Get Cracks in the Ice mobile app
Page Summary
  • Relatively few Australians report using methamphetamines (including ice) compared to other drugs.
  • The effects of methamphetamines (including ice) can however be far reaching, impacting not only those using ice but also families, friends, communities and workplaces.
  • Data from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey suggests
    • overall rates of methamphetamine use have remained stable or declined over recent years, but
    • existing methamphetamine users are reporting higher rates of regular and dependent use, and
    • among those who do use methamphetamine, ice is becoming a more popular form of the drug
  • Multiple data sources also indicate harms related to ice use are increasing in Australia.
Ice Breaker

The effects of ice are short-lived

Take the full quiz
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Let us know
References
Click here to see a full source list

"I have seen ice destroy the lives of my friends and family"

Measuring ice use in the population is difficult and many people report higher rates in their communities than are reflected in general population surveys. 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. What is clear from these data is that the impact of ice on many communities around Australia is significant.

How many people use ice?

The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 6.3% or 1.3 million Australians over the age of 14 had ever used methamphetamine (including ice, speed or base) and 1.4%  reported recent use (in the past 12 months). Among recent methamphetamine users, over half (57%) reported using ice (crystal methamphetamine), compared to 20% mainly using powder (speed). Data from the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS, 2018) indicates that one third of their national sample (910 injecting drug users) reported methamphetamine, including ice, as their drug of choice. This report also found an increase in the sample's recent use of ice from 68% in 2017 to 75% in 2018. 

1 in 70 people have used methamphetamine in the past year

Greater impact infographic

...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

Data from a number of sources indicate rates of methamphetamine use are higher among rural and remote areas of Australia compared to regional areas and major cities.  For example, the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found rates of methamphetamine use were 2.5 times as high among people living in remote or very remote areas compared to rates among those living in major cities or regional areas. Young people aged 18–24 years old living in rural areas were also more likely to report recent ice use than their city or regional counterparts. This is also supported by recent data from the 2018 report of the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program which found that average consumption of methamphetamine in regional areas exceeded consumption in capital cities.

Is ice use increasing in Australia?

It is difficult to determine whether methamphetamine use (including ice use) in Australia has increased. Data from the 2016 National Drug Strategy 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 this survey and 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% between 2010 and 2016, 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 42%).Data from the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS, 2018) suggests similar trends are emerging among injecting drug users. Reports show a rise in recent use (last 6 months) of crystal methamphetamine among injecting drug users from 2010 (39%) to 2018 (75%), and a decline in recent use of speed (41% in 2010, 20% in 2018).

Taken together these data suggest that, among methamphetamine users, ice is becoming a more popular form of the drug.

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

36%
increase
ICE
30%
decrease
speed

Data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program indicates that crystal methamphetamine is the highest consumed illicit drug in Australia, in both capital cities and regional sites. 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. Alcohol and tobacco were consistently the highest consumed drugs across Australia.

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 harms related to ice use have increased. These include an increase in methamphetamine-related helpline calls, drug and alcohol treatment episodes and hospital admissions for methamphetamine abuse, dependence, psychosis, and other mental health problems, 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%

KEY SOURCES

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. (2018). National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, Reports 1-5. Current report 5, August 2018 

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017a). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey - Key Findings. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017b). Alcohol and other drug treatment National Minimum Data set (AODTS NMDS 2015–16). Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018a). Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2016–17: key findings. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018b). Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018c). Australia’s health 2018. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Degenhardt, L., Sara, G., McKetin, R., Roxburgh, A., Dobbins, T., Farrell, M., Burns, L., Hall, W. (2016a). Crystalline methamphetamine use and methamphetamine-related harms in Australia. Drug and Alcohol Review. 36, 160-170.

Degenhardt, L., Larney, S., Chan, G., Dobbins, T., Weier, M., Roxburgh, A., Hall, W., & McKetin, R. (2016b). Estimating the number of regular and dependent methamphetamine users in Australia, 2002-2014. Medical Journal of Australia, 204 (4), 1.e1-1.e6.

Karlsson, A. and Burns, L. (2018). Australian Drug Trends 2017. Findings from the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS). Australian Drug Trend Series. No. 181. Sydney, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Australia.

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

Page last updated: Tuesday, 16 October 2018