The epidemiology of methamphetamine use and harm in Australia

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2008 May;27(3):243-52. doi: 10.1080/09595230801950572.


Introduction and aims: There has been considerable media attention recently upon possible increases in methamphetamine use in Australia. Much of this debate has focused upon extreme cases of problematic crystal methamphetamine use, without reference to the broader population context. This paper provides data on methamphetamine use in Australia, and documents trends in methamphetamine-related harms.

Design and methods: Data used were from: (1) Australian Customs Service drug detections; (2) Australian Crime Commission drug seizure, arrest and clandestine laboratory detections data; (3) National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) and Australian Secondary Student Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSADS); (4) data from the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) and Ecstasy and related Drug Reporting System (EDRS); and (5) data from NSW Emergency Department Information System, National Hospital Morbidity Database and Australian Bureau of Statistics causes of death databases.

Results: There appears to have been an increase in both importation and local manufacture of meth/amphetamine. Population data show that meth/amphetamine use remains low and stable. However, clear increases in crystal methamphetamine use have occurred among sentinel groups of regular drug users. Frequent crystal use among regular injecting drug users is associated with earlier initiation to injecting, greater injection risk behaviours and more extensive criminal activity. In recent years, indicators of meth/amphetamine-related harm have stabilised, following steady increases in earlier years.

Discussion and conclusions: Some methamphetamine users experience significant problems related to their use; harms are particularly prevalent among regular IDU. Methamphetamine users, however, are a diverse group, and strategies need to be appropriately targeted towards different kinds of users.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Commerce
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Methamphetamine