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A special Victorian parliamentary committee sitting in Warrnambool heard troubling accounts from across the south-west on effects of methamphetamine (ice), which has risen sharply within a few years, but still trails alcohol and cannabis in sheer volume.
Police and ambulance officers, health agencies, Aboriginal communities and youth workers presented submissions on how they see the problem, which has become a priority for governments because of links with organised criminal gangs in distribution networks.
Many of the users were described as naive to the risks of addiction and standover tactics of suppliers. There is anecdotal evidence of dealers offering ice for free or cheaply to get new clients, who often became sellers themselves or steal just to pay drug debts.
Glenelg Southern Grampians Drug Treatment Service Manager, Bev McIlroy, said there had been a 63% increase in calls for assistance from families and workplaces due to the effects of methamphetamines. 'It is extremely harmful to our community'
Police said they needed more powers to stop and search vehicles on highways suspected of transporting the drug. 'It's just coming onto us so quickly, it's not an epidemic,' Superintendent Don Downes told the hearing.
Doctors agreed ice was an emerging problem but had limited statistics from hospital presentations.
Ambulance Victoria also said it had limited statistics, specifically related to ice use, and what was noted on case sheets amounted only to .07% of south-west call-outs in the past 17 months.
Warrnambool Magistrate Peter Mellas said ice addiction had crept up on police and courts in the past two years and affected all levels of society. 'I've noticed an increase in cases relating to possession of ice; three to four cases a week,' he said.
Aboriginal leaders said the addiction was straining traditional family links and there were inadequate treatment facilities in the region.
The committee has heard from 162 witnesses and had 40 submissions in sittings in northern, central and eastern Victoria, with Warrnambool the last hearing. Chairman Simon Ramsay said a report would be delivered to Parliament by August.
Source: The Standard