Prepubescent Drug Dealer Highlights Australia’s Growing Meth Problem

By Paul Gaita 10/24/14

Not only is meth use on the rise in Australia, but addicts are becoming younger.

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According to a recent report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), methamphetamine use has escalated at an alarming rate in Australia, and appears to have spread into rural areas, where biker gangs have recruited children as young as 11 years old to manufacture and sell “ice,” as meth is known Down Under.

An unidentified teenager interviewed as part of the report claimed that he was tapped by an outlaw motorcycle gang to sell ice at the age of 11. Within a few years, he was not only addicted to the drug, but was also taught to cook by his mid-teens. The young man reported that he worked in labs without the benefit of protective clothing or breathing apparatuses to prevent inhaling the drug’s dangerous fumes, which left him at the age of 19 with early onset arthritis and loose joints, among a host of other health problems.

Methamphetamine has been a problem in Australia since the early 2000s, but it has exploded in recent years, with usage reported across a wide cross-section of age groups. Research conducted in 2013 and 2014 found that 7% of all Australians aged 14 years or older had used methamphetamine one or more times. Meanwhile, wastewater from Melbourne’s western treatment plant was found to have exceptionally high levels of methamphetamine traces; 51.4 doses per 1,000 people on a single day, or one out of every 20 residents in the state of Victoria.

Greater levels of purity in Australian ice have most likely accounted for the steady increase in users across the country, as well as a drop in the average age of users; the average age of first-time methamphetamine users is 18.6 years, but 2.9% of 12 to 17-year-olds have also reported using the drug.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.