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How do we fix Canberra’s ice problem?

By Steven Bailey - 12 May 2015 22

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Canberra has an ice problem. No, I’m not talking about the blistering cold; I’m talking about the dangerous scourge in the form of highly purified methamphetamine.

I have interviewed 13 homeless Canberrans this year, eight of whom voluntarily admitted to using the drug on a regular basis, but it’s not just anecdotal evidence that suggests Canberra’s ice problem is real.

Directions ACT chief executive Fiona Trevelyan said in March that there was a 13 per cent increase in Canberrans admitting to injecting methamphetamine as their principle drug of choice last year. This year, the figure jumped by 23 per cent with 40 per cent of all drug users admitting to using methamphetamine as part of their regular drug consumption.

According to The Salvation Army’s Major Scott Warrington, his drug treatment centre in Fyshwick experienced a 155 per cent increase in Canberrans requesting support and treatment for methamphetamine addiction in 2014.

The Federal Government last month announced the formation of a national ice task force and development of a national ice action strategy to address the drug’s growing scourge. The initiative was welcomed by ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell and since then, Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Hanson called on the ACT Government to provide a comprehensive response to the problem of purified methamphetamine in the ACT.

According to Alcohol Tobacco and other Drug Association ACT (ATODA), 2.1 per cent of Canberrans use purified methamphetamine.

ATODA released a statement last week which brought light to the situation in Canberra:

“The increased harms from methamphetamine can be partially explained by a rapid and profound shift from powder to the more harmful crystalline form. The drug has become stronger, the price is stable and people who use it are using it more frequently,” said Ms Carrie Fowlie, Executive Officer, ATODA.

“In fact there is no widespread increase in methamphetamine use. Instead, we are seeing the effects of high purity methamphetamine among 2.1 per cent of the population.

Methamphetamine users are shifting to the crystalline form rather than non-drug users taking up the crystalline form.”

“This has implications for the sorts of interventions needed and their priority. Instead of broad-based population strategies, people who use methamphetamine and their families need access to treatment, harm reduction and other support services.”

“There has been a 36 per cent increase in demand, increasing amphetamine presentations and up to 3 month waiting lists for non-government drug services.”

Last week, ATODA called for an additional $1.6 million investment as part of its formal budget submission. Ms Fowlie said that the increase would provide a minimum of one additional full-time staff member per drug treatment service and professional development.

Ahead of the budget, the ACT Government responded to the request by asserting that it already provided more than $9 million per annum to non-government organisations for treatment and support services.

The contention isn’t the existence of the problem. The contention is in how we deal with it.

To what extent is this a law enforcement problem, and to what extent is this a health problem? And most importantly, to what extent should the tax-payer be footing the bill?

What’s Your opinion?


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22 Responses to
How do we fix Canberra’s ice problem?
Mysteryman 6:29 pm 13 May 15

chewy14 said :

If you legalised and regulated currently illicit drugs, whilst also providing more support services to those who had addiction or other problems, the overall issue would be less of a societal problem than it is now.

Legalising and regulating and drugs isn’t the fantasy solution that people want to believe it is. Users won’t have the government telling them how much is enough. You can regulate access all you like, but users will go around the government to get their next hit if the government doesn’t give them what they want. We currently regulate alcohol to varying degrees, but drunkenness and alcohol fueled violence is still a huge problem. Addictive substances like heroin and ice are inherently unsafe. Regulation won’t make them safer, and won’t make them less addictive. It will lower drug related crime because we will simply stop counting the sale, purchase, and possession of substances as crimes, but the overall problem will still be there. Look at Portugal – after 10 years of legalised drug use the number of drug related deaths is roughly the same as before. And unless the government gives the drugs away for free, or close to it, you’ll still get users committing other crimes to pay for their addictions. It’s the nature of the beast.

The argument that legalising it and regulating it will magically fix the problem is nonsense. It will change the dynamic of the situation, but the problems will still be there.

chewy14 5:11 pm 13 May 15

dungfungus said :

rosscoact said :

dungfungus said :

The “legalise drugs lobby” is very muted on this issue.
All of a sudden it makes sense to re-introduce capital punishment for drug dealers.

The irony with your comment is that ice is so popular because of the bang for your buck. It’s an economic issue.

Legalise/decriminalise all drugs and suddenly the value for money equation changes and other drugs become cheaper and ice reduces in popularity.

While I respect your opinion I think you realize that that will never happen so the best society can do is adopt a zero tolerance policy and enforce it.
If ice was more freely available more people would be using it more often. The A&E reception area at TCH would look like a scene from a zombie movie.
You can’t expect ambulance paramedics & staff there to be exposed to the display of unmitigated violence that someone high on ice is likely to have.
There wouldn’t be enough straitjackets to go around and the bleeding hearts in human rights wouldn’t allow tasers to be used.
I noticed that recently the walk-in clinic at Tuggeranong had partitions installed around the staff office area to protect them from ice-heads.

This is ridiculous hyperbole.

You’re actually assuming that Ice isn’t readily available to anyone who wants it right now. If 2.1% of the population are taking it regularly, I don’t think access to the drug is currently an issue that legalisation would lead to a massive increase in usage.

