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 declined over recent years, but
    • people who use methamphetamines 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.
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References
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"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. It is important to note that there are many reasons why people may use ice

Ice use in RURAL 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 2018 data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (report 7) which found that average consumption of methamphetamine in regional areas exceeded consumption in capital cities (Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission). Data from the National Hospital Morbidity Database (2016-17) also indicates that people from remote and very remote areas of Australia are receiving hospital care for methamphetamine-related problems at a higher rate than people from capital cities.

For a review of methamphetamine use and its impacts in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities click here.

IS ICE USE INCREASING IN AUSTRALIA?

It is difficult to determine whether methamphetamine use (including ice) has increased in Australia. Data from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey suggest that overall rates of methamphetamine (including ice) use in the general population declined over the previous 5 years.

Other data from this survey and from hospital records indicate that rates of regular and dependent methamphetamine use have increased. Additionally, the number of people who regularly use methamphetamines 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 people who inject drugs. Reports show a rise in recent use (last 6 months) of crystal methamphetamine among people who inject drugs 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 people who use methamphetamines, ice is becoming a more popular form of the drug.

From 2010 to 2016, among PEOPLE WHO USE METHAMPHETAMINES REGULARLY there has been:

Source: 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey

Data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (2016 to 2018) indicates that methamphetamine is the highest consumed illicit drug in Australia, in both capital cities and regional sites. The most recent report (2019) noted that there has been an increase in the amount of methamphetamine consumed between 2016 and 2018, however it is unknown whether this increase is due to more people using the drug over time or a smaller number of people using larger amounts of the drug over time. It should be noted that alcohol and tobacco were consistently the highest consumed drugs across Australia and that cannabis was not included in the program’s comparison of drugs tested. Secondly, the estimated drug usage from this program was highly variable depending on the different sites tested.

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 methamphetamine use have increased. The increase in reported harms most likely reflects the 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. This has resulted in an increase in methamphetamine-related helpline calls, drug and alcohol treatment episodes and hospital admissions for methamphetamine use, dependence, psychosis and other mental health problems, as well as methamphetamine-related deaths.

To learn more about what happens when ice is used with other drugs please visit “using ice with other drugs”.

KEY SOURCES

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. (2019). National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program, Reports 1-7. Current report 7, April 2019 

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. (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.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2017–18: key findings. 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.

Peacock, A., Gibbs, D., Sutherland, R., Uporova, J., Karlsson,A., Bruno, R.,  Dietze,  P.,  Lenton,  S.,  Alati,  R.,  Degenhardt,  L.,& Farrell,  M.(2018). Australian  Drug Trends 2018. Key findings from the National Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) Interviews. 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 reviewed: Friday, 6 September 2019

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