Crystal meth users need access to programs dealing with dental health, mental health, housing, finances, employment and relationships, according to ACON’s chief executive Stevie Clayton.

All were problems likely to face a growing number of crystal users in the gay and lesbian community, Clayton said at the first Australasian Amphetamine Conference held in Sydney last week.

Her call came as the NSW government announced a clinic to treat crystal users would be opened at St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst.

It would contain 20 detoxification beds and six psychiatric care beds and would improve coordination between drug and mental health services, NSW health minister John Hatzistergos said at the conference.

Apart from the well-publicised mental health problems associated with crystal use, such as psychosis, there was a list of other issues that needed to be addressed as well, Clayton said.

One of these was rapid tooth decay, or meth mouth, which was a common side effect seen in users in the US and UK.

A recent New York Times article found US dentists were seeing a rise in cases of meth mouth.

Clayton also called for more research into the relationship between crystal and unsafe sex, and more research into usage among lesbians and transgender people.

Clayton said there were higher rates of crystal usage among gay men and lesbians than in the general community, with the highest use among gay men on the party scene.

The latest Sydney Gay Community Periodic Survey found 26 percent of respondents had used crystal.

Another study, by the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, looked at the drugs HIV positive people were using when they believe they contracted the virus.

The study found about 16 percent were using crystal at the time, which was lower than usage rates of other drugs. About 36 percent said they were using amyl, 27 percent had been drinking alcohol and 25 percent had been smoking cannabis. Around 18 percent had been using ecstasy, 10 percent had been on speed while 10 percent had been using Viagra.

Last week Sydney Star Observer reported NSW police commissioner Ken Moroney said crystal was the greatest scourge in the community he had seen in his 41 years as a policeman.

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