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Mining bounty has social cost

High stress, job insecurity and long hours are a catalyst for drug and alcohol misuse.
High stress, job insecurity and long hours are a catalyst for drug and alcohol misuse.

A LEADING drug and alcohol expert says Queensland mining communities are "rife" with alcohol-fuelled violence, illicit drug use and social disorder.

Chief executive of Brisbane-based recovery centre Goori House, John Close, said a three-year study showed mine workers were turning to alcohol and drugs in isolated environments where there was little opportunity for leisure activities or social interaction.

He said this had led to an explosion of violence and anti-social behaviour in mining communities.

"The social costs are adding up," Mr Close said. "FIFO workforces are a lethal equation for mining communities - booze, blokes and brawls.

"High stress, job insecurity and long hours are a catalyst for drug and alcohol misuse.

"These towns need to be equipped with how to proactively deal with it.

"It's fixable, it's important."

Mr Close said the government was making economic decisions that neglected the hard social cost on Queensland's mining communities.

He claimed this was "fostering a dark underbelly of substance abuse and violence", and called for appropriate government funding to curb the worrying trend.

The Federal Government recently made the move to ban synthetic cannabinoids after a study claimed one in 10 miners were smoking Kronic, a man-made product with similar effects to cannabis.

Australian National Council on Drugs executive director Gino Vumbaca said the government had no option other than to ban the product.

Mr Vumbaca said the producer claimed the product was a safe alternative to cannabis but little was known of its effects.

He said industries with drug testing regimes, such as the mining industry, often caused people to look for ways around the system, which could explain the sudden uptake in Kronic use.

"The problem we do have with countering drug use is that we are always behind the curve, we are always reacting to new drugs and trends," Mr Vumbaca said.

"It's always difficult to keep up because producers can change the molecules of a product, the chemical make-up of it."

Mr Close said struggling mining towns needed a fresh, holistic approach with a focus on families, communities, health and wellbeing.

"All levels of government need to work on transforming opportunities for the residents of mining communities," Mr Close said.

"They can do this by promoting a healthy lifestyle, social interaction and business development.

"This approach will break the growing substance abuse trend and will add further vibrancy to mining towns.

"It is the responsibility of both the government and mining companies to ensure that these transient populations don't fall victim to the perils of drug and alcohol abuse and what comes with it like crime, domestic violence and family breakdowns."

He said issues of substance abuse stretched statewide with many regional areas now becoming "hot spots", shying away from the traditional metropolitan areas like inner-city Brisbane or the Gold Coast.

He said organisations such as Goori House could provide a pathway for a statewide solution to the growing use of illicit drugs.

But he claimed that to date, the organisation had been "left in the dark" by government.

Deputy Premier Paul Lucas said the government was tough on drugs and those people who made, sold or used drugs faced tough punishments.

"Our strong laws reflect the government's determination to rid Queensland of dangerous drugs that ruin so many lives," Mr Lucas said.

More than 380 drugs are currently listed in the Drugs Misuse Act as dangerous and are illegal to use in Queensland unless prescribed by a doctor or otherwise authorised by law.


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