Primary health-care responses to methamphetamine use in Australian Indigenous communities Academic Article uri icon


  • Crystal methamphetamine (commonly known as ‘ice’) use is currently a deeply concerning problem for some Australian Indigenous peoples and can cause serious harms to individual, families and communities. This paper is intended to support best practice responses by primary health-care staff working with Australian Indigenous people who use methamphetamine. It draws on a systematic search of relevant databases to identify literature from January 1999 to February 2014, providing an overview of prevalence, treatment, education and harm reduction, and community responses. The prevalence of methamphetamine use is higher in Indigenous than non-Indigenous communities, particularly in urban and regional settings. No evidence was identified that specifically related to effective treatment and treatment outcomes for Indigenous Australians experiencing methamphetamine dependence or problematic use. While studies involving methamphetamine users in the mainstream population suggest that psychological and residential treatments show short-term promise, longer-term outcomes are less clear. Community-driven interventions involving Indigenous populations in Australia and internationally appear to have a high level of community acceptability; however, outcomes in terms of methamphetamine use are rarely evaluated. Improved national data on prevalence of methamphetamine use among Indigenous people and levels of treatment access would support service planning. We argue for the importance of a strength-based approach to addressing methamphetamine use, to counteract the stigma and despair that frequently accompanies it.

publication date

  • 2015