The ice epidemic

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					                                                   The ice epidemic
                                                   BY SANDRA SOLDO

                                                               he          increasing    labs, or even kitchens and              that ice-users can quickly develop      sleep disturbances to weight loss

                                                               popularity of the drug    bathrooms, using a variety of           a tolerance to the drug and             and heart palpitations. Two thirds
                                                               “ice” has, and will       ingredients available in shops. It      therefore require greater doses to      suffered from some form of
Police Journal February 2007

                                                               continue to have, a       is also relatively cheap, selling for   achieve the desired effects.            mental-health disability.
                                                   huge impact on Australian police      about $45 per gram.                       Experts say that crystal
                                                   resources.                                                                    methamphetamine is one of the           Psychosis and mental
                                                     The growing use and damaging        Effects of ice                          most addictive street drugs and         illness
                                                   effects of the drug are now widely      The physical and psychological        one of the hardest to treat.              A recent study found that rates
                                                   reported in the media. We might       effects of ice on a user can              A recent National Drugs and           of psychosis among regular
                                                   not yet have reached an ice           include:                                Alcohol Research Centre study           methamphetamine-users were 11
                                                   epidemic, but all the signs           • Feelings of euphoria,                 estimates that there are about          times that seen among the
                                                   certainly indicate that we are           excitement and wellbeing             103,000 regular methamphetamine-        general population. Almost one in
                                                   headed for one.                          which can last from 20 minutes       users in Australia. Of those, almost    four (23 per cent) participants had
                                                     Of course, front-line police           to more than 12 hours.               75 per cent (about 73,000) are          experienced       symptoms        of
                                                   officers see firsthand the many       • Increased alertness,                  dependent ice-users. This high          psychosis in the past year.
                                                   problems associated with the drug        confidence and more energy.          percentage of drug dependency           Psychosis was also common (18
                                                   – the damaging physical and           • Feelings of increased strength.       reflects the extremely addictive        per cent) among people who had
                                                   mental effects on users, and the                                              nature of methamphetamine.              had no known history of
                                                   link between ice use and crime          The Australian Drug Foundation          The National Drugs and Alcohol        schizophrenia or other psychotic
                                                   rates.                                has found that the long-term and        Centre produced figures which           disorders.
                                                                                         even occasional use of ice can          indicate that there are some              The potentially dangerous
                                                   Highly addictive                      cause a number of health issues,        37,000 regular amphetamine-             psychotic behaviour ice-users
                                                                                         including:                              users in NSW aged from 15 to 49,
                                                     Crystal       methamphetamine                                                                                       exhibit      includes      auditory
                                                                                         • High blood pressure, increased        and 28,000 of them admit to
                                                   hydrochloride (ice) is a highly                                                                                       hallucinations,              mood
                                                                                            risk of heart attack and heart       addiction. This represents almost
                                                   addictive stimulant of the central                                                                                    disturbances, delusions and
                                                                                            failure.                             76 per cent dependency.
                                                   nervous system. Users inject,                                                                                         paranoia, possibly resulting in
                                                                                         • Malnutrition and rapid weight           In 2004, the Australian Institute
                                                   snort or smoke it, or ingest it                                                                                       homicide or suicidal thoughts.
                                                                                            loss owing to reduced appetite.      of Health and Welfare (AIHW)
                                                   orally. In its purest form, ice has                                                                                     Commissioner Ken Moroney
                                                                                         • Chronic sleeping problems.            conducted a National Drug
                                                   an average purity of 80 per cent,                                                                                     (NSW) has publicly discussed the
                                                                                         • Depression, anxiety, tension          Strategy Household Survey and
                                                   while the average purity of “base”                                                                                    clear connection between ice and
                                                                                            and paranoia.                        found that 2.3 per cent of              mental illness, and the high rates
                                                   (the damp, oily form of
                                                                                                                                 Australians aged 14 and older had       of violence. “We know that those
                                                   methamphetamine) is 20 per cent,        According to Australia’s National
                                                                                                                                 used amphetamines for non-              using it and those using it for the
                                                   and “speed” (the powder form of       Drug and Alcohol Research Centre,
                                                                                                                                 medical purposes in the previous        first time, are having to seek all
                                                   methamphetamine) 10 per cent.         increasing numbers of people
                                                                                                                                 year. More than 38 per cent of this     sorts of long-term medical
                                                     Over the past five years, the       aged from 16 to 25 are smoking ice
                                                                                                                                 group reported that the type of         treatment, be it physical
                                                   supply        and       use      of   socially, making it the second
                                                                                                                                 amphetamine they used was ice.          treatment or mental-health
                                                   methamphetamine has grown in          most used drug after cannabis.
                                                                                                                                 This is worrying evidence,              treatment,” he said.
                                                   Australia.          Seizures     of     Victorian Health CEO Rob Moodie
                                                                                                                                 particularly in light of the coming-      In the recent study, half the
                                                   amphetamine-type stimulants           has said: “It takes only seven
                                                                                                                                 down effect of the drug on users.       methamphetamine-users who had
                                                   (including methamphetamine)           seconds from taking a puff to the
                                                                                                                                   As the effects of ice wear off, the   experienced psychotic symptoms
                                                   increased from 156kg in 1996-97       instant brain hit, three times
                                                                                                                                 user might experience a range of        during the past year felt hostile or
                                                   to more than 1.8 tons in 2001–02.     faster than injecting. Dependent
                                                                                                                                 symptoms, including:                    aggressive at the time. One in four
                                                   This came as increases occurred in    users spiral from highs lasting
                                                                                                                                 • Depression.                           users had, while he or she was
                                                   both domestic production of           days into withdrawal and
                                                                                                                                 • Tension.                              psychotic, exhibited overt hostile
                                                   methamphetamine and the               depression.”
                                                                                                                                 • Radical mood swings.                  behaviour, such as yelling at
                                                   importation of high-purity ice          Ice-smoking among young
                                                                                                                                 • Uncontrollable violence               people, throwing furniture or
                                                   methamphetamine.                      recreational users is a particular
                                                     Crystal methamphetamine is in                                               • Exhaustion.                           hitting people.
                                                                                         concern because it provides an
                                                   abundant supply and readily           instant effect and has a high            Almost half of all ice-users             These violent psychotic episodes
                                                   available. Ice can be easily          dependence liability. The danger        surveyed in a recent report had         by ice-users continue to come with
                                                   produced in small clandestine         with crystal methamphetamine is         physical problems ranging from          a huge impact on police and other
front-line workers. Today, police      “the good old days”. His comment       absolutely horrific. It has the                 The report’s author, Dr Rebecca    13
with neither the resources nor the     puts into perspective the              potential to destroy generations.”            McKetin, asserted that: “Front-
mental-health           knowledge      difficulties police face in              NSW Premier Morris Iemma told               line policing and health bear the

