Illicit drug use has increased by 40 per cent in the last six years, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
These statistics have prompted National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre senior research officer, Annie Bleeker to visit Armidale for a drug information workshop to combat the rising figures.
The workshop, called the Ice Forum is an off-shoot from the Breaking the Ice Program which is running workshops throughout areas where there is a community concern.
Ms Bleeker said the purpose of the workshops would be to fight the ice epidemic through providing facts and destigmatising the problem.
“What we’re trying to do is educate the community about crystal methamphetamine,” Ms Bleeker said.
“What we’re trying to do is fight the fear with the facts and educate the community to see the person and not the drug.
What we’re trying to do is fight the fear with the facts and educate the community to see the person and not the drug.Annie Bleeker
“It can be five to 10 years before people access treatment and the better we stigmatise the longer that’s going to take.”
Ms Bleeker said that the sooner a person could get treatment, the better the outcome would be for them.
With 25 years experience in the alcohol and drug sector, Ms Bleeker said it had only been in the last year that the government has really increased funding for treatment services related to illicit drug use.
“A contributing factor to the increase in ice use is due to the purity and availability increasing,” Ms Bleeker said.
“It’s a lot cheaper so that is why we are seeing a lot more problems.
“People are switching from speed to the more potent form.
“That’s basically due to availability and now it’s being made locally too.”
Ms Bleeker has also recently worked on two research projects related to drug education practices and research.
Working with Australian secondary schools, Ms Bleeker has conducted investigations into drug education practices with teachers and a research study looking into the efficacy of peer led interventions with ecstasy and related drug users.
The community forum starts at 10am at the Armidale Town Hall on Wednesday.