The number of people arrested for methamphetamine offences, including crystal meth, has jumped by 250 percent in the last 10 years, according to a new report.
But the research stops short of blaming crystal alone for the violence seen in some users.
The joint National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) and NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research study shows in 2005 there were 3,091 arrests for methamphetamine offences such as importation or possession, up from 1,114 in 1995.
The study’s lead author, Dr Rebecca McKetin, said the number of arrests grew most rapidly in the late 1990s.
The big change in the past five years or so has really been the increased purity of methamphetamine, particularly the high purity form of ice [crystal meth] that’s become popular, she told Sydney Star Observer.
The report, released this week, did not find a causal link between methamphetamine use and violence.
However, it does appear that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the drug does increase the propensity for people to be violent in certain circumstances, McKetin said.
This is most likely to occur in chronic users of the drug, or particularly when chronic users are experiencing drug-induced psychosis.
The methamphetamine report comes as a series of initiatives in Sydney seeks answers to the crystal crisis.
St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst will consider giving patients at its new crystal meth clinic the substitute drug dexamphetamine, a legal medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, if they do not respond to other treatment.
Meantime, a Sydney trial due to begin early next month will test whether giving crystal users amino acids could be more helpful than providing them with a substitute drug.
We’re going down the path of trying to give the body lots of building blocks so it can regenerate neurotransmitters more quickly, Dr Adam Winstock, chief investigator on the Sydney South West Area Health Service trial, told the Star.
In a separate trial that has already begun, NDARC researcher James Shearer is testing whether the drug modafinil -“ used to treat narcolepsy -“ could help crystal users quit.
He told the Star it was too soon to speculate about results but people are doing well in the study, and that’s very encouraging.
For information about the Sydney South West Area Health Service trial, call 9515 6311 in early November. To express your interest in the NDARC modafinil trial, call James Shearer on 0414 385 149.