Illicit drug use is associated with many risks of harm to the user and to their family and friends. The harms associated with methylamphetamine, especially its crystal (ice) form are particularly concerning, and can result in significantly harmful long-term psychological and physical effects. Changes in the use of methylamphetamine have been one area of increasing concern among health professionals and the Australian community.

Terminology for methylamphetamine – commonly referred to as methamphetamine or 'meth' – varies across data sources. Not all data sources collect data on methylamphetamine specifically; some use the broader classes of drugs, amphetamines, amphetamine-type stimulants, or 'meth/amphetamines', in which methylamphetamine belongs. Box 2 provides a description of each of the terms used throughout this report.

Production and supply of amphetamine-type stimulants has been increasing

In recent years, arrest, seizure and detection data indicate that production and supply of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) is rapidly increasing, both in Australia and internationally. Over the four years since 2009-10, detections (the identification of illicit drugs at the Australian border) increased by 86% between 2011-12 and 2012-13, and a further 18% in 2013-14, and the total weight of these detections in 2013-14 was 27 times as high as it was in 2009-10. The total number of arrests for ATS increased-accounting for 15% of all arrests in 2009-10 and 23% in 2013-14.

Methylamphetamine is consistently reported as very accessible

As well as consistent prices, methylamphetamine purity has remained consistently high since 2008, particularly for crystal, and all forms of methylamphetamine have been consistently reported as 'easy' or 'very easy' to obtain since 2007.

The form of methylamphetamine used has changed from powder to crystal in recent years

While the proportion of the population who used meth/amphetamines in the last 12 months declined between 2004 and 2013 (from 3.2% to 2.1%), more recently there has been substantial change in the form of methylamphetamine used-from powder to crystal (ice). More of those who recently used methylamphetamine in 2013 reported crystal as the main form used (50% of recent users) compared with powder (29% of recent users).

Between 2010 and 2013, there has been an increase in new users of 'meth/amphetamine', especially crystal

In 2013, a larger proportion of recent users had first used 'meth/amphetamines' within the last 3 years (that is, they were 'new users' of the drug since the last data collection period)-34%, compared with 27% in both 2007 and 2010. This cohort of new users is opting mainly for crystal rather than the powder form of 'meth/amphetamines'.

Since 2004, there has been a shift in the pattern of recent 'meth/amphetamine' use by socioeconomic status and remoteness area

In 2013, recent users of 'meth/amphetamine' were more commonly aged 20-29 and most likely to be male. In 2004, recent users were more likely to be in the more advantaged socioeconomic status quintiles, whereas in 2013, they were more likely to be in the lower quintiles. The middle quintile had consistently high numbers of users relative to other quintiles across the same period. Since 2004, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (hereafter referred to as 'Indigenous Australians') and, since 2007, people living in Remote and very remote areas have been more likely to be recent 'meth/amphetamine' users than their counterparts.

Since 2009-10 the number of episodes for clients injecting and smoking amphetamines has increased

Over the 5 years to 2013-14, the number of episodes for clients both injecting and smoking (clients who reported 'smoking' or 'inhaling') amphetamines increased, while use via other methods remained relatively stable. Clients who smoke amphetamines are most likely to have never injected drugs, indicating that these clients are a different type of user. While characteristically, injectors and smokers appear to be relatively similar, there are some noticeable differences-more young people smoke than inject and slightly more females and Indigenous Australians inject than smoke.