                                                                                                                                                                 Police Journal February 2007
continue to be called – as the free    managing ice-users suffering           Parliament of a recent study of               brunt of drug-induced psychosis
24-7 mobile emergency service          psychosis.                             3,000 emergency department                    and there is a need to improve the
which they are – to deal with the        Police face great risk of physical   records in NSW hospitals. It                  capacity of the workforce in how
mentally ill. But add to this the      injury whenever they act to            showed that 56 per cent of ice-               to manage the aggressive
growing use of ice and the high        restrain ice-users suffering           users were addicted to the drug,              behaviour that often occurs with
level of dependency associated         amphetamine psychosis. The             and 45 per cent had committed a               this condition.”
with it. Is it not obvious that, for   Gladstone Observer reported last       crime in the past month.
police, the situation will             month that an unprovoked 36-             According to figures released in
deteriorate to a point of extreme      year-old man, who regularly used       October 2006 by the NSW Bureau
danger? Sadly, members of the          ice, violently assaulted a 16-year-    of Crime Statistics and Research,
community will suffer the fallout.     old boy. When police officers          and the National Drug and Alcohol
  As more and more police              tried to restrain him, he punched      Research Centre (NDARC), the
resources are diverted toward          one of them several times in the       number of people arrested for
dealing with ice-users, in terms of    face. The officer suffered a           methamphetamine in NSW has
their crimes and psychotic             broken nose and severe facial          more than doubled over the past
episodes, officers’ first-response     injuries, which required surgery.      decade.
commitments to the community           It eventually took four police
will suffer. Too few front-line        officers to restrain the man.                                   No. of methamphetamine arrests in NSW
police will be left to deal with         The ice epidemic presents
those commitments, resulting in a      formidable challenges to policing.                       3500              3091
backlog of jobs.                       Police are being compelled to look                       3000
  Police respond not only to calls     toward alternative methods of                            2500
                                                                               No. of arrests

