CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government on Wednesday announced a task force to create a new national response to the rapidly growing problem of addiction to ice, also known as crystal meth, across the country.
Law enforcement agencies report that the rate of use of the potent and highly addictive form of methamphetamine had almost doubled in Australia in the past year, with international drug rings attracted by the relatively high prices that Australians are willing to pay.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that former Victoria state chief police commissioner Ken Lay would head the task force which will report to the government by mid-year on a new coordinated approach to the drug scourge that will involve law enforcement, health and education agencies.
The proportion of methamphetamine users in Australia who took ice, also known as crystal meth, had increased from 20 percent in 2010 to 50 percent now, Abbott said
"The trouble with ice is it's far more potent, far more dangerous, far more addictive than any previous illicit drug," Abbott told reporters.
"It's worse than heroin, it's worse than cocaine, it's worse than LSD, it's worse than ecstasy. It's much more addictive, much more dangerous, much more damaging. The chances of being able to function while being a serious ice user are almost zero and that's why it's so important that we ramp up our response," he added.
Of Australia's population of 24 million, 400,000 had used methamphetamine in the past year. Of these, 100,000 used the drug at least once a week.
Ice-related arrests in Australia had increased by 25 percent in recent years.
Unlike most previous drug scourges in Australia, ice abuse is not a problem largely confined to big cities. Ice is making rapid inroads into country towns where rehabilitation services are scarce.