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Estimating the number of regular and dependent methamphetamine users in Australia, 2002–2014

Estimating the number of regular and dependent methamphetamine users in Australia, 2002–2014 - Featured Image

During 2015, reports of problems arising from the use of the crystalline form of methamphetamine known as “ice” or “crystal” have attracted increased media, community and policy attention in Australia.1,2 There were substantially more seizures of methamphetamine at the border during this time,3 and the media reported these developments in terms of an “epidemic” of methamphetamine use. Researchers and law enforcement officials have disagreed about whether its use has increased; household survey data on the prevalence of use in the past year and surveys of drug users have been interpreted as showing that methamphetamine use has, in fact, been stable.4,5

We need credible estimates of the number of regular and dependent methamphetamine users in Australia. It is these patterns of use that are of greatest concern from both the public health and public order points of view. These groups include the users most likely to experience harms such as psychoses and serious medical problems that require hospital treatment. People who use illicit drugs heavily are not well captured in household surveys, in which less frequent use is typically reported; in the most recent national household survey, for instance, 48% of those who had used methamphetamine…

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