Drug warnings

DRUG counsellors say use of crystal methamphetamine has gradually risen in Tasmania, but alcohol, tobacco and marijuana remain far more prevalent and damaging.

This comes after emergency staff at the Launceston General hospital last weekend had the worst night in memory for alcohol and drug-related injuries, with staff and other patients subjected to abuse.

Nurse unit manager Scott Rigby said the ``disgusting'' behaviour was partly caused by a spike in cases related to crystal methamphetamine, otherwise known as ice.

Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs Council state chief executive Jann Smith said the drug had become more popular in Tasmania over the past few years.

But she said that didn't mean the number of illicit drug users was increasing, just that more of them were using ice over other substances.

``People who are attracted to using the stimulant-type drugs will use whatever is available . . . and I think the indications are that ice is easily available,'' she said.

Salvation Army Tasmanian manager of alcohol, other drugs and corrections Grant Herring said the organisation had this month introduced a staff training program on ice and its effects, in response to a rise in presentations and ``the threat of further increase''.

``It's disturbing, because the effects of ice are so dramatic. The effect on the individual users, their families and the community around them is dramatic, because of the behavioural change it produces,'' Mr Herring said.

Ms Smith said the drug caused anxiety, heart palpitations and agitation, and could easily became addictive.

But both Mr Herring and Ms Smith said despite the increase in ice use, alcohol and marijuana remained the biggest drugs of concern.

This was echoed by Mr Rigby, who said presentations related to marijuana and alcohol were constant.

Mr Rigby said he hoped revellers would party responsibly on New Year's Eve, as staff didn't want a repeat of last weekend.

Tasmania Police Inspector Darren Hopkins said police did not prosecute people who sought help from emergency services after taking drugs. 

``They don't need to fear that if they are very sick as a result of taking ice or any other drug then police aren't going to charge them if they call for medical assistance,'' he said. 

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