The most popular form of methamphetamine - Crystal Meth.
The most popular form of methamphetamine - Crystal Meth. Michael Probst

Changing the way we respond to ice offences

DOES our criminal justice response to drug related offending need to change?

The Queensland Government announced last week it would spend $43 million over five years towards alcohol and drug treatment services state wide.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said policing and courts was only one part of a long term solution to tackling ice.

Professor at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University Dr Nicole Lee agrees with Ms Palaszczuk and said drug diversion programs were the best way to tackle ice, instead of fines or a criminal record.

"You get better returns in terms of reducing drug use in the community, if more money goes into harm reduction as opposed to policing,” Dr Lee said.

"Policing, although it serves an important function, the emphasis should be on harm prevention treatment.”

Dr Lee also believed that calling ice use in Australia an 'epidemic' was inaccurate and invoked fear and stigma in communities, as well as being unhelpful in battling drug dependence.

The national drug strategy survey 2013 did not find an increase in people using methamphetamines but the same users switching from the less harmful powder form, speed, to the more harmful crystal methamphetamine or ice.

Accoring to the survey, this is because ice is less expensive and more potent.

In 2010, 21.7% of methamphetamine users used ice and 50.6% used powder.

This changed in 2013 to 50.4% of users taking ice and 28.5 taking powder.

The 2016 survey is due to be released mid this year and Dr Lee expects to see a similar trend much like from 2010-2013.

"In overall all use between lower grade to stronger form of ice, do expect not to see much change in overall use, that's then coming down over the last 15 years, whether that's going to flatten out or keep coming down, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a continued trend,” Dr Lee said.

Dr Lee said it was hard to know how many people in regional areas like the South Burnett used the drug.

"When people switch from speed to ice, there are a number of problems. Speed has milder effects and you would not notice those people going around their daily business, when people start using ice there is a increase in psychosis, aggression and overdose and those things are really visible,” she said.

"In regional areas there is a higher proportion of people using all drugs, but with ice it's about visibility rather than an increase in numbers.”

Murgon police report an increase in use of ice

MURGON Police have reported a noticeable increase in the use of the drug ice in the community in the past 18 months.

Murgon officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Lance Guteridge said the use of ice in the Murgon community had become more prevalent in the past 18 months.

"It's a situation where we do pick up the same people again but we also have people we haven't previously dealt with who are using now,” Snr Sgt Guteridge said.

Snr Sgt Guteridge said ice use was one of the biggest issues in the state in terms of the effects it had on people who used drugs in the short and long term.

"Like a lot of places in rural Queensland there is more use of it now than previously, there is ongoing concern, it's certainly a drug with dangerous physical and behavioural effects,” he said.

"It does present problems for police in the stages of use, coming down off it certainly can have a very negative impact on the person psychologically.

Snr Sgt Guteridge said more targeted training for police helped the police deal with and understand the impact of the drug.

"The impact in people's behaviour it adversely effects people's behaviour, the individual and the people around them, the police are called in response to their situation,” he said.

Murgon police continue to receive information about people in the community using and dealing drugs.

"We have certain intelligence following that up, our intelligence on people we get advice about and confirm their involvement,” Snr Sgt Guteridge said.

"And that often results in raids being conducted on these people and their associates.”

Snr Sgt Guteridge said there was no benefit to using ice and that it was destructive not only to them but to their family and the community as a whole.

Who is using ice and how often are they using it?

METHAMPHETAMINE takes three different forms.

Powder - also known as speed.

Base - which is a paste with a sticky or waxy texture, is commonly brown, yellow, pink or red.

Crystal - is commonly known as ice. It is usually clear white but sometimes has a blue, green or pink tinge.

Some people can refer to ice as crack, which can confuse ice with crack cocaine, which is a totally different drug rarely used in Australia.

According to the National Drug Strategy Survey 2013, 7% of Australians over the age of 14 had used a methamphetamine in their lifetime.

Two percent had used in the past 12 months, 0.8% had used in the last month and 0.4% in the last week.

Of the 2% that had used in the past 12 months 68% used less than monthly, 16% used weekly and 17% use monthly.

In 2007, 12.4% of users used base, 26.7% used ice and 51.2% used the less harmful powder.

In 2013, 7.6% used base, 50.4% use dice and 28.5% use powder or speed.

This switch to crystal methamphetamine has been associated with an increase in harm.

Dr Nicole Lee said the drug has the same dependency rate as cannabis and it was less addictive than tobacco.

Nearly 70% of users were employed and the heaviest users are in the 20-29 year old age group.

Almost 65% of methamphetamine users lived in capital cities and the survey found inner and outer regional towns were less likely to use the drug.

Help for drugs

For help with drug dependence phone ADIS 1800177833 or the family drug support hotline 1300368186

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