Breaking the ice: Why there is no epidemic

April 1, 2016

mental health addictionThere is no ‘ice epidemic’, at least not in the sense that more people are using methamphetamine. The real issue is that the drug has become much stronger, leading to more psychosis. So are our policy prescriptions wrong? Lynne Malcolm and Olivia Willis report.

In April 2015, a National Ice Taskforce was established to help tackle the so-called ‘epidemic’ of crystal methamphetamine use in Australia.

The taskforce released a report which found more than 200,000 Australians had used the drug, and the federal government agreed to adopt the taskforce’s 38 recommendations aimed at improving prevention and treatment methods.

Now, mental health experts are left with the job of deciding how best to use the $240 million promised to primary health services by the Coalition.

‘Over the last 20 years, we’ve not seen any increase in the number of people using meth at all,’ says Dr Nicole Lee, an associate professor at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University.

‘In fact [the number] has come down, from a high of about four per cent in 1998, and it’s around about two per cent of the population now.’

Lee says that while there’s been no increase in the number of people using methamphetamine, there has been a switch from the lower-grade powdered form—known as speed—to the higher-grade crystal form often referred to as ice.

‘And along with that,’ Lee says, ‘comes significantly more problems.’

Ice, Lee says, is much stronger, with at least three to four times the potency of speed.

‘If you are using ice, you are much more likely to be dependent, you are much more likely to experience psychosis, you are much more likely to experience aggression and violence, and you’re much more likely to experience a whole range of other mental health problems.

‘It’s really an issue of severity rather than numbers.’

When it comes to treatment, research shows that a combination of counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective approach methamphetamine addiction.

‘We have very, very good evidence here in Australia that counselling works,’ Baker says. To read more click here.

Ice addiction will be discussed at the Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference 2016, themed Alcohol – Other Drugs – Behavioural Addictions, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery will be held on the Gold Coast from the 19 – 20 May 2016. CLICK HERE to view the high quality Conference Program

To register your attendance at the conference CLICK HERE.  Early bird registrations close Friday 8th April so be quick to receive a discounted rate.

Hosted by The Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Association the Conference promotes and encourages participation from all parts of the sector towards a shared appreciation of what medical, psycho-social and peer-based approaches can offer, through the experiences of service users, clinicians, and researchers alike.

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