Ice behind 150,000 emergency dept visits

Research has revealed the major impact methamphetamine use is having on the Australian hospital system.

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Ice use was responsible for up to 150,000 additional visits to emergency departments in 2013 alone, according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.

The longitudinal study involving researchers at Curtin University, University of New South Wales, University of Newcastle and Monash University also found more frequent use of the illicit drug was associated with more frequent trips to emergency and psychiatric hospitals but fewer trips to GPs and counsellors.

Ra Bromilow used the drug Ice for almost 13 years and told SBS he lost count of how many times he presented to hospital emergency wards.

“There’s been a number of times where I’ve had the CAT team called on me because I’m in extreme paranoia like delusional psychosis thinking people are out to get me becoming aggressive.

“The only instantaneous options is pretty much like emergency departments or hospitals – you have to go there straight away,” he said

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It was estimated methamphetamine use accounted for between 28, 400 and 80, 900 additional psychiatric hospital admissions.

“The dual impact on emergency departments and psychiatric hospitals is most likely because of a proportion of methamphetamine-related presentations involving methamphetamine psychosis,” the authors wrote.

There was also evidence people reduced their use of various non-acute health services like the GP, psychologists and dentist during periods of more frequent methamphetamine use.

The Australian Medical Association says there should be a range of improved health care alternatives for Ice users to relieve the strain on hospital emergency wards.

Vice President Tony Bartone says this should include a mix of harm minimisation and outpatient treatment services.

”We need to look at rehab programs, we need to look at detox facilities, we need to look at the whole of system approach,” he said.

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The researchers reached the estimates by analysing the utilisation of health services of nearly 500 ice addicts from Sydney and Brisbane.

This “crisis” style approach of ice addicts is costly and there needs to be a rethink about how services are provided, the authors suggested.

“Increasing engagement with less expensive non-acute health services to provide improved long-term health care may reduce the costs attributable to methamphetamine use for acute care services.

“Ensuring non-acute services are well equipped to respond to the needs of people who use methamphetamine is crucial to encourage people to access these services,” the authors wrote.

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