to deal with the mentally ill but      restraint, as capsicum spray often                       2000                                                    1995
also ice-users suffering psychotic     proves ineffective with ice-users
                                                                                                1500       1114                                         2005
episodes.       This is extremely      suffering psychotic episodes.
resource-intensive work places           In October 2006, the then police
police officers’ safety at great       minister, Carl Scully, spoke of a                        500

risk.                                  trial involving taser guns. “One of                        0
  According to the Australian          the reasons we’re looking at taser                                                Years
Institute of Health and Welfare,       guns is (the need) for some of
hospital admissions for psychosis,     these people who (experience)
owing to amphetamines, have            psychotic episodes … to be               There were 1,114 arrests for                           Continued on page 28
increased by 60 per cent from          restrained,” he said. “It’s very       methamphetamine in 1995, and
2000 to 2004. So seriously has St      difficult for conventional policing    3,091 in 2005. This represents an
Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, taken      procedures to deal with it.”           increase of more than 253 per cent
the problem of dealing with ice-                                              in the past 10 years.
users who undergo violent              Ice use and violent crime                Over this same period, assault
psychotic episodes that it has           A strong correlation exists          rates in NSW rose from 522 per
developed a special ward to            between ice use and violent crime.     100,000 people in 1995, to 942
contain them.                          Commissioner Ken Moroney has           per 100,000 people in 2005. The
  According to the hospital’s head     said the greatest challenge facing     report concluded that, although
of Emergency, Dr Gordion Fulde,        NSW Police is the ice epidemic. “I     methamphetamine use can lead to
staff use the equivalent of            don’t know in all the time I’ve        violent behaviour in some
elephant tranquilizers to sedate       been a policeman, which is 41          situations, it is likely to be one of
violent ice-users in the special       years, of a greater scourge on the     a number of factors contributing
containment room. Tellingly, he        community,” he said.          “The     to the increasing assault rate in
has described the time when            physical        and        mental      NSW.
heroin dominated the scene as          manifestations of this drug are
                                                   The ice epidemic
                                                   Continued from page 13

                                                                                                                                                        No. of recorded criminal
                                                     Data collected in another recent                 Since October 2004, robbery
                                                   study revealed that criminal                     without a weapon has increased by                 incidents involving robbery
                                                   involvement and consequent                       32 per cent in Canterbury-                             without a weapon
                                                   contact with the criminal justice                Bankstown, 32.5 per cent in
                                                   system was high among regular                    Central Western Sydney, and 39
                                                   methamphetamine users. Almost                    per cent in Blacktown.                                                     450 453
                                                                                                                                            500                                                  Canterbury-
28                                                 half (45 per cent) had committed                   Since October 2004, recorded
                                                                                                                                            400     341 342                      300
                                                   an offence in the past month, one                criminal incidents involving                                                                 Bankstown
                                                                                                                                            300       216
                                                   in four (26 per cent) had been                   break-and-enter have increased
Police Journal February 2007

