Initiatives to curb ice usage on Tasmania's North-West Coast are working - with fewer young people using the illicit substances, Rural Health Tasmania says.
Smithton was highlighted as an Australia-wide hotspot of methamphetamine usage in the mid 2010s, with reports that 10 per cent of drug users were turning to ice.
The reports prompted immediate action from concerned community members and the state government. Programs were put in place to educate young people about the dangers of substance abuse and treatment centres were established to help those already addicted.
Rural Health Tasmania chief executive officer Rob Waterman said those initiatives were starting to pay off with Tasmania starting to see a generational change in the number of people using methamphetamines.
Data from the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, backs up Mr Waterman's claim.
The survey, which is conducted every three years, found that only 0.6 per cent of Tasmanian drug users above the age of 14 were using methamphetamines - down 1.5 per cent on the 2016 figures.
Mr Waterman said the data showed that a combination of early intervention, law enforcement and treatment was working to reduce use in the North-West and across Tasmania. He said it was clear that the 'war on drugs' had not failed as some people were suggesting.
"It was clear from the start that addressing Australia's drug use issues was going to be a long-term strategy and it was unreasonable to expect changes within a few terms of a government," Mr Waterman said.
"It has taken time and we are now clearly seeing strong, positive generational change when it comes to drug use in Australia."
Circular Head mayor Daryl Quilliam said anecdotal evidence from the community supported the data from the AIHW survey. "I am told there are less people using. I don't think it is quite as bad as it was," he said.
Cr Quilliam said there would always be drugs in the community and the people who needed to be targeted were the ones dealing.
Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council Tasmania acting chief executive officer Jackie Hallam said there had been fluctuations in the use of methamphetamine in Tasmania, but it was still one of the top three most common drugs driving people to seek treatment.
She said alcohol had always been the most common drug driving people to seek treatment - with cannabis usually taking out second spot.
Wyndarra Centre, a community support service based at Smithton, said the methamphetamine problem was exaggerated in the past. The service said alcohol abuse was the biggest problem they witnessed in the community, and it was in the mid 2010s as well.
Dr Hallam said community groups were dealing with a rapidly evolving drug market.
"What we have heard is that as a result of the pandemic the price of crystal meth has gone up. We've had various reports about fluctuations in price, availability and purity," she said.
Earlier this month The Examiner reported that between April 1 and December 1 last year Northern police seized more than 1000 grams of ice - about double the amount seized in the same time in 2019.
Dr Hallam said ice use was still a problem on the North-West and across Tasmania. She said more investment was needed to ensure people had access to appropriate evidence-based treatments.
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Mental Health and Wellbeing Minister Jeremy Rockliff said it was comforting that the 2019 NDSHS showed Tasmania was heading in the right direction, the government recognised there was a long way to go.
"The 2020-21 state budget included $4.9 million to commence the 10-year Reform Agenda for the Alcohol and other Drugs Sector in Tasmania to build a more integrated and coordinated sector in the state," he said.
"The aim of the reform agenda is to ensure that all Tasmanians affected by alcohol, tobacco and other drugs use have access to appropriate, timely, effective and quality alcohol, tobacco and other drug services, supports and treatments based on contemporary, evidence-informed best practice."
He said the government now funds more than 100 alcohol and drug rehabilitation beds around the state - including 12 at the Salvation Army's Bridge Program at Ulverstone.
"The implementation of the Alcohol and Drug Services Partnership in Alcohol and Other Drugs Residential Treatment Panel, provides a clear triage, referral and timely admission pathway into residential rehabilitation services across the State," Mr Rockliff said.
A government spokesperson added that Tasmania Police's new Crime and Intelligence Command is the delivery of the government's "War on Ice" commitment - with three officers allocated to help stop the supply and distribution of the drugs online and three additional officers allocated to each district drug squad.