Matthew was 14 when he first began using methamphetamine. Sometimes he used it with his friends; other times he would use it with his mother.
“I first came across meth at a friend’s house. Her older brother was smoking methamphetamine,” he says.
“Also my mum was a meth user so I was using it with her too.”
Matthew, who dropped out of school in year 8, had been using illicit drugs for two years when he added meth to the mix. His life, already in a downward spiral, got rapidly worse. “It’s gone from the top to the bottom,” the 17-year-old says.
Methamphetamine use among troubled teens like Matthew doubled in the five years to 2014, according to research published in The Medical Journal of Australia on Monday.
It’s an alarming trend that population-wide surveys like the National Drug Strategy Household Survey have failed to capture, according to lead researcher Sally Nathan from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW.
“Young people who might be in custody, homeless or disengaged from school are not going to be picked up in these [population-wide] surveys,” she said.
“But we need to look specifically at this group because they are very vulnerable.”
Methamphetamine use among teenagers in the general population remains stable and very low, at 2 per cent, according to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey.
By contrast, nearly 60 per cent of teenagers entering Ted Noffs Foundation treatment programs in 2014 reported using methamphetamine, up from 30 per cent in 2009, the MJA research shows.
The study, based on nearly 900 teenagers aged 14 to 18, covers “a large proportion” of adolescents in residential rehab programs in NSW and the ACT, according to the paper.
“These are young people whose lives are very precarious. We can’t just give them drug treatment … and then send them on their way,” Dr Nathan said.
“Housing and ongoing support is something we have to invest in if we really want to [help] these young people.”
Read full story at TheAge.com.au