DRUG FLOOD FEAR



MOVEMENT of the dangerous party drug crystal methamphetamine has become more prevalent along the Tweed Coast, a northern NSW drug expert said yesterday.

Amos Hee, from The Buttery in Binna Burra, said the Northern Rivers was on the brink of a crystal methamphetamine (commonly known as "ice") epidemic.

He also said the drug was popular on the Gold Coast and warned that it was being moved between the Northern Rivers and the Coast.

"The use of this drug is rising across the state and definitely in this area," he said.

"Gold Coast is a major party area and crystal methamphetamines produced in the Northern Rivers are being moved along major coastal routes to the north."

The director of The Buttery's community outreach service, INTRA, Mr Hee has organised a community seminar to help prepare for an onslaught of the substance across the region.

"The drug has always been around, but it's now easier than ever before to cook up in a backyard lab," Mr Hee said.

A statewide study recently commissioned by the National Law Enforcement Research Fund shows more people are now addicted to ice than heroin.

Mr Hee said there were a lack of regional figures because the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research groups the drug under the umbrella of amphetamines, even though ice is stronger and more pure than standard speed.

Southern police say there is anecdotal evidence of an increase in ice users in their area.

Richmond Local Area Commander Supt Bruce Lyons said he was concerned about the rise.

"All indicators suggest use of crystal meth is rising, not just throughout the state, but in our area," he said.

Mr Hee said, although there were few statistics about the use of ice in northern NSW, there had been an increase in users seeking treatment.

"At INTRA in the last four months we've had six clients who were methamphetamine users, and last year we didn't have many at all," he said.

"We're not seeing it at the treatment level so much yet, but we're seeing it at the party level."

North Coast Area Health Service Drug and Alcohol Services director David Riley said, while there had been an increase in the use of ice locally, but it was relatively small.

However, he said he supported The Buttery's preparation for any further increase.

The Buttery's community seminar on methamphetamines will be held on April 12 at the Byron Bay Community Centre between 10am and 4pm. Dr Rebecca McKetin of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre will discuss methamphetamine supply, use, personal harms and social consequences.



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