Meth use at “Pandemic Levels” in Australia
Hardly a day goes by without a former Olympian, football player or other so-called “celebrity” being found with drugs, or worse still dying prematurely due to self harm or injury as a result of drug abuse.
According to latest figures released this week, an illicit drug arrest was made every six minutes and a seizure every seven minutes while authorities seized about $2.7billion worth of drugs last year alone.
Authorities readily concede that even these startling figures represent just a fraction of the prevalence of drug use in society.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton said the drugs being discovered by authorities were “only the tip of the iceberg”.
“We’re never going to police our way out of the drug problem in Victoria. In fact, we’ve really only got a tip of the iceberg and that’s all we’ll ever have,” he said.
“We’re in the supply suppression business in policing.”
Seizures and arrests of almost every class of drug were at record levels, according to the ACC’s Illicit Drug Data report, released today at the Alfred Hospital.
This trend was also reflected in trafficking levels, with unprecedented drugs seizures and arrests on Australian borders.
The rapid spread of the highly addictive street drug ice, also known as crystal meth, was singled out as one of the most troubling pictures to emerge from the report.
ACC chief executive officer Chris Dawson described the ice situation as “a pandemic” affecting every Australian, beyond the users themselves.
“Its larger than just simply a major problem,” he said, comparing the trend of ice in Australia to the rampant spread of crack cocaine addition in the United States.
“It rips families apart,” Mr Dawson said. “It’s not just about law enforcement, this is a national problem in which we need education and health to join with the community.”
Mr Dawson said Australia’s wealth made it an attractive target for organised criminal syndicates within Australia and from outside its borders.
Mr Ashton said ice had presented “a kind of drug problem that we haven’t seen previously.”
“The crime consequences, the health consequences, particularly in rural Victoria, is really significant and it’s something that we haven’t seen before,” he said.
Minister for Justice Michael Keenan said strike forces had been established and embedded within each state to target the criminal gangs who “continue to profit from their misery”.
The government has also committed $88 million to customs and border protection for cargo screening, he said.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said the illicit drug network had evolved and diversified considerably over the past decade, but authorities were also adapting their policing.
Despite inroads that have been made to disrupt drug trafficking, including the creation of a taskforce targeting Australia’s ports, Mr Negus said he believed the illicit drugs market remained “the principal” source of income for organised crime.
“The high Australian dollar combined with. .. our apparent insatiable appetite for illicit drugs will continue to make us a target for international drug traffickers and criminal syndicates,” Mr Negus said.
Alfred Hospital CEO Associate Professor Andrew Way said the hospital’s nurses and doctors were increasingly seeing the “devastating effects” of illicit drugs on patients and their families.
Odyssey House’s James Pitts said there had been growth in the amphetamine sector over the past five years with the decrease in availability of heroin and the growth of drugs markets in South East Asia.
“Whenever a particular drug is prevalent in the public domain, then for people who it has had an adverse affect on, there’s usually a two-year lag before you see it in the data,” he said.