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Crystal Methamphetamine Use in New South Wales

Crystal Methamphetamine Use in New South Wales

Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 19/2006 by Talina Drabsch
Crystal methamphetamine, also known as ‘ice’ and ‘crystal meth’, is a highly purified form of methamphetamine, a synthetic central nervous system stimulant. It affects the neurotransmitters that regulate feelings of excitement, euphoria and alertness and can cause users to feel confident and energetic. However, there are many negative side effects associated with its use; these may be stronger than those associated with other forms of methamphetamine due to its greater purity. An overview of crystal methamphetamine, what it is and its effects, is provided in section two of this paper (pp 3-5).

The majority of crystal methamphetamine in Australia is currently imported, although there have been some recent discoveries of domestic illicit laboratories manufacturing crystal methamphetamine. Information on the supply and distribution of crystal methamphetamine in Australia is included in section three (pp 6-8).

The popularity of crystal methamphetamine has dramatically increased since the start of the twenty-first century so that there are now more users of crystal methamphetamine than heroin. There are approximately 37,000 regular users of methamphetamine in NSW, with 28,000 people dependent on it. Regular crystal methamphetamine users differ slightly to those who use ‘speed’ (the less pure, powder form of methamphetamine). They are more likely to be older injecting drug users, unemployed and have a prison history. The characteristics of crystal methamphetamine users are outlined in section four (pp 9-13).

Crystal methamphetamine is a prohibited drug in NSW with its manufacture, supply, possession and use proscribed by the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW). Section five (pp 14-21) discusses the way in which crystal methamphetamine is regulated in NSW. It is also an offence in NSW to drive under the influence of a drug. The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing) Act 2006 (NSW) was recently passed to provide NSW police with additional powers to detect people driving under the influence of drugs by way of random roadside testing as well as following fatal accidents.

A common precursor used in the manufacture of methamphetamine is pseudoephedrine, often found in cold and flu tablets. Precursor control features in both domestic and international law enforcement strategies, highlighting its importance. Some of the approaches to precursor control are discussed in section five.

Members of the community have started to express their concern in relation to some of health and social implications of crystal methamphetamine use. The potential repercussions are noted in section six (pp 22-36). In addition to the mental and physical health issues, including methamphetamine psychosis, the links between the use of crystal methamphetamine and violence and crime are explored. The impact of crystal methamphetamine on health and law enforcement services is noted and some of the ways these services have responded to the challenge are outlined.

A summary of the global market for methamphetamines is provided in section seven (pp 37-41). Crystal methamphetamine seems to be a particular issue in the United States of America and New Zealand and the response of the governments in these countries is described.