Sharp rise in crystal meth ambulance call-outs

Posted on: Tuesday, 08 May 2012

New research by Eastern Health’s Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre has revealed an alarming increase in metropolitan Melbourne ambulance attendances due to crystal methamphetamine (ice) use.

Figures released today show a 107 per cent increase in crystal methamphetamine-related ambulance call-outs, with 282 incidents in 2010-11 compared with just 136 in 2009-10.

The Trends in alcohol and drug-related ambulance attendances in Melbourne: 2010-2011 report was undertaken by Turning Point in conjunction with Ambulance Victoria and funded by the Victorian Department of Health.

Turning Point researcher Dr Belinda Lloyd said the sharp rise was a concern, both for individuals and the community.

“An increasing trend in the use of other drugs in combination with crystal methamphetamine also represents an increasing risk of serious harm,” Dr Lloyd said.

Ambulance Victoria CEO, Greg Sassella said: “We’ve responded to the increasing use of psycho stimulants such as crystal meth by introducing new treatments.  Victorian paramedics have led the way in the treatment of drug affected patients.

“Any delay in calling an ambulance for any drug overdose can cost lives.  Our role is to save lives, not make judgments.”

The report also revealed large increases in ambulance attendances due to alcohol and cannabis.

Alcohol continues to record the highest figure compared with any other drug, with 6946 in 2010-11 – up 12 per cent from 2009-10 when there was 6187 incidents.

Dr Lloyd said it was important people understood the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.

“The risk of injury and disease increases the more you drink. Mixing alcohol and other drugs – either illegal drugs or some prescription drugs – can cause serious health problems,” she said.

After alcohol, the next highest number of call-outs was for benzodiazepines, a drug commonly prescribed for sleeping and anxiety issues, with 3135 ambulance attendances.

On a positive front, there has been a significant drop in the use of illegal drugs, including ecstasy (down 41.7 per cent from 343 incidents in 2009-10 to 200 incidents in 2010-11) and cocaine (down 22.2 per cent from 90 incidents in 2009-10 to 70 incidents in 2010-11).

Dr Lloyd said the rate of high risk use of prescription medication should be looked at closely.

“While much attention is paid to illicit substances, we should also be mindful of the potential health problems that excessive consumption of prescription medication can cause,” she said.
The report also analyses ambulance attendance data by local government area.

Melbourne recorded the highest number of alcohol, ecstasy, amphetamine, inhalant and GHB-related incidents. Frankston had the highest number of antidepressant, opioid analgesic, benzodiazepine, opioid analgesic and antipsychotic-related incidents. Yarra had the highest proportion of heroin-related attendances and Hume had the highest number of anticonvulsant-related attendances.

Turning Point Director Professor Dan Lubman said an all-community approach was needed to tackle the issue.

“Government, health bodies, law enforcement agencies and even local residents and businesses can all play an important role in finding solutions to the challenges we are facing.”

The full report can be found here.

For media inquiries, please contact Winston Tan from Eastern Health Communications on 0407 785 706.

About Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre
Turning Point (established 1995 and based in Fitzroy) provides leadership to the Victorian alcohol and drug sector. It promotes the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities living with, and affected by, alcohol, other drug-related harms and gambling.

About Eastern Health
Eastern Health is one of Victoria’s largest public health services. It provides a range of acute, sub-acute, mental health and community health services from 29 locations. Its larger facilities include: Angliss Hospital in Upper Ferntree Gully, Box Hill Hospital in Box Hill, Healesville & District Hospital in Healesville, Maroondah Hospital in Ringwood East, Peter James Centre in Burwood East, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre in Fitzroy, Wantirna Health in Wantirna, Yarra Valley Community Health in Healesville and Yarra Ranges Health in Lilydale

About Ambulance Victoria
Ambulance Victoria provides the highest level of pre-hospital emergency care and patient transport across the state to more than 5.5 million Victorians across an area of more than 227,000 square kilometres.  We are committed to the continuous improvement of patient care.  We work closely with other members of the health industry, emergency services, state and local governments, businesses and schools. This partnership is designed to increase the community’s capacity to deal with medical emergencies and take care of one another. Our aim is to save lives, assist early recovery and minimise long-term impairment for our patients.