A new research published in the Medical Journal of Australia revealed a dramatic rise of harmful effects related to the use of crystal methamphetamine in the last few years. The study has raised concerns that crystal meth will soon rise to popularity in Australia.
The study was spearheaded by Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Centre which discovered a 318 per cent rise in the number of times the emergency hotline was called to attend to incidents involving crystal meth in Melbourne. The researchers gathered data between June 2010 and June 2012.
While there was an overall increase in ambulance calls for amphetamine-related emergencies, the rise was particularly dramatic in relation to crystal meth or "ice" in slang.
In two years, ambulance call-outs rose from 130 to 590. The greatest increase was observed in crystal meth users between 15 and 29 years old.
Cherie Heilbronn, co-author of the study, said that researchers have seen the dramatic increase in the damaging effects of crystal meth. The age range of people reporting meth-related emergencies had not change over time.
According to researchers, the use of crystal meth or "ice" and amphetamines in Australia is higher compared to the UK and U.S. with 2.5 per cent of Aussies over 13 years old using crystal meth in 2012.
Crystal meth is a crystalised form of methamphetamine. Users smoke crystal meth or inject it in their bodies.
Crystal meth has grown prominent in the last few years due partly to the popularity of the hit U.S. TV series Breaking Bad. The show features the story of Walter White, a brilliant chemist turned high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with lung cancer. He resorts to "cooking" and selling crystal meth to raise money for his family and secure their future after his eventual death.
Australian Drug Foundation's national policy manager, Geoff Munro, said Breaking Bad may have had a small impact on crystal meth's rising popularity. He said the foundation was concerned about the promotion of crystal meth, including all types of drugs and alcohol in media. Mr Munro said there are valid questions to be raised regarding the role of Breaking Bad. He said it still remains to be seen how the show has affected drug use.
Mr Munro believes that the lack of job opportunities and mental health issues are far greater factors to consider. He said he has heard reports about the rise of crystal meth in Australia because of international meth dealers. Rumours of meth labs in Victoria's abandoned houses remain unconfirmed as of late.
Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Hayward of Victoria said he can vouch for the dramatic increase of crystal meth labs being set up in abandoned houses before the premier of the Breaking Bad show. Victoria police has confirmed the increasing number of secret drug laboratories being set-up in Australia. The detective said this has been going on in the last 10 years.