Drug Trends Conference spotlights increase in ice use

November 2014

The use of crystal methamphetamine among people who inject drugs increased by six per cent between 2013 and 2014, attendees at the National Drug Trends Conference heard.

The annual conference, organised by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) and held on 20 October, showcased the results of NDARC’s two annual surveys of illicit drug users: the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS), which surveys people who regularly inject drugs; and the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS), which surveys people who regularly use psychostimulants such as ecstasy.

Results from the 2014 IDRS showed while overall methamphetamine use was stable among people who inject drugs, the proportion who reported use of crystal methamphetamine (‘ice’) increased to 61 per cent, up from 55 per cent in 2013. The biggest increases in use were reported in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, where ice use was up 20 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

Results from the 2014 EDRS showed a drop in the proportion of regular psychostimulant users who had taken synthetic cannabis. Nationally, seven per cent of those surveyed reported use of synthetic cannabis in the prior six months, down from 16 per cent in 2013. The overall use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) had stabilised. This was a change in the trend observed in 2011-2013, when use of NPS increased year on year.  

In addition to the showcase of the 2014 IDRS and EDRS findings, the Drug Trends Conference heard from a variety of speakers on other market happenings. Keynote speaker Jeremy Douglas of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime addressed illicit drug trends in East Asia and the Pacific, with emphasis on methamphetamine-related trafficking, seizures and arrests. Other presentations included Dr Karen Chronister on the injection of performance and image enhancing drugs; Detective Seargant Keith Randall on the importation of border controlled drugs; and Associate Professor Nadine Ezard of St Vincent’s Hospital (Sydney) on crystal methamphetamine harms and treatment.

The conference was attended by representatives from the Australian Government Department of Health, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police and service providers including ACON, Drug Health Services and Youth Off The Streets.

A select number of presentations and posters from the conference are downloadable from the NDARC website.

Summaries of the 2014 IDRS results and 2014 EDRS results are also on the NDARC website. The complete national and state reports will be published in autumn 2015.

Links to selected media coverage of the conference are featured below:

Psychosis fears after 'ice' use rises among injecting drug users

More people are using steroids, and they’re unaware of dangers

We need syringe programs in prison to stop Hep C: Researcher