Vic Govt Ramsay Report 2014 – Response article – Wkly Tms 24.09.2014

Miranda: Victorian crystal methamphetamine, ice, epidemic, is it?

  • by: Genevieve Barlow – From: The Weekly Times – September 24, 2014 12:00AM

FOR 10 months a committee inquiring into crystal methamphetamine use in Victoria scoured the state taking evidence from 220 witnesses, 78 written submissions and 113 public hearings (89 of which were in country Victoria).

It’s been a topic of particular interest to us out here in the bush because we keep reading reports of how bad our meth problem actually is. There is no doubt that it’s as bad as it is in Melbourne or other metropolitan areas.

And yet just 2 per cent of the population use it and of them just 14.5 per cent have a dependency. The inference is that 84 per cent of those who do use it are recreational users. (Men aged 20-35, including tradies, are a high-risk group. A lot smoke it.)


Despite this low usage across the population, community forums on crystal methamphetamine in country areas have been attracting crowds of up to 600 people; apparently around 200 people turned out to such a forum in Tooleybuc, north of Swan Hill, and its population is just 170 or so.


Methamphetamine, a synthetic drug that can be cooked up at home, has been around for decades. Apparently, the German Army used it to keep their soldiers awake during World War II.

The problem, according to inquiry committee president, Simon Ramsay, is that people are increasingly using the pure more potent form called crystal methamphetamine, or ice.

I don’t know from personal experience what using this drug does. Nor does Simon Ramsay, whose committee has put together an incredibly detailed and thorough report over almost 900 pages.


But we do know some of the knock-on effects, especially when it’s used with alcohol and other drugs.

As Supt Jock Menzel of the Vic Police’s eastern division told the inquiry, ice-induced psychosis with aggressive hallucinations presents a risk of assault and serious injury to family, friends and attending police or personnel.

That is, users can get violent. They can also lose weight, develop skin sores, get high blood pressure, ruin their teeth and gums and suffer cardiovascular problems and kidney failure. Long term, depression and impaired memory and concentration are possible.


What should we do about this? Get the Government to introduce tougher laws around violence? Around drug use? Convict manufacturers and traffickers to long jail terms?

Maybe we should do all of these but they address the outcomes not mitigate against the uptake.


For that, education and knowledge and community response, especially at the local level, are needed. Mr Ramsay says he will support communities who take action.

“I strongly encourage local communities that have an ice problem to develop community action plans for crystal meth and I will do my very best to ensure the government supports them.”


Among the report’s compelling observations is the lack of research and support in rural areas, an area of neglect in political circles, state and federal, certainly not limited to drug use. Another is that in rural and regional areas, as in Melbourne, it remains the case that the drugs of most concern are alcohol and tobacco.

So yes, we have a problem. Individual and family breakdown and indeed, loss of life, associated with crystal meth use are devastating communities.


But we don’t have a pandemic. We have small rates of usage across populations causing significant problems.