The social costs of methamphetamine in Australia 2013/14: establishing a methodology to identify the social costs of drugs and alcohol

There has recently been significant concern about the impact of methamphetamine use, in particular ‘ice’, across Australia. Most of the concern has focused on the immediate impact on the health of people who use methamphetamine, their families and front line services, but there are also potentially major economic impacts. In 2008 the cost of illicit drug use in Australia was estimated at approximately $8b (Collins & Lapsley 2008), with amphetamine/methamphetamine contributing $3.7b (Moore 2007). The figure for the USA was US$23b in 2005 (Nicosia et al. 2009).

The major costs are associated with: the police and criminal justice systems, premature mortality, lost quality of life, drug treatment, other medical costs from methamphetamine use (e.g. accidents), the intangible costs of drug dependence, lost productivity including during periods of incarceration, child welfare issues, harms to others and environmental damage from clandestine laboratories. A notable feature of the concerns expressed about Australian methamphetamine use has been its significant impact in some rural and remote regions. Methamphetamine is also used across economic strata (AIHW 2014).

The objective of this program was to provide an assessment of the societal costs of methamphetamine use and in the process develop a methodology that can be applied to other drugs. The approach required a multidisciplinary / multiagency team involving drug specialists, epidemiology, criminology and economic modelling expertis The project was a collaboration between several key organisations including NDRI and NDARC and the University of Adelaide / Flinders University, the Australian National University and Curtin University.

Name & Contact Details Role Research Program Location
  • Chief Investigator: Edward Wilkes, Curtin University
  • Chief Investigator: Marian Shanahan, University of New South Wales
  • Chief Investigator: Michael Farrell, University of New South Wales
  • Chief Investigator: Louisa Degenhardt, University of New South Wales
  • Chief Investigator: Alison Ritter, University of New South Wales
  • Chief Investigator: Lucinda Burns, University of New South Wales
  • Chief Investigator: Sharlene Kaye, University of New South Wales
  • Chief Investigator: Steve Whetton, University of Adelaide and Flinders University
  • Chief Investigator: Anna Ferrante, Curtin University
  • Project staff: Kim Cartwright, Curtin University

Cartwright, K. and Tait, R., J. (2019). Service providers’ experience of methamphetamine and the portrayal of the ‘ice epidemic’ in remote Australia. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 27, pp. 83-87. DOI: 10.1111/ajr.12483 [RJ1378] View web page

Tait, R., J., Whetton, S., Shanahan, M., Cartwright, K., Ferrante, A., Gray, D., Kaye, S., McKetin, R., Pidd, K., Ritter, A., Roche, A. and Allsop, S. (2018). Quantifying the societal cost of methamphetamine use to Australia. International Journal of Drug Policy, 62, pp. 30-36. DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.08.015 [RJ1452] View web page

Whetton, S., Shanahan, M., Cartwright, K., Duraisingam, V., Ferrante, A., Gray, D., Kaye, S., Kostadinov, V., McKetin, R., Pidd, K., Roche, A., Tait, R., J. and Allsop, S. (2017). The Social Costs of Methamphetamine in Australia 2013/14. In Tait, R., J. (ed.). National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. ISBN: 978-0-9942806-0-2 [T246] Download PDF