Many readers will have heard reports of an ‘ice epidemic’ sweeping our nation, especially among rural communities. While the impacts of the drug ice are devastating, just how common is its use in rural Australia and what can communities do to help?
Crystal methamphetamine, or ‘ice’ is a stimulant drug which speeds up the central nervous system. Ice is often a purer form of methamphetamine, meaning it gives a stronger and longer lasting ‘high’, which can lead to more serious side effects.
Measuring true rates of ice use in the population is difficult and relies on data from several sources. According to the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey one in 50 Australians have used methamphetamine (including ice, speed or base) in the past year. According to the same survey, rates of ice use are twice as high (4.4 per cent) among people living in remote or very remote areas in Australia. A 2016 study found that rural Australians aged 18–24 years were significantly more likely to have recently used ice than their city or regional counterparts. Similarly, a recent wastewater analysis, a common tool for measuring drug use within national populations, found high levels of methamphetamine in regional sites across Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.
More important than comparing rates of use between metropolitan and regional areas, however, is addressing the significant impact ice has on individuals, their loved ones and their communities.
Critical to this response is providing Australians with evidence-based information and support. To meet this need, the Australian Government Department of Health funded development and dissemination of the Cracks in the Ice Community Toolkit (www.cracksintheice.org.au).
Launched in 2017, the Cracks in the Ice Online Community Toolkit provides trusted, evidence-based information and resources about ice for the community. The toolkit was developed with input from over 400 community members across Australia, with 22 per cent of participants from regional areas. Development was led by researchers from the Centre for Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS) at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW Sydney and the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), Curtin University.
It is hoped that Cracks in the Ice will help overcome geographical obstacles that prevent individuals and communities from accessing evidence-based information when they need it. It provides information about: ice itself (Get the facts about ice); the physical and mental health effects (What are the effects of ice?); and when and where to get help (Staying safe).
The toolkit also provides user-specific information for families and friends of individuals using ice; health professionals; and parents, teachers and students, and equipscommunity groups with the appropriate tools (e.g. factsheets, booklets and a PowerPoint presentation), to run forums about ice.
Where can someone get help about ice?
There are treatment and support options available for someone who is experiencing problems with . The Alcohol and Drug Information Service provides free and confidential advice about drugs; regional/rural contact information is provided in the toolkit.
The toolkit also provides a list of key support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and development of new culturally appropriate resources is also underway. If there a topic you would like to see on the new website for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders email us at: [email protected].
Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)