Australia’s ice problem could be the worst in the world, according to Justice Minister Michael Keenan.
While ice continues to be a risk to the nation and is the most dangerous of illegal drugs, figures show it remains the most popular.
“This is a diabolical drug,” Mr Keenan said on Wednesday.
Results of a national study of wastewater find Western Australia has the biggest problem of all the states, with one regional site averaging just over 80 doses per 1000 people per day, while Perth had around 60 doses.
“Australia has probably the most significant ice problem in the world,” Mr Keenan said.
He said high prices for illicit drugs in Australia had made the nation an attractive market for organised crime.
The average street price of ice in China is $100 per gram compared to $620 in Australia, based on UN figures, leading to a significant increase in the amount and purity of ice smuggled into Australia.
Mr Keenan said Australian Federal Police had begun fighting the drug at its source and were now working with Chinese authorities.
He said the approach “is a great example of how international co-operation is stopping drugs from hitting the streets here in Australia,” with 13 tonnes of ice already being stopped in the past 18 months.
A network of anti-gang squads across Australia is also working to stop illegal drugs in the community but the damage ice inflicts on users, families and frontline staff in hospitals and emergency services makes it the main focus.
The study of wastewater from 37 treatment plants which cover 51 per cent of the population between October 2016 and February 2017 also found the consumption of pain killers oxycodone and fentanyl had dropped but their use remained significant, particularly in regional Australia.
The analysis of Australia’s sewage is the second in a series of nine tests of the nation’s wastewater for drugs.
Of the 13 drugs tested for, alcohol and tobacco remained the most used in all states and territories with cocaine use in Australia’s capital cities double that of the country sites tested.
Researchers also found the use of cocaine dramatically increased in the ACT in December 2016 and was on the rise while alcohol consumption, along with ice use actually dropped below the national average.