As one of the major centres in rural Victoria, people of Bendigo have certain issues with drugs and alcohol. As well as worrying consumption statistics, there have also been a range of incidents caused by heavy drinking and illicit substance use. Being a smaller town, there are also some more unique problems such as a lack of local treatment facilities which prevent those addicted from getting support.
Statistics for drug use seem to be quite high within Bendigo. In 2014, there were 116.8 drug dealing and trafficking offences and 39.2 drug manufacturing or cultivation offences per 100,000 population according to the Bendigo Advertiser. These figures were higher than the state average. The ABC News writes that local police have said these increases were due to better law enforcement rather than a surge in users.
While there is a problem with ice in Bendigo, local police say this isn’t the biggest issue in the area. Cannabis seems to be the most common drug amongst locals and some heroin has been seen according to the Bendigo Advertiser. Regarding amphetamine users, demographics have changed with many users coming from decent backgrounds.
While drugs have a negative social stigma worldwide, this has more of an effect in rural towns such as Bendigo. The Age writes about one local family who suffered in silence while their son got addicted to heroin. Thanks to the city’s judgemental population, they were forced to hide the issue for fear that their son would have trouble finding work or somewhere to stay. As a result of this silence though, he ended up dying from a fatal overdose in a Melbourne carpark.
Bendigo has the highest rate of underage drinking in Victoria according to the Bendigo Advertiser. Health experts in the region say this isn’t surprising as poorer economic conditions and a disconnection from school have caused more teenagers to consume alcohol. This then leads to further impacts with regards to tertiary education and careers.
There have also been a number of cases with Bendigo adults consuming in excess. ABC News writes of a local man who crashed his car at an intersection. He recorded a blood alcohol level of four times the legal limit. Two women were injured in the accident as well.
The public service isn’t immune either. ABC News reported of a Bendigo councillor who issued an apology after being caught drink driving. Instead of waiting for a taxi, he got behind the wheel, was caught and lost his licence. Another story in the Herald Sun tells of a police cover-up involving an officer who crashed his car while under the influence. Seven police left the force and four were disciplined for their roles in this crime.
Despite being a fairly large rural centre, Bendigo is still small enough to suffer from a lack of drug and alcohol rehab centres. There are really only two government-run facilities available. The Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS) is found in Garsed Street and runs a youth outreach program, home-based withdrawal program and primary health service. It works with those aged 12 to 21 who are having trouble with drug and alcohol use, abuse or dependence.
The second option is Headspace which is located on Pall Mall. Run by the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, this program offers early intervention to those aged 12 to 21 years old which makes it as easy as possible for those having trouble sorting out issues affecting their wellbeing when it comes to drug and alcohol use.
As there are no publicly-funded options for those over 21 in Bendigo and private clinics can be quite expensive, locals may have to be creative when it comes to treatment. There are a number of programmes around Australia as well as English speaking overseas options.
Many Australian’s are not aware that they can use their Superannuation to cover part or all of the costs for treatment locally or at a treatment centre in Asia.