If you hadn’t noticed that ice (the funky new name for crystal meth) has been in the headlines more of late – well, you must have been puffing muffins. Yesterday, the Australian National Council on Drugs released their position paper on meth in which they estimate that there are around 73,000 dependent users in Australia (finally overtaking heroin with a paltry 45,000 junkies – down from around 74,000 in 2001) and that 500,000 Aussies had a crack at the stuff in the previous 12 months. In light of this dubious honour, it was crowned Enemy Number One in the War On Drugs at last year’s Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy Ice Emergency Summit.

Nothing much seemed to be accomplished on either day of the Emergency Summit besides a lot of feds v state posturing: – “Ice is the states’ fault because they won’t ban crack pipes” “No, it’s the feds’ fault because they let it over the border” – and nothing much has been accomplished since.

Is meth use a serious problem? Unlike former Enemy Number Ones in The War, such as marijuana and heroin, meth is a big upper and its use can result in aggressive and violent behaviour (as opposed to heroin, which isn’t really a problem in that respect until the user doesn’t have any). That said, there aren’t 73,000 crazed speed freaks wandering the streets causing havoc – where are all these people?

I asked a user and occasional dealer what type of people use it and what type of people sell it: “Everyone from yuppies to street kids and everything in between – both sides of the economic scale need a drug … Meth culture has different social aspects to other drug cultures – it’s more pumped up and based on activities like dancing and being on a mission and using it to accomplish something.”

“The people who sell drugs are usually reflective of the people buying it. People who buy drugs for rich people have usually got a more clean-cut style, people who buy it for the street kids are usually on the street themselves. When you get into selling drugs it can be a smart move, there’s a lot of money to be had from selling drugs. Some people see that as an opportunity and base their entire lives around it.”

Is the government right in making ice enemy number one? “Ice gets you really fired up, and when people use that as an excuse to be hostile it becomes a community safety issue. The number one mental health issue with drugs is still smack – you get problems with ice too, but not like smack. The Government doesn’t know what the different drugs are like, so they just do what they think people want to hear. They reckon they’re going to cut off amphetamine supplies from south-east Asia. That’s not going to change anything, you can get the ingredients anywhere, it’ll still be around.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey