Community Action on Meth: Mental Health Commission director says WA meth epidemic a myth

Director Clinical Services Mental Health Commission Dr Richard O'Regan. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d482143
Director Clinical Services Mental Health Commission Dr Richard O'Regan. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d482143

IT is a myth that methamphetamine use in WA is an epidemic, says Mental Health Commission clinical services director Richard O’Regan.

According to Mr O’Regan, survey results did not support media coverage that more people in WA had been using the drug.

He said methamphetamine use had declined in WA between 2013 and 2016, with 3.8 per cent of people aged 14 and older reported using the drug in the past 12 months in 2013 and 2.7 per cent in 2016.

“Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in WA, with 37.3 per cent of West Australians aged 14 and older reporting drinking at risky levels for single occasion harm at least once in the previous 12 months,” he said.

Statistics showed that the link between alcohol and other drug use with mental health issues was prominent, according to Mr O’Regan.

“It is estimated that at least 30 to 50 per cent of people with an alcohol or other drug problem also have a co-occurring mental illness,” he said.

“Meth users are far more likely than the general population to experience psychotic symptoms.

“Nearly one in four regular users of meth will experience a symptom of psychosis.”

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Mr O’Regan said while meth use had declined since 2013, those who did use it were using a more potent form, which was a concern

“Amphetamine use can increase anxiety and depression; paranoia; sleeplessness; psychosis or heart failure,” he said.

“People who already experience depression may find that using amphetamines makes their depression worse in the long term, as it depletes serotonin, the feel-good chemical in the brain.

“Depression is most often felt when the person is not using the drug, which makes them want to go back for more, further deteriorating their long-term health.

Although the number of people using meth had not increased, Mr O’Regan said that more people were accessing the free treatment offered, including the Meth Helpline.

Visit Community Alcohol and Drug Service, for locations visit mhc.wa.gov.au/cads.

Visit a GP or health practitioner for advice and referrals.

Short term harms associated with amphetamine use:
– anxiety and depression;
– paranoia;
– inability to sleep; and
– an increased rate of breathing.

Long term harms associated with amphetamine use:
– periods of psychosis with delusional thoughts or behaviour;
– violent behaviour;
– reduced resistance to infection; and
– seizure, stroke and heart failure.

Interesting facts
– Supplying amphetamine can lead to up to a $100,000 fine and 25 years in prison.
– A person convicted of a drug offence could find it difficult to get a job, credit or travel overseas.

The Mental Health Commission is part of the Stirling Local Drug Action Team, a Federal Government-funded initiative comprising 26 local organisations working together to deliver programs that prevent and minimise harm from alcohol and other drug use, particularly meth, in the community.

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