Friday, 23 February 2018

$1.25 million keeps VicMeth study going for another five years

Since 2016 Monash Rural Health has been working with the Burnet Institute on the VicMeth Study. Now the study will continue for another five years with an NHMRC grant of $1.25 million. Monash Chief Investigators Dr Bernadette Ward and Dr Keith Sutton have been overseeing data collection in northern Victoria and Gippsland respectively.

There has been a lot of media coverage regarding methamphetamine (ice and speed) use and related harms in Australia in recent years, with a particular focus on regional and rural areas. However, an overall lack of data limits understanding of what is actually happening in the community. In the Murray PHN catchment for example, there are no population data about patterns and prevalance of use. It’s also not clear if the characteristics of meth users in rural areas are the same as capital cities. Nor is there much evidence to support media reports about an “ice epidemic”.

The VicMeth Study was set up to collect data on long-term patterns of methamphetamine use, including what causes people to start and stop using over time, the types of services that they use (e.g. GPs, ambulances, drug rehab), and the types of services they wish to access for help. Without these details, services can’t be improved and we don’t know the best time to intervene and prevent people transitioning to more problematic use patterns.

While the regional data from phase one of the study is being analysed, and in the absence of peer reviewed literature, Dr Ward and researcher, Madeline Clark, published a review in August 2017 for the Murray PHN of “grey literature” to gain some sense of meth use and demand on services. The report is available online.

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