Ice Breaker

Ice use can lead to serious long-term physical effects

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References
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Measuring ice use in the population is difficult. The data we include here come from a number of sources, including population surveys, the National Wastewater Monitoring Program, hospital and other treatment centre data. Many people report higher rates in their communities than are reflected in general population surveys. What is clear is that the impact of ice on many communities around Australia is significant.

How many people use ice?

A recent survey of Australians (aged 14 years or over) found 1.4% had used methamphetamine (including ice, speed or base) in the past 12 months. Among recent methamphetamine users, over half (57%) reported using ice (crystal methamphetamine) , compared to 20% mainly using powder (speed).

1 in 70 people have used methamphetamine in the past year

...BUT THE IMPACT CAN BE MUCH GREATER

How often do people use METHAMPHETAMINES, INCLUDING ice?

Of those who had used methamphetamines (including ice) in the past 12 months:

20.4% used weekly or daily
10.6% used once a month
24.7% used every few months
44% used 1-2 TIMES

Ice use in regional and remote communities

An Australian population survey found rates of methamphetamine use were twice as high among people living in remote or very remote areas. Young people aged 18–24 years old living in rural areas are also significantly more likely to have recently used ice than their city or regional counterparts. Similarly, a recent wastewater analysis, a common tool for measuring drug use within national populations, found high levels of methamphetamine in regional sites across Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.

Is ice use increasing in Australia?

It has been difficult to determine whether methamphetamine use (including ice use) in Australia has increased. Data from a large household survey suggest that overall rates of methamphetamine (including ice) use in the general population have remained stable or declined over the past 5 years. However,  data from hospital records, indicate that rates of regular and dependent methamphetamine use have increased over that time. Additionally, the number of regular users who report using crystal methamphetamine (ice) as their main form of methamphetamine has increased from 22 to 57%, while reports of speed use have decreased (from 50 to 20%). The number of individuals reporting smoking as the main route of administration has also increased (from 19 to 40%). Among injecting drug users there has been a 6% increase in crystal methamphetamine (ice) use, and a 5% decrease in speed use, from 2014 to 2015. These data suggest that, among methamphetamine users, ice is becoming a more popular form of the drug.

Early data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program indicates that crystal methamphetamine is the highest consumed illicit drug in Australia however, this program did not test for cannabis use. It should also be noted the estimated drug usage from this program was highly variable depending on the different sites tested and that alcohol and tobacco were consistently the highest consumed drugs across Australia.

From 2010 to 2016 among regular METHAMPHETAMINE users, there has been:

36%
increase
ICE
30%
decrease
speed

Are harms from ice use increasing in Australia?

When looking at population data it is difficult to separate harms specifically related to ice use from harms related to other forms of methamphetamine use. However, data from a number of sources indicate use-related harms have increased. These include an increase in methamphetamine-related helpline calls, drug and alcohol treatment episodes and hospital admissions for methamphetamine abuse, dependence and psychosis, as well as methamphetamine-related deaths. Increases in harms most likely reflect increases in regular and dependent use, as well as shifts from using less potent (e.g. speed) to more potent (e.g. crystal) forms of methamphetamine.

How does ice use compare to other drug use in Australia?

As shown in the image below, methamphetamine is not the most commonly used drug in Australia. This diagram shows the proportion of Australians in 2016 who had used the following substances in the past 12 months:

alcohol 77.5%
tobacco 14.9%
cannabis 10.4%
ecstasy 2.2%
PREscription Meds 4.8%
cocaine 2.5%
methamphetamine 1.4%
heroin 0.2%

SOURCES

2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. (2017). Key Findings http://www.aihw.gov.au/alcohol-and-other-drugs/data-sources/ndshs-2016/key-findings/. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Alcohol and other drug treatment National Minimum Data set (AODTS NMDS 2015–16), Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017, http://www.aihw.gov.au/alcohol-and-other-drugs/data-sources/aodts-nmds-2015-16/

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, Report1, March 2017, https://www.acic.gov.au/publications/intelligence-products/national-wastewater-drug-monitoring-program-report

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. Drug statistics series no. 25. Canberra: AIHW.

Darke, S., Kaye, S., and Duflou, J. (2017) Rates, characteristics and circumstances of methamphetamine-related death in Australia: a national 7-year study. Addiction, doi: 10.1111/add.13897.

Degenhardt, L., Larney, S., Chan, G., Dobbins, T., Weier, M., Roxburgh, A., Hall, W., McKetin, R. (2016) Estimating the number of regular and dependent methamphetamine users in Australia, 2002-2014. Medical Journal of Australia: 204 (4).

Degenhardt, L. , Sara, G., McKetin, R., Roxburgh, A., Dobbins, T., Farrell, M., Burns, L., Hall, W. Crystalline methamphetamine use and methamphetamine-related harms in Australia. Drug and Alcohol Review. Jun 11. doi: 10.1111/dar.12426. [Epub ahead of print]

Roche, A. and McEntee, A. (2016), Ice and the outback: Patterns and prevalence of methamphetamine use in rural Australia. Aust. J. Rural Health. doi:10.1111/ajr.12331

Stafford, J. & Burns, L. (2015). Australian Drug Trends 2015: Findings from the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS). Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales.

Last updated: Wednesday, 9 August 2017