ACT News

Ice addiction is tearing Canberra families apart with violence, says drug experts

Canberra's drug treatment community fears the devastating influence of ice will lead to more domestic violence in the territory.

The concerns come after the Australian Crime Commission released a landmark report on the drug prompting federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan to describe it as "mind-eating, personality-distorting, life-ending".

"There is strong link between methamphetamine use and family violence and we have seen the impacts of that in Canberra in the last couple of weeks," Directions ACT chief executive Fiona Trevelyan said.  

"It's pretty scary to see someone you know and love become someone you don't and are frightened of."

Ms Trevelyan said there was a steady increase in Canberrans reporting methamphetamine as their primary drug with the number of injecting users jumping by 13 per cent last year.  

According to the ACC report, ice users are more likely to demonstrate violent behaviour and aggression including domestic violence and sexual assaults.


"Crystal methylamphetamine also poses risks to frontline law enforcement and health care officers, as well as the family and friends of drug users or manufacturers," the report said.

Major Scott Warrington, who runs the Salvation Army's drug treatment centre in Fyshwick, has described treating ice patients as terrifying with some suffering from psychosis inside the facility.

"People on ice have a higher capacity to do something horrible like commit murder or carry out on some deep-seated resentment from their earlier family life," he said.  

"This drug poses a serious harm to the individual but also to the community with an increasingly likelihood of violence in the family."

Ms Trevelyan said she was "absolutely supportive of family violence receiving all the support it deserved but we need to look at it as a whole issue".

The number of patients identifying methamphetamine as their primary drug at Mr Warrington's centre has increased to 23 per cent this year, with another 40 per cent admitting to using the drug as part of their normal intake.

In November, the centre reported a 155 per cent increase in Canberrans seeking treatment for methamphetamines addiction amid mental health problems and unpredictable violence. 

According to the ACC report, organised crime groups are now mixing ice with other illicit drugs "in an attempt to increase addiction levels and maintain the consumer base".  

Mr Warrington said mixing methamphetamine with other substances was not new although improvements in the purity of the drug had increased the risk.

"There is a lot more crystal methamphetamine available than there used to be when people would crush it up and mix in sugar or something sour so users didn't know it wasn't pure," he said.

"Now, people are paying a similar price but they are getting the drug in a much purer crystal or rock form, which means they take a stronger dose which could lead to psychosis."

Ms Trevelyan said people mixing crystal methamphetamine with drugs such as heroin make the task of health workers hospital staff more difficult.

"Somebody who has used methamphetamine and needs treatment in an emergency room cannot be talked down so staffs have to bring them down chemically, but when they are mixing drugs that can become very complicated," she said.

The ACC report found Australians were paying a premium price for the drug compared to prices in key foreign markets making Australia an attractive marketplace.

"We see that evidence in out jail system with people who have got themselves in trouble with the law and after searching for alternative methods of finding or affording the drug," Mr Warrington said.

Mr Keenan said ice posed a greater threat to Australian society than any other drug.

"In recent years we've seen the creep of ice use stretch across the nation, with individuals from all levels of society succumbing to its depravity," he said.

"Ice causes psychosis and long-term psychological issues, is linked to violent criminal attacks against innocent bystanders, road deaths, robberies and vicious assaults against frontline health or law enforcement responders."