Fraser Coast drug arrests soar 35% in three years

THE scourge of methamphetamine addiction looks unlikely to slow down on the Fraser Coast as arrests for the drug continues to rise.

Rehabilitation experts are calling for a more holistic approach to curb the region's ice addiction issues.

Drug offences for the Wide Bay region sky-rocketed 35% from about 3549 offences in 2013, to 4,825 in 2016, and this year about 1700 drug related offences have already occurred.

Hervey Bay arrests surged about 58% higher from 669 offences in 2013 to about 1059 in 2016, while neighbouring town Maryborough saw drug related offences rise from 596 in 2013 to 749 last year, a 25% increase.

About $94,000 worth of illegal drugs was seized last year in the combined Maryborough and Hervey Bay area thanks to tip-offs from the Crime Stoppers hotline alone.

Detective Inspector of Crime Prevention Gary Pettiford said meth made up a large portion of the drug arrests.

"Generally speaking arrests for methamphetamine has increased since 2015," he said.

"Police in this district are very intensive in their efforts in reducing the drug use in the community.

"Those efforts are both reactive and proactive, and police are relying on community support to help combat drug related issues, and the best way to assist police is by offering information to Crime Stoppers on their number of website."

However to tackle the ice issue on the Fraser Coast, the detective inspector said it would involve more than just police.

"What is needed is an overall community approach which includes all agencies of government and local authorities and the community as a whole," Det Insp Pettiford said.

"Long term drug use not only affects the person taking drugs but also affects relationships, families and the community in general."

Bayside Transformations director and co-founder Tina Embrey has been on the frontline of the battle against ice in the region since opening her rehabilitation clinic in 2010.

She has seen lives lost and families ripped apart by the drug, it is why she declared war on addiction.  

"About 27,000 people die each year from drug related problems and 18,500 are hospitalised," Ms Embrey said.

"The community needs to act, we all have to play a part in this community to help people.

"There needs to be a more holistic approach, more counselling and family intervention.

"It will take the whole community of us to come together to figure out how we can make help more available for families and the commitment to have access to get help."

Ms Embrey has more than 23 years' experience working with people suffering from drug or alcohol addictions and said rehabilitation needs to be included in punishment by the courts.

"You don't send a person to prison who has an addiction, it doesn't do them any good," Ms Embrey said.

"There is very minimal help in jail for those suffering addiction.

"Many go back out to the same old environment so what they need is a shift in their environment."

Bayside Transformations is one of the only rehabilitation programs between the Sunshine Coast and south of Mackay, and can house up to 35 people.

"We cover a fair region and people come from all over Australia, they are not just locals, they want to get out of their town and get help," she said.

"We have been at full capacity this year, we continue to have people coming in, and there is already a great need in the community for people seeking help." 

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