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Rural, but town-based, teenager Leon Needham (14) is really enjoying life at the moment.
He’s got a girlfriend, playing A’s rugby in the age group above and is discovering his flair with creative writing.
Down at the river with his dad this afternoon, Leon starts thinking about life after school. Maybe he might move to the city to be a journalist, maybe he might get a job in the agricultural sector… or maybe, and most likely, he’ll join the 20% of his town who are having their lives torn apart by crystal meth.
While admitting to having been around people who smoke marijuana, and occasionally raiding his parent’s liquor cabinet before a sleep-over, Leon seems oblivious to the fact that he has a much better chance of going to jail before a tertiary institution.
In fact, he has a better chance of seeing the inside of a jail cell for Ice-related crimes than the chances he has of seeing the inside of a domestic aeroplane, or the beach.
Research has found the number of people using crystal methamphetamine, or ice, in rural Australia is more than double the number of those living in metropolitan centres.
The study used national data from tens of thousands of people, and its findings were presented at an alcohol and drug conference in Sydney on Monday.
It reveals crystal methamphetamine use increased by 150 per cent, from 0.8 per cent to 2 per cent, between 2007 and 2013, this number has since increased on average, and in some towns it is as high as 40%.
“I might move to the city and play for the Broncos, like my hero Darren Lockyer!” Leon says cheerfully while reeling in a fish with Dad.
“Or I might be a deep sea fisherman, like my pop was”
Little does Leon, or his Dad, know that in 18 months he will be pressured by hot chicks from the grade above to sniff a little bit of white powder at a post-rugby grand final house party.
And three years after that he will be sent to Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre for a break and enter on his own parents house.