If you legalised and regulated currently illicit drugs, whilst also providing more support services to those who had addiction or other problems, the overall issue would be less of a societal problem than it is now.

The “tough on drugs” mantra is the cause of a large part of this problem in the first place..

dungfungus 12:20 pm 13 May 15

Tooks said :

Masquara said :

Steven Bailey you haven’t mentioned the “psychotic episode” effects of ice – witness recent murders in the ACT. That takes it out of the “health problem, sufferers need help” arena into the “how do we protect people from psychotic violence” one. I don’t have a solution – I sure hope the authorities come up with one.

I don’t understand your reference to the recent murders. Where is your information from that any of the alleged offenders were using ice?

I don’t know about ice but one was using axe.

dungfungus 11:48 am 13 May 15

rosscoact said :

dungfungus said :

The “legalise drugs lobby” is very muted on this issue.
All of a sudden it makes sense to re-introduce capital punishment for drug dealers.

The irony with your comment is that ice is so popular because of the bang for your buck. It’s an economic issue.

Legalise/decriminalise all drugs and suddenly the value for money equation changes and other drugs become cheaper and ice reduces in popularity.

While I respect your opinion I think you realize that that will never happen so the best society can do is adopt a zero tolerance policy and enforce it.
If ice was more freely available more people would be using it more often. The A&E reception area at TCH would look like a scene from a zombie movie.
You can’t expect ambulance paramedics & staff there to be exposed to the display of unmitigated violence that someone high on ice is likely to have.
There wouldn’t be enough straitjackets to go around and the bleeding hearts in human rights wouldn’t allow tasers to be used.
I noticed that recently the walk-in clinic at Tuggeranong had partitions installed around the staff office area to protect them from ice-heads.

Tooks 11:30 am 13 May 15

Masquara said :

Steven Bailey you haven’t mentioned the “psychotic episode” effects of ice – witness recent murders in the ACT. That takes it out of the “health problem, sufferers need help” arena into the “how do we protect people from psychotic violence” one. I don’t have a solution – I sure hope the authorities come up with one.

I don’t understand your reference to the recent murders. Where is your information from that any of the alleged offenders were using ice?

rosscoact 11:30 am 13 May 15

dungfungus said :

The “legalise drugs lobby” is very muted on this issue.
All of a sudden it makes sense to re-introduce capital punishment for drug dealers.

The irony with your comment is that ice is so popular because of the bang for your buck. It’s an economic issue.

Legalise/decriminalise all drugs and suddenly the value for money equation changes and other drugs become cheaper and ice reduces in popularity.

dungfungus 10:04 am 13 May 15

The “legalise drugs lobby” is very muted on this issue.
All of a sudden it makes sense to re-introduce capital punishment for drug dealers.

tooltime 11:38 pm 12 May 15

How do we fix Canberra’s ice problem?

You, yourself can’t. Government can’t, and if you think they can you’re delusional. Think of how little self respect these drug users have , who cannot foresee the consequences of taking psychosis inducing drugs, who have a whole host of other problems, who can’t/won’t own their decisons and behaviours…the buck stops with the individual.

AndiChrist 8:34 pm 12 May 15

My rough estimate is that if 2.1% of our population (including near towns and cities), there are around 8,500 regular ice users in the Canberra region. So the $1.6 mil Ms Fowlie suggested isn’t a bad idea. That’s $200 per regular user. Per year. How much does a night is the adult mental health unit cost, Mr Barr? Not to mention the other costs (that the Commonwealth also pick up) associated with crime, child support, Medicare.

It’s a complete no brainer.

Andy R

ButterflyBlack 8:07 pm 12 May 15

Surely the question is not whether it is a ‘justice’ or a ‘health’ ‘problem’ but WHY are more Canberrans using ice than anyone else in the country?

farnarkler 6:17 pm 12 May 15

Without the death penalty for the dealers, the problem isn’t going away, ever. Some of us (probably not many on here) would happily see drug dealers executed by various means.

Masquara 3:05 pm 12 May 15

Steven Bailey you haven’t mentioned the “psychotic episode” effects of ice – witness recent murders in the ACT. That takes it out of the “health problem, sufferers need help” arena into the “how do we protect people from psychotic violence” one. I don’t have a solution – I sure hope the authorities come up with one.

BooUrns 2:48 pm 12 May 15

Can’t fix it, Drugs just appeal to some people. The fact that we almost had a state funneral for two convicted drug smugglers dosnt really help much either.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 10:12 am 12 May 15

Drugs are bad, m’kay.

That’s the line, right?

Rollersk8r 9:58 am 12 May 15

The short answer is it’s not fixable. The current options of education, support, treatment and enforcement will continue forever into the future.

I am no expert – but it seems there’s a subclass of ordinary people who see hard drugs as completely normal. I know grown adults (parents, in fact) who still have the smug confidence of a teenager when they say ice is just one of many drugs, they’ve used it – and look at me – I’m not addicted. I even work with a woman who says she hopes her kids try ice – because it’s inevitable they will – and she just prays it’s doesn’t become a habit.

As a parent of young kids it blows my mind how people can have such a casual attitude…

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