Crystal meth use increases by six per cent among people who inject drugs but remains stable among ecstasy users

2015 Crystal methamphetamine figures released

Ice use increases by six per cent among people who inject drugs but remains stable among ecstasy users

  • 67 per cent of people who inject drugs (PWID) used crystal methamphetamine in 2015 compared with 19 per cent of regular psychostimulant users (RPU)
  • Use of all types of methamphetamine remained stable among PWID but dropped by 10 per cent in RPU
  • Frequency of heroin use increased among PWID to an average of every second day
  • Prevalence and frequency of cannabis use increased significantly among RPU

Crystal methamphetamine use among people who inject drugs (PWID) increased by a further six per cent in 2015, with more than two thirds of the sample reporting regular use of the drug, the National Drug Trends Conference will hear today. But use of crystal methamphetamine, has remained stable among regular psychostimulant users (RPU), who represent a different sample of the drug using population.

The Conference organised by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) will report on the findings of its two annual national surveys of nearly 2,000 people. One survey is with people who inject drugs regularly and the other is people who use psychostimulants regularly.

In 2015 over two thirds (67 per cent) of the PWID interviewed for the Centre’s Annual Illicit Drugs Reporting System (IDRS) reported regularly using crystal methamphetamine in the previous six months, an average of once a week, up from 61 per cent in 2014. In comparison in 2010 only 39 per cent of users reported using crystal methamphetamine. PWID represent a particularly high-risk population who are often unemployed, have spent time in prison, and have complex mental health and substance use problems across a range of drugs including heroin.

The proportion of PWID using crystal methamphetamine has exceeded its previous peak of 56% in 2006, the last time there was a major issue with the drug in Australia.

Users reported that the drug was easy or very easy to obtain and that purity was high.

In contrast to the PWID, use of any methamphetamine among the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) participants saw a significant decline of just under 10 per cent over the period, with 38 per cent reporting use of any methamphetamine compared with 47 per cent in 2014 and 19 per cent reporting use of crystal methamphetamine in the previous six months, which is similar to 2014 figure (20%). Use of speed power, the most popular form of methamphetamine in this group, declined significantly to 25 per cent of participants compared with 36 per cent in 2014.This RPU cohort has a very different profile to the PWID – they are more likely to be employed, younger, university educated and unlikely to have a prison history.

The drug monitoring programs at NDARC, which have now been in operation for 15 years provide vital information about trends in drug use in Australia, said Professor Michael Farrell, Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

"All the data we have indicates a strong upward trend in problems related to crystal methamphetamine. But our surveys are indicating that the use of different forms of methamphetamine is quite different among the two populations interviewed. We still need more information on other drug using populations, particularly in regional and rural areas."

“The picture emerging from the Drug Trends program regarding methamphetamine use is that problematic use appears to be prevalent among high risk groups of users. While strategies targeting prevention among the general population remain important, messages targeting high risk groups in particular, including messages about the harms related to methamphetamine use and available treatment options, are crucial,” said Professor Farrell.

The conference will also hear that harms related to methamphetamine use have increased:

  • The rate of hospital presentations for amphetamine related problems have almost doubled since 2001 from 145 per million people to 272 per million people in 2013.
  • Treatment for amphetamine related problems have doubled from 10,027 in 2009 to 22,265 in 2013
  • Methamphetamine related deaths have increased from 3.4 per million persons in 2001 to 8.1 per million persons in 2011