Tasmanians are grappling with addiction to ice at an alarming rate, with the destructive drug now overtaking all other illicit drugs as the primary reason people seek help from a leading counselling service.
New data from Holyoake in Hobart shows ice is now the No.1 illicit drug of concern, overtaking cannabis for the first time.
In the 12 months to April this year, 32 per cent of Holyoake clients cited ice as their primary reason for seeking help.
This is the first time ice has surpassed cannabis, which brings 31 per cent of clients to Holyoake.
The counselling service’s figures show ice use has surged in recent years, with problem users accounting for only 1 per cent of Holyoake clients five years ago.
Holyoake chief executive Sarah Charlton said the drug was particularly destructive.
“This highly addictive drug causes disruption to an individual’s brain function and can result in harmful long-term psychological and physical effects, such as paranoia, substance dependence, memory loss, liver damage and cardiovascular diseases,” she said.
Ms Charlton called on governments to deal with the issue by providing more money to drug services.
Despite the growing epidemic, Holyoake recently failed in its attempt to attract federal funding for its intervention services.
“Federal and state governments need to have a serious look at the levels of funding for specialist drug treatment services in Tasmania to combat ice,” she said.
“We have hugely successful programs with proven results, yet Holyoake receives no funding from the Tasmanian Government to treat clients using ice, and was unsuccessful in a recent application to Primary Health for federal ice funding.”
Alcohol remains the biggest problem in the Tasmanian community, with 63 per cent of Holyoake clients misusing the drug in the past year — up slightly from 53 per cent five years ago.
Ms Charlton said ice was growing in use because of its availability, with users quickly developing an addiction.
People using ice are predominantly under 40 years of age with more men than women using the substance, she said.
Eighty per cent of Holyoake clients using ice reported having a mental health problem.
This article was originally published by The Mercury.