Ice use of ‘particular concern’ in Lismore

A special commission into crystal methamphetamine will visit NSW’s north to hear how the highly addictive drug has had a particularly devastating impact on the picturesque region.

The NSW ice inquiry will hear evidence from first responders – police, paramedics, emergency department staff and local drug and alcohol services – when it holds hearings in Lismore on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Representatives and experts from the local indigenous and LGBTIQ communities will testify as will people who have lived experience of ice use, the commission said in a statement on Monday.

The region is suffering more than the rest of NSW in two ways – ice use is higher and recovery services are less available.

Crime statistics from Lismore show that in 2018 some 129 people out of every 100,000 were identified as ice users or in possession of the drug.

The average across NSW is 92 out of every 100,000 people.

Similarly, ice is involved in 171.4 out of every 100,000 hospitalisations in the northern NSW health district compared to 136.3 across the rest of the state.

“Lismore is one of the regional communities where the use of crystal methamphetamine is of particular concern,” commissioner Dan Howard SC said on Monday.

“The commission wants to hear from people on the frontline about the challenges posed by the drug and the work being done to treat and assist those who are affected.”

A regional survey found the most common barriers for alcohol and drug services on the NSW North Coast were stigma or shame and a lack of services.

More than half of those surveyed said it had been “difficult” or “very difficult” to access services for themselves or loved ones.

The commission is expected to hold hearings in Nowra at the end of May.

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