Already anecdotally linked to unsafe sex practices, crystal meth is also associated with heightened rates of psychosis, according to a new study that shows nearly two-thirds of regular users are dependent on the drug.The study, released today by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, also shows people who smoke crystal meth are three times more likely to be dependent than users who snort or swallow.The research examined 310 regular crystal meth users in Sydney. It also surveyed dealers, hospital emergency records and law enforcement records.The study did not specifically examine crystal meth use in the gay and lesbian community.Regular users of crystal meth -“ also known as ice -“ were 11 times more likely to have experienced a psychotic episode than the general population.About a quarter of people who used the popular party drug showed symptoms of psychosis in the past year, with rates much higher among users dependent on the drug.Symptoms of amphetamine psychosis include delusions of persecution and social withdrawal.The psychosis wasn’t limited to people who had a known history of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders, the study’s lead author, Dr Rebecca McKetin, told Sydney Star Observer.There was also evidence younger recreational drug users were choosing to smoke crystal meth -“ thereby putting themselves at greater risk.Because crystal meth can be smoked, it’s much more accessible to recreational drug users than speed was, McKetin said.The median age of people who would take ice but preferred to smoke it was around 22, she said.We are seeing a new generation of meth amph users who wouldn’t have ever injected.With ice, when you smoke it, you get a really instant drug effect that gives you a rush, and that’s what’s so popular.But smoking crystal meth -“ rather than snorting or swallowing it -“ was more likely to lead to dependence, the study found.It’s actually that rush that’s addictive, McKetin said.Separate research presented at a nightlife health conference in Sydney last month showed crystal meth smoking rates increased about eightfold in NSW between 2000 and 2004.

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