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The Dangers of Methamphetamine Use

Despite overall use of methamphetamine declining, the dangers associated with its use are increasing due to the purity and the increase in daily use. Think of this like an iceberg where the harm is what is seen above the waterline and the size of the iceberg represents the number of people using methamphetamine. The iceberg has not increased in size; however the salinity of the water has changed meaning that we see increased harms, which are often misreported in the media as an indication an increase in use - the so-called ‘ice epidemic.’
Crystal Methamphetamine
© CQUniversity 2021

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that affects the central nervous system. It is also commonly referred to as meth, blue, ice and crystal.

How Much is Methamphetamine Used?

Its use has decreased. Data from the 2019 NDSHS (AIHW, 2020) indicates that there has been a significant decline in its use since 2013, reducing from 2.1 per cent in 2013 to 1.3 per cent in 2019.

Among people who used methamphetamine, the use of crystal methamphetamine (know as “Ice”) increased, from 22 per cent in 2010, and then to 50 per cent in 2020. However, of importance is that in those who used the drug, there has been a change in their patterns of use with more people reporting frequent use.

Dangers of Methamphetamine Use

Despite overall use of methamphetamine declining, the dangers associated with its use are increasing due to the purity and the increase in daily use. Think of this like an iceberg where the harm is what is seen above the waterline and the size of the iceberg represents the number of people using methamphetamine. The iceberg has not increased in size; however the salinity of the water has changed meaning that we see increased harms, which are often misreported in the media as an indication an increase in use – the so-called ‘ice epidemic.’

Methamphetamine use represented as iceberg

What are the Dangers?

Methamphetamine and other stimulants are related to a significant negative impact on the user’s mental health – this appears to be increasing. McKetin et al. (2006) estimated that 31% of people with methamphetamine use disorders experience psychosis at least once a year and 16% would likely meet the criteria for methamphetamine-induced psychosis (as opposed to psychosis associated with a mental health problem). Applying these figures to the current population, between 11,000 and 12,000 Australians would experience an episode of methamphetamine psychosis each year. This is considerable!

Methamphetamine Deaths

The NDARC (Roxburgh et al., 2018) reported in 2016 there were 105 amphetamine-induced deaths in Australia — a rate of 0.7 per 100,000 people. This was the highest rate since monitoring commenced. This is compared to fewer than 20 cocaine-induced deaths among Australians in the same period.

References
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016: detailed findings [Drug Statistics series no. 31, Cat no. PHE 214]. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/ndshs-2016-detailed/contents/table-of-contents
McKetin, R., McLaren, J., Lubman, D.I., & Hides, L. (2006). The prevalence of psychotic symptoms among methamphetamine users. Addiction, 101(10), 1473-1478.
© CQUniversity 2021
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