The country’s drug epidemic is revealed in figures commissioned by The Sunday Times, showing amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine are connected to fatalities at an unprecedented rate.
Causes of death included accidents such as road smashes, falls, suicides and crimes of violence. The greatest influences were amphetamine products like ice, listed as a factor in 917 of the deaths.
The figures, compiled by the National Coronial Information System, show that the drugs were a primary or secondary contributor in the deaths of 1049 Australian victims.
And despite WA having a far smaller population, its 250 fatalities represented an extraordinarily high 23 per cent of deaths across the country.
That compared with 300 deaths in New South Wales over the same five-year period to 2012, and 207 in Victoria.
National Drug Research Institute director Steve Allsop, who is based in WA, said there were not necessarily more stimulant drug users today than previous years, but more potent forms of drugs were available.
“What is happening is those who use these drugs are using a more potent form,” he said.
“Crystal methamphetamine has become much more common . . . of those who use, they are using stuff that is more likely to get them into a mess.
“There has been a doubling of the number of people who end up in treatment in some states.
“People continue to underestimate the dangers of these drugs . . . they cause so much damage and grief for a lot of people.”
The 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found methamphetamine use was higher in WA – at 3.8 per cent – than in any other jurisdiction.
“This is not just a phenomenon that affects the Perth metropolitan area . . . these drugs are also having an impact in many of our remote areas like the Pilbara,” Prof Allsop said.
“A particular challenge for WA, I think, lies with some of our fly-in, fly-out mining community where there has been some evidence recently concerning methamphetamine use.”