-line option.
It’s a system that’s proved an effective method for reducing crime, Nicole Lee Associate Professor at the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction wrote for The Conversation. She also mentioned drug courts, where users who’ve committed non-violent crimes can opt for rehab instead of prison if they plead guilty.