                                                   arrested in the past year, and one               by 25 per cent in outer Western         200
                                                   in three had served a prison                     Sydney.                                 100                                                  Blacktown
                                                   sentence in his or her lifetime.                   Police believe the growing use of       0
                                                   Courts have recorded a rise in the               ice is helping to fuel the rise in              12 mths                    12 mths
                                                   number of ice addict-driven crime,               crime.      NSW Police Minister
                                                   with the most common types                       Watkins responded to the rise in
                                                                                                                                                     ending                     ending           Central
                                                   being dealing and property                       robbery by saying: “People on ice               30 Sept                    30 Sept           Western
                                                   offences.                                        have the propensity to use more                    '05                        '06            Sydney
                                                     A recent study found that                      violent means.”
                                                   alcohol use increased the                          NSW Police Commissioner Ken
                                                   likelihood of violent crime among                Moroney has said that, although
                                                   ice-users. Almost one in three of                ice is not an explanation for every                No. of recorded criminal
                                                   the      methamphetamine-users                   robbery, it does clearly have an
                                                   surveyed was under the influence                 impact: “It manifests itself in               incidents involving break & enter
                                                   of methamphetamine the last                      many forms … one of those forms                   in Outer Western Sydney
                                                   time he or she committed a violent               is a proliferation of violence,” he
                                                   crime. Methamphetamine use was                   said. “When it’s coupled with
                                                   reported to make the person feel                 alcohol, when it’s coupled with                                           2225
                                                   more alert, confident and                        abuse of other substances, when
                                                                                                                                            2000          1769
                                                   aggressive while undertaking                     it’s coupled with … other illnesses
                                                   violent crime.                                   such as mental illness, certainly       1500                                               break & enter
                                                     The figures revealed in the latest             these aberrations are showing
                                                                                                                                            1000                                               incidents
                                                   NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics                   themselves up in the numbers of
                                                   and Crime Research show that, for                people and the range of incidents        500
                                                   the first time in six years, violent             with which police are having to            0
                                                   crime is on the rise. Since October              deal.”
                                                   2004, robbery with the use of a                                                                      12 mths          12 mths
                                                   firearm has increased by 50 per                  The US experience                                  ending 30        ending 30
                                                   cent in inner Sydney and 71 per                    One need only look to the US to                   Sept '05         Sept '06
                                                   cent in the city’s inner west.                   find a strong correlation between

                                                                                                                                          ice use and crime. Today, one of      enforcement agencies identified
                                                                                 No. of recorded criminal incidents                       the toughest crime challenges         methamphetamine as the drug
                                                                                                                                          facing American law enforcers is      that most contributed to both
                                                                                  involving robbery with firearm                          the methamphetamine epidemic.         property and violent crime in their
                                                                                                                                            According to the 2005 National      jurisdictions.       In Spokane,
                                                      No. of recorded criminal

                                                                                                                                          Survey on Drug Use and Health         Washington, ice-users commit 70
                                                                                 120                     105
                                                                                                                                          (NSDUH), an estimated 10.4            per cent of burglaries, 80 per cent
                                                                                 100                                                      million Americans aged 12 or          of vehicle thefts and 95 per cent of

                                                                                  80         70
                                                                                                                                          older used methamphetamine at         credit-card fraud. In Oregon, ice-
                                                                                                                     Inner West
                                                                                  60                41                                    least once in their lifetimes for     users account for 85 per cent of all
                                                                                                                     Inner Sydney         non-medical reasons.         This     burglaries.
                                                                                  40    24
                                                                                                                                          represents 4.3 per cent of the US       Oregon corrections deputy Brett
                                                                                  20                                                      population in that age group.         King has said: “The connection in
                                                                                   0                                                      From 1994 to 2004, the number of      my       community        between
                                                                                        12 mths     12 mths                               admissions for treatment, in          methamphetamine and crime is so
                                                                                       ending 30   ending 30                              which methamphetamine was the         strong that most addicts that pass
                                                                                                                                          primary drug of abuse, increased      through our jails are not arrested
                                                                                        Sept '05    Sept '06
                                                                                                                                          from 33,443 in 1994 to 129,079 in     for having the drug, but for the
                                                                                                                                          2004.                                 crimes they commit in connection
                                                                                                                                            In 2004, one third of all law       to their addiction.”

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