Methamphetamine use may be two to four times higher than previously estimated

Researchers at the University of Queensland found that methamphetamine use can be two to four times higher than figures estimated in national surveys.

Dr. Gary Chan from the University of Queensland National Center for Research on Drug Use in Young People He said the research investigated data collected between 2001 and 2019 and examined lifelong methamphetamine use for three main groups born between 1951-1960, 1961-1970, and 1971-1980.

Our research found that the self-reported lifetime use of this cohort decreased significantly over time. This is despite a significant increase in reported use from other data sources such as bio-certified wastewater analyses, emergency department presentations, and people seeking treatment for methamphetamine problems.. “

Dr. Gary Chan, National Center for Youth Substance Use Research, University of Queensland

“We found that the degree of underreporting was closely related to the level of negativity towards methamphetamine use in the region.

“It is also possible that prevention campaigns aimed at countering methamphetamine use have reduced the likelihood of people admitting to having used the substance before.”

In 2001, one in eight people born between 1960 and 1970 said they had used methamphetamine while in 2019, only one in 20 people admitted to using the substance.

A similar pattern was found in all birth cohorts with the greatest degree of potential underreporting observed in those born between 1951 and 1960.

Dr. Daniel Stepanowicz From the National Center for Research on Substance Use in Young People at the University of Queensland said the numbers were worrying because they could prevent people from seeking appropriate treatment.

“People may be less inclined to admit to methamphetamine use because of the increased stigma, which may be a barrier for them to seek treatment,” said Dr. Stepanowicz.

“Unreported survey data has been used to inform government policy on people’s drug use, which is why this research is important.

“Based on our findings and the fact that the actual prevalence of methamphetamine abuse may be higher than currently estimated, more accurate data will be needed to inform government policies on drug use.

“Future campaigns should consider placing a stronger emphasis on the availability of effective treatment options.”

Data was collected from Household survey of the national drug strategy commissioned by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which asks questions on a range of demographic and health topics and extensively collects data about people’s drug use.


University of Queensland


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