Tony Abbott launches taskforce to fight ice epidemic

FEDERAL Labor has backed a national taskforce on ice, but warned health and education must be a key part of the Abbott government strategy.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the taskforce on Wednesday that former Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay will lead.

Mr Abbott said the taskforce would consult the community to develop a national strategy on the causes and effects of the drug. It would hand an interim report to the government later this year.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten backed the proposal and urged the government not to focus only on law enforcement.

He said the taskforce needed to take into account physical and mental health as well.


Labor's health spokeswoman Catherine King said the government should also reverse a nearly $200million health budget cut, some of which went to drug and alcohol abuse programs.

She said the drug had a much greater impact in remote, rural and regional areas, as "the poorer the community, the greater the problem becomes".

Mr Abbott said Justice Minister Michael Keenan and assistant health minister Fiona Nash will lead the development of a national strategy.

The taskforce would investigate all efforts across the country to stop the spread of ice, and identify "ways to take a systemic, comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to education, health and law enforcement", Mr Abbott said in a statement.

Once completed, the taskforce report will go to the next COAG meeting between Mr Abbott, premiers, territory leaders and the head of the Australian Local Government Association to help co-ordinate a national response.



Horror stories continue to unfold about synthetic marijuana use

WHILE ice remains top of the political agenda, up to one in 10 synthetic marijuana users said the drugs made them feel like they were going to die.

A survey of 1700 young Australians by the Natio

nal Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre found 1100 of those had tried synthetic drugs.

Regulators continue to scramble to keep up with manufacturers of synthetic marijuana who use different formulas to avoid drug laws.

But the survey showed 48% of users said they felt scared and paranoid, 37% felt nausea and almost half were overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety.

NCPIC director Professor Jan Copeland said users told of "horror stories" from losing consciousness to suicidal and homicidal thoughts and panic attacks.

She said users needed ask themselves if "satisfying their curiosity" was worth potentially risking their lives.