DEMAND for amphetamines and ecstasy is skyrocketing, with both domestic production and imports of the illegal drugs rising fast.
A joint parliamentary inquiry into amphetamines and other drugs was warned yesterday that Australia would continue to lose the war on drugs while policies kept targeting users instead of suppliers.
The inquiry, chaired by Liberal senator Ian Macdonald, heard from law enforcement agencies, health authorities, researchers and drug users.
The Australian Crime Commission said demand for amphetamines and drugs such as ecstasy was rising. "Intelligence gathered by the ACC and its partner agencies indicates the domestic demand for amphetamines and other synthetic drugs is increasing, with little likelihood this trend will alter in the near future," its submission said.
Law enforcement agencies detected 358 clandestine amphetamine laboratories in 2004, compared with just 58 in 1996, the ACC said.
Ecstasy use almost tripled in the past 13 years, with 3.4 per cent of Australians having used the drug in the previous year, while users of amphetamines increased from 2 per cent to 3.2 per cent.
The Australian Federal Police said most amphetamines were made domestically, but agencies were seeing increased imports of concentrated forms of the drug, such as ice.
Agent Michael Phelan said the AFP devoted most of its resources to catching drug suppliers. "The arrest and charging of users is extremely limited," he said. "Well over 95 per cent ... would be those involved in importation or manufacture, not users."
His comments followed criticism from the Australia Institute, which told the inquiry that policies focused too heavily on policing and failed to recognise addiction as a health problem.
The institute's Andrew Macintosh said police were wasting resources raiding dance parties to prosecute teenagers carrying small amounts of drugs.