An estimated 73,000 Australians are addicted to methamphetamines like ice and ecstasy, almost double the number of heroin addicts, a landmark report shows.
The report released today by the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) found that although overall drug use in Australia had declined since 1998 methamphetamine use is on the rise.
ANCD chairman Dr John Herron said methamphetamines, including ice, ecstasy and other stimulants, have become a major global drug problem which Australia is part of.
"Almost one in ten Australians have tried methamphetamines, there are now an estimated 73,000 dependent methamphetamine users in Australia and that's almost double the regular users of heroin," Mr Herron told the National Press Club.
"The level of cannabis use has seen the most dramatic decline - the number of fatalities from drug use has fallen by 70 per cent in the last eight years, and the average age of people who try illicit drugs for the first time has been increasing.
"And despite the use of illicit drugs declining since 1998 the level of methamphetamine and ecstasy use in Australia has been increasing."
The ANCD report showed that in 2004-2005 there were 14,780 drug treatment episodes for methamphetamine or amphetamine use in Australia.
Dr Herron said providing effective treatment was critical to addressing the problem.
"Recent estimates show that less than a third of dependent methamphetamine users actually receive treatment," he said.
"To respond we need to galvanise our educational efforts, invest more in our treatment system, maintain our public health programs and continue to support efforts to reduce the supply of the drug."
Other recommendations include using existing police programs such as the drug testing for drivers, ensuring clinical and psychological support in drug treatment centres and encouraging well researched media campaigns.
It also backed continuing efforts to crack down on the availability of chemicals used in the production of methamphetamines.