No Hope: Why Do So Many Wealthy Australians Smoke Methamphetamine?


Documentary: New Zealand tried unsuccessfully to solve its methamphetamine crisis for 20 years. Today, the country is facing a second wave of the epidemic.

A string of wealthy and high-profile Australians have been revealed to have used ice cream in recent weeks, underscoring the reality of the highly addictive drug spreading to all corners of society.

While most associate ice cream with shocking images of emaciated drug addicts, its reach extends far beyond the homeless and other disadvantaged groups to high-functioning, high-income recreational drug users.

According to the medical journal The Lancet, Australia has the highest estimated rates of amphetamine addiction in the world.

“Sometimes people with high disposable incomes can and should use drugs, and sometimes those with very demanding jobs can use substances to help them cope, to help them relax, to help them work long hours and so on,” said the Curtin University drug research professor. Steve Allop.

“Every once in a while you see headlines attesting to that.”

Earlier this week, entrepreneur Geoff Bainbridge resigned as chief executive of ASX-listed Lark Distilling after The Australian obtained a sexually explicit video of the multi-millionaire smoking a methamphetamine pipe.

However, Bainbridge denied being an ice user and claimed he was being blackmailed with the video.

Geoff Bainbridge resigned over the video.  Source / The Australian
Geoff Bainbridge resigned over the video. Source / The Australian

The explosive story came after The Daily Telegraph earlier this month revealed the reason why troubled former Seven star Andrew O’Keefe was unceremoniously fired in December 2020.

According to the newspaper, a limousine driver employed by producers at The Chase Australia tipped off the network after the host pulled out an icy pipe on a return trip from a Sydney production studio.

And on Thursday this week, Denim Cooke, the husband of famous mummy blogger Constance Hall, faced court for driving with crystal meth in his system, without a license and with an unrestrained child in his car, reported Perth Now.

Professor Allsop, who was director of Curtin’s National Drug Research Institute from 2005 to 2016, said surveys had shown that 40% of Australians admitted to having used illicit drugs at some point in their lives.

“The evidence is clear that it occurs in all segments of the population,” he said.

“Certainly, if you look at treatment services, you will find all aspects of society – young, old, male, female, but also rich and poor.”

The main difference, he said, is that wealthier people are better able to hide their drug use.

“Obviously, when someone is not particularly well off, when they have all kinds of other problems in their life, when they are unemployed, if they drink alcohol or use drugs , the risk is that the evil manifests itself quickly,” he said.

“If your health is already not very good, already you don’t have a lot of money and you start to get entangled in drug use, you are obviously more likely to have pronounced problems – whereas if you’re otherwise wealthy, good health, good diet, stable income, family around you, then it might not become so obvious.”

Police hold a methamphetamine pipe at the Astoria Hotel, Kings Cross, Sydney Photo/News Ltd
Police hold a methamphetamine pipe at the Astoria Hotel, Kings Cross, Sydney Photo/News Ltd

Prof Allsop added that wealthy drug addicts generally sought help from private practitioners rather than public drug treatment services, which made it harder to get a clear picture of the numbers.

“But in other countries, they’ve used health insurance data and found people paying higher coverage, who are probably wealthier and in those higher socioeconomic areas, using and struggling with drugs. “, did he declare.

Australia’s particular problem with methamphetamine is due to a range of factors, but one of the most important is geography.

In recent years, traditionally heroin-producing regions in Southeast Asia have “diversified” into synthetic drugs, including ice cream.

“It’s much easier to hide a small plant than a crop that’s growing in the ground and can be seen by satellite, and you’re not dependent on the weather,” Prof Allsop said.

“Other countries have high levels of fentanyl use, we have very little, some countries have very high levels of cocaine use, we have relatively little, so obviously some of that is what’s accessible. “

The 2019 National Drug Strategy household survey found that 1.2 million Australians over the age of 14, or 5.8%, had used methamphetamine, of which 1.3% said they had consumed in the last 12 months.

Among meth users, half reported using crystal meth – ice – while only 20% reported using primarily the powder form, speed.

Drug use by region.  Source / United Nations World Drug Report 2021
Drug use by region. Source / United Nations World Drug Report 2021

While survey data suggests that overall rates of ice cream use have declined over the past eight years, other data and hospital records indicate that rates of regular and addicted methamphetamine use have increased. , according to the Australian government-funded website Cracks in the Ice.

“Data from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (2016 to 2020) indicates that methamphetamine is the most widely abused illicit drug in Australia, in capital cities and regional locations,” the website notes.

“Data from the program also indicates that methamphetamine use increased in Australia from 2016 to 2019, but it is unclear whether this increase was due to more people using the drug over time or to a smaller number of people using higher amounts of the drug over time.”

Wastewater data also shows that methamphetamine use fell sharply across all Australian capital cities from February to June 2020, likely due to the impacts of Covid-19.

“In contrast, consumption rates appear to have continued to increase in most regions in 2020,” he said.

The shift from speed to the more potent form of ice coincided with an increase in reported harms related to methamphetamine use.

This includes meth-related helpline calls, drug and alcohol treatment episodes and hospital admissions, addiction, psychosis and other mental health conditions, and deaths. related to methamphetamine.

“For example, in the decade from 2010 to 2020, hospitalizations caused by the use of amphetamines and other stimulants in Australia increased from 13 hospitalizations per 100,000 people to 70 per 100,000 people,” the site says. website.

“This accounts for 27% of all drug-related hospitalizations (excluding alcohol and tobacco).”

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