More than half of the estimated 268,000 regular users of ice are dependent on the drug, says the first research quantifying the problem in Australia.
The estimates suggest the numbers have substantially risen during the past five years, while recent increases were most marked among those aged 15-34.
Overall the highest rates of methamphetamine use have consistently been among 25 to 35-year-olds.
‘There is a need for both more health services and better engagement with and retention of clients in treatment services,’ say the authors of the research published online by the Medical Journal of Australia.
Using sources including drug treatment and hospitalisation data, they estimated the number of regular and dependent ice users for each year from 2002 to 2014 and the numbers by age group.
Regular users had the drug at least once a month in the last year, while those with ‘impaired control’ of their use and who continued despite health and other adverse consequences were deemed to be dependent.
They estimated that in 2013-14 there were 268,000 regular users, aged between 15 and 54, with 160,000 of them being dependent.
‘This equates to population rates of 2.09 per cent for regular and 1.24 per cent for dependent use,’ said lead researcher Professor Louisa Degenhardt from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.
The rate of dependent use had continued to increase since 2009-10, when the rate was estimated to be .74 per cent, and was higher than the previous peak of 1.22 per cent in 2006-07.