Australia’s ice scourge is becoming increasingly challenging with more than 200,000 Australians now reportedly using ice and certain suburbs in cities such as Melbourne showing a doubling of ice user figures in just the last year.
As the Australian Government prepares to pour an extra $297 million into funding to tackle this epidemic, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has said “Strong law enforcement is absolutely critical to countering the illegal trafficking of ice, to detecting, arresting and prosecuting those who profit from making misery.”
“But this very complex problem can’t be left to the police alone.” (Yahoo 7 News, December, 6, 2015 http://yhoo.it/1SG0PYu)
The new funding to be awarded to medical and public health groups for drug treatment, after care, education and other preventative measures for current and recovering ice users has been created to take advantage of ‘grass-roots’ bodies, offering them the capability to spend money appropriately in their communities.
Melbourne’s central, northern and western suburbs, for example, have seen a 50% jump in the use of illicit drugs, particularly ice. A scientific analysis of wastewater conducted by Melbourne’s Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Centre and the University of Queensland revealed traces of the drug and by products in the water that enters Melbourne’s primary treatment plant.
“Sadly we weren’t surprised but we were very disappointed because what this continues to show is that the scourge of ice grows right across Melbourne,” said Victorian Mental Health Minister, Mr Martin Foley. (ABC News, December 19, 2015 http://ab.co/1NIbv5m).
“What it [the analysis] has been useful for, is to allow us further evidence as to where to target out efforts to make sure we get on top of this problem.
“This is not a problem we can arrest our way out of. This is a problem we can build community support to assist addicts and their families,” said Mr Foley.
Queensland has also seen a 10% increase in ice use since 2011, with a recent Queensland Coroner’s report also pointing to the ice scourge as claiming lives on Queensland roads (SMH, December 21, 2015 http://bit.ly/1OjQyn7).
Earlier this year, two young Queenslanders died from car accidents after using ice. In February, Andrew, 34 from Queensland, was believed to have been driving while coming down from an ice high, when he fell asleep at the wheel hitting an oncoming truck at full speed. He died instantly and the Coroner’s report concluded there were toxic levels of methamphetamine in his blood.
This confirms the police investigation, which had revealed a bottle turned into a bong, as well as ice in the passenger seat and in Andrew’s wallet.
Just 17 days later, 33-year-old Queenslander, Shane, crossed double lines to overtake a truck, colliding with an oncoming ute. The 33-year-old was trapped until paramedics pulled him out, however, while being rushed to the ambulance suffered a heart attack and died at the scene. A forensic pathologist found high levels of methamphetamine in his blood stream and police examination of his mobile phone suggested he had not slept in at least seven hours. Again, the Coroner concluded drug ingestion was almost certainly a contribution to the accident.
With the new funding and resourcing of the Public Health Networks, medical and public health groups have welcomed the Government’s plan as they all look to tackling the escalating epidemic.
If you believe you, or someone you know has an addiction to ice, please contact the following helplines:
1800 ICE ADVICE (1800 423 238) – Victoria State Government
1300 85 85 84 – Australian Drug Foundation