Ice use in rural Australia double that of metropolitan areas, drug report shows
Research has found the number of people using crystal methamphetamine, or ice, in rural Australia is more than double the number of those living in metropolitan centres, ABC Central West reports.
The study used national data from tens of thousands of people, and its findings were presented at an alcohol and drug conference in Sydney. It revealed crystal methamphetamine use increased by 150 per cent, from 0.8 per cent to 2 per cent, between 2007 and 2013. The research also identified men aged between 18 and 24 as the most frequent users.
Flinders University professor Ann Roche said the vulnerabilities of rural communities had contributed to the high figures. “They tend to have higher levels of health problems in general, higher levels of mental health problems, higher levels of suicide, but what we didn’t really expect to see was a significantly higher level of crystal methamphetamine use,” Professor Roche said. “These are some of the things that contribute to it.”
Professor Roche said people who used crystal methamphetamine in rural areas tended to be employed, whereas those who took the drug in cities were more often than not out of work. She said the findings showed the need for tailored strategies to support health services and workplaces.
“We can focus on workplaces and employment settings, [and] allow employers to have better information to be vigilant and on the lookout for signs that drug use might be occurring,” she said.
Lack of opportunity contributes says former addict
Former ice addict Shana Miller, who is now studying psychology in Lismore, northern NSW, said the findings were not surprising.
“It’s not a shock to me at all; this is how I found it for many years actually,” Ms Miller said. “In the country or in rural areas, where there are not a lot of opportunities, there’s not as much to do [and] that’s where you’ll find people are habitually using.”
She said she had to pack up her things and leave her hometown of Kingaroy, in Queensland, in order to break her addiction. “It wasn’t until I gave myself a fresh start, where I also moved out of a smaller area and I had the opportunity to go to university,” Ms Miller said. “There’s more employment down here.”
Figures relate to small number, doctor warns
But the findings have come with a warning that the figures could be misinterpreted. Doctor Julaine Allan, from drug and alcohol support service Lyndon in Orange, NSW, said the results had been taken out of context. “It’s a little bit blown out of proportion because back in 2007, where the current figures are compared against, methamphetamine wasn’t readily available, so of course there were less people using it because they weren’t buying it,” Dr Allan said.
“We’re talking about an increase of less than 1 per cent to about 2 per cent, so we’re not talking about half of the population or even a third of the population. “We’re talking about a very, very, very small proportion of people in any particular town or location, and that’s really important for people to remember.”