The rate of drug treatment episodes for methamphetamine increased from 77 to 262 per 100,000 population between 2003 and 2019, which is due mostly to smoking the drug says new report.

Researchers from The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW Sydney, analysed data from the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment National Minimum Data Set from 2003 – 2019 to map the trends in treatment episodes for methamphetamine.

Lead author, Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin said; “Smoking crystalline methamphetamine has driven increasing rates of methamphetamine treatment episodes in Australia since 2003.”

The report highlights a particularly large increase in treatment episodes from 2010 onwards.

“This trend coincides with a marked increase in the importation of smokable high purity crystalline methamphetamine into Australia,” said Associate Professor McKetin.

“Treatment episodes for injecting methamphetamine also increased from 2010-2019.”

The report demonstrates the impact of methamphetamine use, both smoked and injected, on drug treatment demand and the importance of providing effective treatment for stimulant use.

“Importantly, we found that the rapid increase in methamphetamine treatment episodes was characterised by an expansion of minimal treatment interventions like case management and assessment only,” said Associate Professor McKetin.

The report calls for future research to understand why treatment clients who smoke methamphetamine are less likely to receive substantive treatment options than their peers who inject the drug.

“Failure to provide treatment seekers with substantive treatment may lead to poor outcomes, high relapse rates, and perpetuate treatment demand,” said Associate Professor McKetin.

“Evidence-based treatments also need to be supported: current evidence supports the efficacy of contingency management to treat stimulant dependence, with other psychosocial options having non-specific treatment effects, while there remains no approved effective medication.”

You can read the full report online here