A man who was high on the drug ice died after stabbing himself with a broken bottle as he walked down the street, a symposium on the drug held in Lismore last week heard.
Attendees also heard that while use of the drug in the community was still not widespread, many former speed users were transferring to it, and that it had profound effects on the individuals who became addicted to it and their families.
As a result of the symposium a working group has been formed which will meet soon to further the action plan and to draw up a submission to the National Ice Taskforce meeting in Lismore on May 19.
The group has been promised $200,000 to implement a four-point plan aimed at limiting the availability of the drug, reducing its impact and improving the capacity of health care workers to deal with its effects.
At the symposium North Coast Medicare Local’s substance misuse program officer Christine Minkov said that while a steady 2.5 per cent of the population had used methamphetamines over the last 12 months, what had changed was that people were turning away from powder and pills (speed) and turning to crystal meth (ice) for a variety of reasons.
‘People are choosing ice because of its purity and potency, its availability and its long lasting, intense high which can be achieved through smoking the drug,’ she said.
Ms Minkov said that the between 2010 and 2013 the use of speed had reduced from 51 per cent of all methamphetamines to 29 per cent. Over the same period, the use of ice had increased from 22 per cent to 50 per cent.
Richmond Area Command’s Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay said that while 345g of methamphetamines had been seized in the Richmond area last year, more than 600g had already been seized this year. He said that the use of ice meant that police were dealing with a level of aggression and violence not faced before by methamphetamine users.
Detective Inspector Lindsay talked about one man stabbing himself while walking along the street with a broken bottle until he died.
NSW Ambulance district manager, inspector Glen Eady, also spoke of the difficulties of dealing with ice users who they described as a danger to officers.
Addiction specialist Dr David Helliwell said that while methamphetamine users were a small percentage of the population, those who used it got into lots of trouble.
‘There’s been a three-fold increase in patients in the last couple of years. Methamphetamine use is often related to disadvantage – unemployment, isolation, low incomes. We need to improve people’s circumstances and employment rates to reintegrate into society. What’s lacking is a whole of government response.’
CEO of Bulgarr Ngaru Aboriginal Medical Corporation, Scott Monaghan, said that in the area of Aboriginal health the biggest problem was people getting a prescription for methamphetamines and copying or selling them.
‘Families and friends are most affected by use and it’s tearing communities apart,’ he said.
Vahid Siberi from North Coast Medicare Local said the group now had a strategy and funding for its short-term action plan. He added it would seek further funding for longer-term strategies.