A COLAC drug counsellor fears the region could have a hepatitis outbreak due to the rising popularity of the drug ice.
Colac Area Health drug and alcohol service co-ordinator Chris Kendall said Colac’s growing number of ice users generally smoked or injected the addictive drug, and needle sharing had become a concern.
“The risk of hepatitis is high unless they know the person they are sharing with really, really well and even then it’s no guarantee that person knows they have hepatitis,” Mr Kendall said.
“It’s not a condition that you find out about straight away, you may not have symptoms for quite some time with hepatitis,” he said.
“My information is that there’s a problem with a lot more people injecting ice than they were originally which increases the risk of the spread of hepatitis.”
Mr Kendall said Colac Area Health’s clients seeking help for an ice addiction had increased by more than 40 per cent in the past six to nine months but he said not all users were ready to give up.
He urged people who weren’t ready to stop taking ice to at least go to a syringe program at the hospital to ensure they were using clean needles.
“Because we don’t want to see an increase in the spread of hepatitis and if people are concerned about their use of any drug they might be using we are more than happy to see them.”
Mr Kendall said the purity of ice, or methamphetamine, meant people became addicted quickly and he said counsellors were seeing “quite a few” people who were using ice as their first-time drug experience.
“That is a very big concern – traditionally first-time drug users that we would get through the service are usually using alcohol, cannabis or speed,” he said.
“Now we are seeing ice as the primary and secondary drug of choice with a lot of people,” Mr Kendall said.
“Ice traditionally isn’t cut so it’s a lot more pure and it addicts people a lot quicker.”
Mr Kendall said ice use in Colac and district would continue to be a problem while methamphetamine labs were supplying Victorian users.
“The drug use in the community is very much based on supply and demand,” he said.
“It’s our indication that there is a very good supply of it and until the labs are busted and shut down there will continue to be a good supply of it.”