Comments Off on Rates of hospitalization due to ice – crystal Methamphetamine double in 7 years

CHRIS UHLMANN: There are calls for more funding into research for an overdose reversal drug for ice, as new data shows that the use of the drug has doubled around Australia since 2008.

And smoking ice has become more commonplace than injecting the drug.

Alison Caldwell compiled this report.

(Excerpt from crystal methamphetamine public service announcement)

AD VOICEOVER: Some ice users dig at their arms, feeling like bugs are crawling under the skin.

ALISON CALDWELL: Seven years ago, the Federal Government released this advertising campaign focusing on the dangers of ice or crystal methamphetamine addiction.

AD VOICEOVER: Don’t let ice destroy you.

(End of excerpt)

ALISON CALDWELL: Since then, the hospitalization from ice has doubled around Australia, according to new data released by the Penington Institute in Melbourne.

Specializing in methamphetamine addiction and treatment, Dr Rebecca McKetin is with the Australian National University’s College of Medicine, Biology and Environment.

REBECCA MCKETIN: What we’ve seen is a doubling in the number of people who are going into treatment for methamphetamine use over the past couple of years, and this is being driven largely by an increase in people who are smoking crystal meth going to treatment.

And we have seen that across most of the jurisdictions. We’ve seen it predominately in Victoria, but we’re starting to see the same trends emerging in New South Wales, in Western Australia, in South Australia and also to some extent in Queensland.

ALISON CALDWELL: Why do you think it is that people are smoking it now as opposed to injecting it?

REBECCA MCKETIN: The reason we’re seeing such a large increase in smoking crystalline methamphetamine is simply because we’ve got a large supply of it coming into Australia and, when people smoke the drug, it’s very rapidly absorbed into their bloodstream; they get a very strong high from it, and that makes it very addictive.

And it’s the actual addiction itself. When people start to focus on using the drug more than they do on other aspects of their life, we see high rates of unemployment. We also see them using it despite problems from the use of the drug itself.

One of the significant problems is paranoia, an increased risk of aggression. So, while people don’t directly die from this in the same that they might die from a heroin overdose, what they do instead is they have all these psychological problems, and this has quite a strong impact on our frontline services, our psychiatric services.

ALISON CALDWELL: Doctor Rebecca McKetin will be a keynote speaker at the Australian Drugs Conference which is being held in Melbourne over the next two days.

She says, unlike heroin, there’s no antidote treatment for ice.

REBECCA MCKETIN: So, with heroin use, we have methadone which we can help- use to help relieve people’s dependence on heroin, but we don’t have an equivalent for methamphetamine use.


REBECCA MCKETIN: Our traditional services are very much around providing psychosocial care, and they’re very generic across a range of drugs, but they’re largely targeting people who use opioids and alcohol. So a lot of people who use methamphetamine don’t see these services as necessarily catering to their needs.

ALISON CALDWELL: Is there work being done to try to find an antidote?

REBECCA MCKETIN: There is ongoing research. I think there needs to be a much bigger investment in that research to make sure that, as this problem takes off, that we do- we are able to come back and say, look, this is a potential treatment and we would like to try it on a larger scale.

At the moment, we’re just not quite there with the research.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Australian Drugs Conference will hear how drug overdose deaths are rising, leading to calls for the overdose reversal drug naloxone to be made available in the community in order to reduce opioid deaths.

The conference will be told that the use of performance enhancing drugs is also increasing around Australia.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Doctor Rebecca McKetin speaking to Alison Caldwell.




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