Ice ‘highest risk’ drug in Australia: report

HIGH youth unemployment and a lack of activities could be feeding ice habits among rural and regional Australians, an expert has said, after a report reminding of the dangers of the drug.

Yesterday Justice Minister Michael Keenan released the Australian Crime Commission report that summarised what was already known about the ice market and criminals profiting from it.

The report reiterated the link between international crime groups and bikie gangs including the Rebels and Comancheros and it was rated the "most dangerous (illicit) drug" in use.

It also showed that of the nation's "highest risk" criminal groups, 60% were directly engaged in the importation, production and distribution of methylamphetamine.

ACC chief executive Chris Dawson said ice use and purity was rising, and the drug was the "highest risk to our nation".

University of Melbourne associate professor of criminology John Fitzgerald said existing users were using more, but there was little evidence of more new users.

He said the report was a good summary of the problem, but was based on existing data already publicly released by the commission and other government sources.

"What we do know are those using ice are using more, and the drug itself may be more pure, but it's more the method of consumption that is having a bigger effect," Prof Fitzgerald said.

"What we tend to find is in regional areas, when problems emerge, they can have a bigger effect on the communities than in the city.

"In the cities there is also more anonymity for users to seek help, where in rural areas, users are often known, and that can go one of two ways - they can be stigmatised, or the community can support them and their families."

He said while policing had improved in recent years, researchers had warned of a coming problem a decade ago, but little was done.

"I think we can (also) do a whole lot better in preventing people falling into the drug market in regional and rural Australia.

"As employment opportunities dry up, particularly for young people, and there are less activities, all drug use rises in regional areas."

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