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Numbers of young meth users are on the rise

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Date Published:
29 Feb 2016
Contact person:
Marion Downey
+61 401 713 850
  • There has been a consistent rise in the number of regular and dependent users since 2010
  • The number of regular users has almost tripled from 90,000 in 2009/2010 to 268,000 in 2013-2014
  • These figures provide us with the first quantitative estimate of the scale  of the problem of methamphetamine use in Australia
  • This increase in use has been most concentrated in users aged 15-24 and users aged 25-34. Dependent use has doubled in both of these groups
  • Rates of use were highest in the 25-34 year old age group with 1.5 per cent now believed to be dependent, compared with 0.8 per cent in 2009/2010
  • Worryingly 1.14 per cent of young people aged 15-24 are estimated to be dependent on the drug compared with only 0.4 per cent in 2009/2010
  • The rise in dependent users among  younger age group (15-24) suggests an increase in new methamphetamine users
  • Figures suggest that there is a need for early intervention among younger people aged 15-24 to prevent transition into dependence, and greater engagement of clients in treatment and other health services

Almost 270,000 Australians aged between 15 and 54 years are regular users of methamphetamine, and over half of those are dependent on the drug, according to research that comprises the first quantification of the size of this population published online today by the Medical Journal of Australia.

Researchers led by Professor Louisa Degenhardt, from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, estimated the overall numbers of regular and dependent methamphetamine users in Australia for each year from 2002–03 to 2013–14, and the numbers by age group (15–24, 25–34, 35–44 and 45–54 years).

They found that in 2013–14 there were 268 000 regular methamphetamine users and 160 000 dependent users aged 15–54 years in Australia.

“This equates to population rates of 2.09% for regular and 1.24% for dependent use,” Professor  Degenhardt and colleagues wrote.

“The rate of dependent use had increased since 2009–10 (when the rate was estimated to be 0.74%), and was higher than the previous peak (1.22% in 2006–07).

“The highest rates of use were consistently among those aged 25–34 years. In 2012–13, the estimated rate of methamphetamine dependence in this age group was 1.50%.

“It is also important to note the recent increase in estimated dependent use among those aged 15–24 years: in 2012–13, the rate was estimated to be 1.14%.”

The authors concluded that: “The increased number of problem methamphetamine users indicates a need to expand services to redress the health problems associated with regular methamphetamine use.”

To read the full research paper, click here.