Ice ‘epidemic’ a danger to rural emergency workers

A major seizure of crystal meth in Australia last year. 

By EMILIE BAXTER

Ice users are placing an increasing burden on country hospitals as they threaten emergency workers and patients.

A rural emergency worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said he would see ice users in the emergency department multiple times a day.

“It’s an epidemic in the country areas,” the emergency worker said. “It seems to occur in places where people are bored.

“If all of your social group is on drugs, you have to make a real effort to not be on drugs.”

He said people on ice were both violent and disruptive.

“They would swear loudly and scream. It would make everyone feel uncomfortable,” he said.

“There was a guy who ended up being shackled to the bed. He was threatening to kill me and the staff.

“In general there is a neglect of occupational health and safety for people who work in emergency departments. There has been almost no ramifications for these people when they threaten us.”

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s national policy manager Geoff Munro said methamphetamine use was higher in country areas than the city.

“Why would drug use be higher in country areas? Isolation, loneliness, it’s harder to get to places,” he said.

“It’s easier to be isolated, maybe less access to health services, less access to help when you’re feeling down, fewer supports.”

The percentage of people who inject drugs who had used methamphetamine in the previous  six months rose from 60 per cent in 2010 to 75 per cent in 2016, according to a report by the Illicit Drugs Reporting System.

The report found that methamphetamine use among people who injected drugs had increased nationally by 6 per cent for the third consecutive year.

The Victorian Government is providing funding to have more mental health practitioners in emergency departments to assist with drug-affected patients presenting with behavioural issues.