THE number of people using methamphetamine in the south-west is rising sharply, with reports the powerful stimulant is flooding the region’s drug market.
Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD) director Geoff Soma said in the past three months there had been a steady increase in the use of crystal methamphetamine, or “ice”, with the drug accounting for 10 per cent of presentations in that period.
“In the last couple of weeks there has been a much higher increase,” he said.
Mr Soma’s comments come as the use of crystal meth is also skyrocketing in the Glenelg and Southern Grampians regions, prompting fears about its impact on crime and the health of users.
Mr Soma said ice was a dangerous drug of high dependency and users could never really be sure of what they were getting.
“Whoever is making it, they’re making it in labs and you’ve got no real control on what is in it,” he said.
He said users can become psychotic and suffer other physical health problems.
“It doesn’t take too long to become dependent,” he said.
Mr Soma said it was a difficult addiction to treat because users tended not to sleep or eat. In some cases it could create “very dangerous situations”.
“The drug industry is just like any other business — if they’re short of one product then there is a market for another drug,” he said.
“The price might be made cheaper to get people on to it.”
The Glenelg-Southern Grampians Drug Treatment Service has also recorded a spike in the number of people seeking help about methamphetamine addiction, but believes the problem is even more widespread.
Manager Bev McIlroy said there had been an obvious increase in the use of ice in the region.
“The behaviour and crime problems that come with methamphetamine use have become very obvious in the local community,” she said. “You could say there is a flood of ice on the market at the moment.”
Ms McIlroy said the number of people seeking treatment for ice addiction had grown steadily over the past five years but was only the tip of the iceberg.
“We hear about a lot more of it than we see. The number of people seeking help is only a fraction of the number using it. There has been a particularly sharp increase in the past six months.”