GROWING ISSUE: Ice is a cheaper and more available drug of choice, this week’s amphetamine conference in Gympie was told
GROWING ISSUE: Ice is a cheaper and more available drug of choice, this week’s amphetamine conference in Gympie was told Greg Miller

Ice is a ‘major drug of choice’

MORE expensive heroin and cheaper, more accessible methamphetamine had caused fundamental changes in drug use and consequences, Gympie's regional detective chief Bruce McNab told this week's ice conference in Gympie.

Detective Acting Superintendent McNab said police were greatly concerned about addiction generally and its effects on families.

He said this applied whatever the drug, "whether it is ice, alcohol or anything else.

"Cannabis and heroin were probably the largest drug issues in the 1970s and 1980s.

"Then we started to see an increase in methamphetamine production."

Most of this, he said, was in the powdered form of the drug, most commonly known as speed.

Increased prices for heroin and the relative cheapness and availability of speed were accompanied by the development of what came to be known as the "box lab".

It was so named because of its compactness and simplicity, allowing it to be packed away in a box and taken to other locations.

"We did have explosions, fires in homes and hotel rooms and the like," he said.

Police also noticed the emergence of small-scale producers, looking to make their own and supplying others on a smaller scale, so "today's users become tomorrow's traffickers."

The senior detective said the emergence of speed manufacture was aided by the ready availability in those days of cold and 'flu tablets containing pseudoephedrine.

"We saw people going up and down the coast from Sydney to Cairns buying cold and 'flu tablets," he said.

Co-ordinator of dual diagnosis for Gympie's Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Service, Terry Jacobs said he had seen an increase in recent years in the numbers of people suffering linked drug and sanity problems.

He said there had been an increase in the number of people changing from speed as a powder to ice.

"This had been added to by the increased purity of the drug and its consequently increased impact on the community."

This had led to increased social problems.

Det. A/Sup McNab said police approaches to drugs had changed over time.

Although enforcement remained important, in years gone by the police were almost solely focused on putting people in jail.

Now there was also a focus on removing the motive, "untraceable profits".

Police had also come to believe that "if we're to serve the community, we need to form partnerships with the community.

"In the past, probably 26 years ago, our primary purpose was to lock people up."

Enforcement also was noticeable lately, with high profile busts at the Sunshine Coast, Gladstone and the Gold Coast, as well as arrests within drug networks."

Ice facts

 Ice has become a drug of choice.

 Police concerned at social problems from other drugs as well, including alcohol.

 Ice is cheap and available.

 Use is widespread among the young.

 There has been a shift from the powder form of speed to more pure crystal ice variety.

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