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Australia launches crystal meth crackdown

Australia has announced a new task force to combat rising use of crystal meth in the country. The first report from the new task force is expected mid-year.

On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that his government was launching a new task force aimed at tackling "the growing scourge of ice," a nickname for the drug crystal meth.

At a press conference in Canberra, Abbot said the highly addictive nature of crystal meth, a form of methamphetamine, made it particularly challenging to curb its use.

"The trouble with ice is it's far more potent, far more dangerous, far more addictive than any previous illicit drug," Abbott said. "It's worse than heroin, it's worse than cocaine, it's worse than LSD, it's worse than ecstasy. It's much more addictive, much more dangerous, much more damaging."

The new task force will first be charged with examining existing efforts to fight crystal meth use at local, state, and territorial levels and "identify ways to take a systematic, comprehensive and coordinated approach to education, health and law enforcement." The task force first report is expected mid-year.

Abbott named Ken Lay, former police commissioner of the Victoria police, as the head of the taskforce.

In March, the Australian Crime Commission issued a report called "The Australian Methylamphetamine Market" detailing the involvement of organized crime in bringing the drug to Australia. One of the driving factors, according to the report, is the price crystal meth can be sold for in Australia.

The report cited the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime saying the average street price of one gram of methamphetamine in China is $80 (74 euro), but in Australia it is $500. Meth use has spread across cities as well as regional and remote communities, the report said.

According to figures in the report, the proportion of Australian methamphetamine users taking crystal meth had grown from 20 percent in 2010 to 50 percent in 2013.

mz/jil (AFP, dpa, AP)

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