This is the 'most abused' drug in regional Qld towns

ICE has overtaken alcohol as the drug of choice being abused in North Queensland as support service and hospitals struggle to deal with the dangerous scourge.

Data recorded by the Salvation Army shows in 2010 just three per cent of their clients seeking help for addiction in the Cairns to Mackay region was for crystal methamphetamine.

But in the last six months that figure has skyrocketed to 60 per cent.

The trend is in line with new Queensland Health data which has shown a dramatic increase in ice-related public hospital admissions between 2009/10 and 2015/16

Total admissions in Townsville for that period jumped almost 80 times from 2 to 159.

By comparison, on the Gold Coast, admissions increased from 18 to 406, in Mackay from 2 to 124 and Cairns from 14 to 279.

Significant focus has been placed on policing but more needs to be done to treat drug usage.
Significant focus has been placed on policing but more needs to be done to treat drug usage. News Corp Australia

Salvation Army North Queensland recovery services manager Major David Twivey said their newest centre opened in October had been at capacity since day one with the 33 operational beds continuously filling with 24 hours of a client discharging.

He said the demand for ice-related care was at its highest and could get worse before it gets better.

"It's cheaper than marijuana, and you get more of instantaneous high but ice just puts people in that social mind set of anger where they can't cope," he said.

"At the moment it's 60 per cent of our clients but it could definitely get worse.

"We are really trying to tackle this issue and get to people at the earliest possible time."

Maj Twivey said the Salvation Army was pushing for extra funding to open an additional 19 adult beds, with eight youth residential beds for teens as young as 15 scheduled to open early next year.

Townsville Hospital emergency physician Dr Niall Small said the trend across North Queensland and Australia was an increasing number of people were smoking ice.

He said this has led to more harmful effects, including increasing presentations to emergency departments, mental health units and other health services.

"Methamphetamine is a powerful psychoactive stimulant that can have a significant impact on the mental state of users, including violent and aggressive behaviour, paranoid thinking and changes to mood, sleep and appetite," he said.

"Often patients presenting under the influence of these drugs are disoriented, agitated, and violent, which represents a significant danger to themselves, other patients in our department, and our staff."

Dr Small said alcohol remained the number one drug issue directly impacting patients, relatives and health workers in Townsville in the ED.

He said methamphetamine and ice use was a relatively new problem for the health system and for society that could have a devastating impact on individuals, families and on emergency service workers trying to provide care.

"The Townsville Hospital and Health Service has a zero-tolerance policy for violence and abuse of our staff and being drug-affected is no excuse," he said.

"Where staff members are assaulted physically or verbally it is reported internally and the staff member is encouraged to approach the Queensland Police Service.

"The Townsville Hospital emergency department provides a drug and alcohol brief intervention team within the emergency department as well as access to social workers and mental health clinicians."

Outside the emergency department there is a wide range of supports available through the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs service, which was this month accused of turning away desperate addicts and being under-resourced.

The THHS has denied those claims.

If you or someone you know is experiencing an issue relating to alcohol or drug use please call the Alcohol & Drug Information Service 1800 177 833 for support, information and treatment options.

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