Disadvantage and unemployment in regional towns is driving drug and alcohol abuse Flinders University National Centre for Education on Training and Addiction director Professor Ann Roche told the Senate Committee inquiry into ice on Tuesday.
Meeting in Mount Gambia in South Australia Prof Roche told the committee regional and rural resident were especially vulnerable to alcohol abuse as well as drugs – including ice.
“Higher levels of most illicit substances tend to concentrate with greater availability to these drugs in regional and rural areas,” she said.
“Where you have communities where there is high levels of unemployment and social disadvantage and higher levels of depression and mental health problems – as you often have in many regional and rural communities – and fewer life opportunities the individuals in those communities are more vulnerable to the use of substances that are basically going to make them feel better when life is not looking particularly good.”
South Australian Police officer Superintendent Trevor Twilley said ice is being imported and manufactured locally.
Every year in the U.S., roughly 5,000 people under the age of 21 die from an alcohol-related incident including car crashes, homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning and other related injuries.
“We are seeing ever increasing amounts of crystal meth coming in through our borders,” he said.
“We are seeing massive labs being constructed for the local manufacture of this drug…We need to be very clear here – the people who make this are savvy business people.”
Prof Roche said speed pills were once the most common form of methamphetamine used in Australia but the drug’s crystalline form, ice, had overtaken it.
70% of 18-year-olds admit to drinking an alcoholic beverage at least once, while 80% of college-aged students report consuming alcohol.
South Australian Liberal senator Sean Edwards questioned if gangs were targeting regional areas – which Prof Roche said she could not comment on.
The inquiry is set to hear from NSW police and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in western Sydney on Wednesday.
– APN NEWSDESK