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In the vault: Tackling Ice Nationally

by PeakCare Qld on 24th March 2017

Home -> Articles -> 2017 -> March -> In the vault: Tackling Ice Nationally

“Its use creates a distinct problem for society. Unlike cannabis and heroin, ice is an extremely powerful stimulant. For some people, it can trigger psychological disturbances or violent and aggressive behaviour. Long term use may damage the brain and cause impaired attention, memory and motor skills. The distress ice causes for individuals, families, communities and frontline workers is disproportionate to that caused by other drugs.” Final Report of the National Ice Taskforce, 2015.

Such was the concern over the growing issue of crystal meth (ice) in Australia that a National Ice Taskforce was convened in 2015. This Taskforce consulted extensively with stakeholders around the country and accepted over 1300 written submissions from organisations and members of the public. Further to this they spoke with over 100 experts from the fields of law enforcement, health, the community sector and commonwealth, state and territory government departments. The common overarching statement was: “ice is a drug like no other, and is causing a great deal of harm across our community.”

Proportionally, Australia uses more ice than most other countries with a growing number of users reported. In 2013 a reported 200,000 users had grown from less than 100,000 just 6 years prior.

Per the Taskforce report, there are factors that, in combination, make ice unlike other illicit drugs that have commonly been used in Australia:

Ice is manufactured from chemicals, not produced from plants, and can be mass produced in industrial scale labs offshore for export into Australia, so any seized product can be quickly replaced.

Methamphetamines, including ice, are the only illicit drug that is both imported and locally manufactured in significant quantities, increasing complexity of the required response from law enforcement agencies.

Ice is easily concealed and trafficked. For example, it can be dissolved in oil and reconstituted as crystals Ice is also a dangerous drug for new users, offering the promise of euphoria, confidence and enhanced sexual pleasure at a relatively cheap price. At $50 per dose in some parts of Australia, it can be cheaper than a night out drinking alcohol.

The effects of ice can be achieved through smoking, not just through injecting, making its use appear safer and more socially acceptable.

Ice is more likely to cause dependence than other drugs, and has a very long withdrawal and recovery phase. Prolonged heavy use can impair cognitive functioning for months after giving up the drug. Relapse is understandably common.

Ice’s unique factors have created a perfect opportunity for organised crime —a growing demand for a highly attractive and addictive substance, which can be sold at a high price in Australia.

The Taskforce deemed that: “Australia’s response must be designed to address the uniquely complex characteristics of the problem we face. The demonstrated buoyancy of the ice market suggests this is not a problem that can be solved overnight.”

Named as the first priority for action is the importance of supporting families, workers and communities to better respond to those affected by ice. It was acknowledged that families, frontline workers and communities are struggling to respond to the increasing issues associated with the growing number of ice users in our community. The immediate priority, therefore, is to support Australians most affected by ice use. This support includes ensuring advice for families on how to assist their relatives who are struggling as a consequence of their ice use. Frontline workers need guidance on how to engage with ice users. This includes safe engagement with those in crisis, in particular where aggressive behaviour or violence is present.

The need to enable communities to play their part was also emphasised alongside the assistance communities require to take action. Communities are considered key to sending strong messages against ice use, supporting users who want to cease usage, and working with police and other services to keep local communities safe from ice.

The report also calls for strengthened efforts to reduce the demand for ice including quit assistance and targeted preventative measures. Appropriate treatment and support services that cater to the needs of ice users including detoxification, counselling, rehabilitation, residential and follow up services are also called for.

Further education and information about ice needs to be broadly disseminated, including through schools. Despite the difficulty in quelling the tide of ice in terms of its ready availability, the Taskforce called for ongoing and considerable efforts to disrupt supply. These need to be coordinated by Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement agencies.

Improved data and more research in the area alongside regular reporting was believed to be another strategy in strengthening Australia’s response and keeping it on track in the face of the unique complexities of the ice problem for Australia and the current gaps in understanding of the market place for the drug. Enhanced up to date data needs to be accessible to all stakeholders. Emerging trends can be identified through this means and allow for more proactive and targeted responses and reporting on progress as opposed to the age-old crisis driven reactions.

Click here to read the full report.

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