IN 2015 Australia’s ice scourge was declared a national emergency.
Ice-fuelled violence, entire towns crippled by meth’s devastation and deaths brought on by the cheap and dangerous drug were news bulletin staples.
And as federal and state governments began throwing money at the “ice crisis”, shocking advertising exposing its devastating effects was ubiquitous.
A year later and you’d be forgiven for thinking the problem was solved. The ads are far fewer and the headlines have softened.
The war against crystal methamphetamine appears to have dropped off the national agenda, yet new figures show the crisis is worse than ever.
One of Australia’s largest rehabilitation centres has released its annual drug addiction trends report and when it comes to ice the findings are alarming.
Ice addicts accounted for a record one in two people seeking treatment for all drug dependence, including alcohol, according to odyssey House.
The organisation has revealed 49 per cent of its admissions cited amphetamine-type stimulants, namely ice, as their principal drug of concern.
This is up 53 per cent on 2015 admissions (32 per cent) and more than triple admissions a decade ago (15 per cent).
Speaking with news.com.au, Odyssey House CEO Julie Babineau said the alarming increase was proof the ice problem was not going away.
“People are using what is available, what is cheap and what is pure. Ice is manufactured locally, it’s cheaper to get and (our clients) tell us you can get ice anywhere on the street,” she said.
“In residential rehab at least, we are certainly not seeing that decreasing. We see that it’s still out there.”
Mr Babineau conceded that the hype around ice addiction had subsided when it came to political statements and media coverage, but on the front line the drug still had addiction services in a state of emergency.
She said ice’s time at the peak of public concern may have scared some potential users off, but the drug was still being taken up by younger people who were being offered the easy-to-come-by drug, and by addicts who may have previously preferred to get their high from other substances but turned to ice in periods of increased supply.
Odyssey House is among rehabilitation organisations and community groups awaiting a share of $300 million funding from the federal government, promised in its response to the National Ice Taskforce which handed down its final report earlier this year. The organisation is also looking forward to new NSW government drug funding coming online in the new year.
“We could fill all our empty beds and treat more people if we had increased, longer term funding that enabled us to employ and train the staff we would need to be fully operational,” she said.
“Ice is a very concerning health and societal problem, but many frontline services like ours have not yet received the funds necessary to meet growing demand from people needing professional help to overcome defence on this highly addictive drug.”
The report also showed that people being treated for addiction were being introduced to drugs at a young age. The reported “first intoxication” with alcohol or other drugs among the rehab facility’s residents this year averaged 12 to 13 years, compared with 16 to 17 years of age in 2003.
Addiction to heroin and prescription opioids such as methadone, morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone accounted for only 16 per cent of odyssey House clients admitted in 2015-16, down 45 per cent on the previous year (29 per cent).
Although this was good news, Ms Babineau cautioned against assuming the heroin problem was on the wane.
“Many people who usually use heroin and/or misuse painkillers may switch to ice or speed — or vice versa — depending on what drugs are more readily available or affordable,” she said.
“We could easily see another surge in heroin-opioid problems like we did last year, when odyssey House had a 164 per cent rise in opioid admissions and a 120 per cent fall in amphetamine admissions.”
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Health Sussan Ley told news.com.au tackling ice was remained a “major priority” for the Turnbull Government, and the focus was to help families and communities most affected.
“The Government understand the desire for quick service delivery on the ground and primary health networks (PHNs) have been undertaking extensive drug and alcohol planning and consultation to increase their knowledge of the local sector before commissioning funding,” a statement sent to news.com.au said.
The spokeswoman said it was “vital” that needs and services were assessed to ensure programs were properly targeted and delivered to those who need the services.
“Some services to address ice usage have already begun in various PHN areas and other PHNs are currently finalising procurement and contracting processes with drug and alcohol treatment service providers.”
Read the original article at News.com.au