A hidden epidemic: Deaths from ice in Australia have doubled

Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis via Getty Images

Deaths from highly addictive methamphetamine, or ice, have more than doubled in Australia since 2009.

The death toll linked to methamphetamine use in Australia jumped to 301 in 2015 from 142 in 2009, according to the latest research.

A study, published in the journal Addiction, identified and analysed 1649 cases of methamphetamine-related death by using the National Coronial Information System.

This chart shows how the death toll has been rising.

Image: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre

Professor Shane Darke of National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre says the results are indicative of a major public health issue and highlight a hidden problem.

“To see such large and significant increases in mortality rates over the study period indicates a major methamphetamine problem,” he says.

“With so much public attention focused on violence, many users may be unaware that heart disease is a major factor in methamphetamine-related death.

“Without increased awareness of the connection between methamphetamine use and cardiac and/or cardiovascular disease we could expect to see a significant increase in cases of this kind in the coming years.”

In a fifth of cases (22%), death was attributed to natural disease in conjunction with methamphetamine toxicity. The most frequent natural disease was cardiac and/or cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Suicide accounted for 300 methamphetamine-related deaths (18%).

A large testing program of Australia’s sewerage system has found hard evidence that methamphetamine is the most consumed illicit drug.

And Western Australia is the ice capital of Australia, with methamphetamine used at twice the rate of some other parts of the country.

Fifty-one sewerage system sites, 22 in capital cities and 29 in regional Australia, were tested in 2016 for the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission by the University of Queensland and the University of South Australia.

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