The PM calls it an ice epidemic, but what makes crystal meth such an issue in rural areas.
The PM calls it an ice epidemic, but what makes crystal meth such an issue in rural areas. KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Regional Australia 'being plundered' by ice

FEWER support services combined with a close proximity to criminal organisations and backyard ice producers has led an expert to describe rural and regional areas as "high seas being plundered".

During his hours in the emergency ward, Dr David Caldicott has seen the damage ice (crystal methamphetamine) can do.

The stimulant speeds up the central nervous system so messages travel faster between the brain and the rest of the body.

The 2013 National Drugs Strategy household survey found among methamphetamine and amphetamine users, the consumption of ice had more than doubled.

University of Melbourne Professor John Fitzgerald said outlaw motorcycle gangs were commonly linked to ice and often operated in regional areas that often had a lack of drug support help.

This is compounded by Dr Caldicott's warning of mum and dad backyard ice producers.

READ MORE: Ice users often have more than drug problems

The Australian Crime Commission's most recent illicit drugs report found, nationa-lly, the price for a gram of crystal methamphetamine in 2011/12 was between $300 and $2000, compared with between $400 and $1600 in 2012/13.

These are some of the figures that have led Prime Minister Tony Abbott to start a taskforce to tackle the drug problem.

The group will focus on rural and regional areas and determine a National Ice Action Strategy.

But Prof Fitzgerald is warning the government to stop describing the drug problem as an "ice epidemic".

He said the term was also completely untrue.

The national survey found 7% of Australians more than 14 years old reported using amphetamine and methamphetamine at least once in their lives, but only 2.1% said they recently used it.

Prof Fitzgerald warned fear incited by the term "ice epidemic" also stigmatised users and their families and friends.

He said the real issue was ice's purity, which would often be either 10% or 80%.

Prof Fitzgerald said users would have no idea of the purity so when inhaled or injected, their reactions would vary from depressed to paranoid and violent.