Drug abuse is increasing at an alarming rate in Australia, among the youth especially.
Teens as young as 14 are turning to drugs and at least one in ten in that tender age group has tried them, according to Statistics on Drug Use in Australia 2006, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
According to the report, an estimated 100,000 Australian's have tried methamphetamines in the past week. A massive 500,000 people have used the drugs, which include speed, ice or crystal meth, in the past twelve months.
Methamphetamine is a very addictive stimulant drug that activates certain systems in the brain. It is chemically related to amphetamine but, at comparable doses, the effects of methamphetamine are much more potent, longer lasting, and more harmful to the central nervous system (CNS).
Street methamphetamine is referred to by many names, such as "speed," "meth," and "chalk." Methamphetamine hydrochloride, clear chunky crystals resembling ice, which can be inhaled by smoking, is referred to as "ice," "crystal," "glass," and "tina."
Methamphetamine is taken orally, intranasally (snorting the powder), by needle injection, or by smoking. Abusers may become addicted quickly, needing higher doses and more often.
Chronic methamphetamine abuse significantly changes how the brain functions, leading to reduced motor speed and impaired verbal learning.
Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and hyperthermia. Other effects of methamphetamine abuse may include irritability, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, and cardiovascular collapse and death.
Long-term effects may include paranoia, aggressiveness, extreme anorexia, memory loss, visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions, and severe dental problems.
Also, transmission of HIV and hepatitis B and C can be a consequence of methamphetamine abuse.
Thus while by itself it is dangerous, it becomes even more so when mixed with other stimulants. And a lot of drug users opt for a cocktail, the report notes.
As many as 87 per cent of the drug users also have alcohol along with it. Some 50 per cent even use ecstasy and 68 percent smoke marijuana at the same time.
This mixing of meth with cocaine or ecstasy can increase the probability of heart attacks or can even cause severe dehydration.
Nicole Lee Head of Clinical Research at drug research and treatment center. Turning Point says "Using drugs comes with a lot of risks, so if you use multiple drugs you multiply the risks and potential harm. I think that people need to be really aware of the dangers of mixing drugs, particularly illicit drugs where you don't know what the content is in the first place. You could be getting anything really."
The Number of people who use Methamphetamines on it own is only 3.8%.
The use of drugs in combination has lead to an increase in the crime and trafficking In 1996-97 3900 people were arrested for drug trafficking but in 2006 the number has gone up to nearly 10,000.