A special commission into the drug crystal methamphetamine has begun in Sydney, before it heads to regional NSW, to understand the devastating impact ice has on Australia's most vulnerable.
The special inquiry started on Thursday with Commissioner Dan Howard calling on members of the public to lodge submissions about their views and experiences with crystal methamphetamine.
Counsel assisting, Sally Dowling SC, opened the hearing with an overview of the chemical and street names for the amphetamine family of drugs which include ice, speed, base and MDMA.
Crystal methamphetamine in 2013 became the most prominent form of the drug and that upward trajectory has continued in recent years, she said.
The drug was "highly addictive" and can devastate a person's social, mental and physical wellbeing, Ms Dowling said.
"Chronic use of crystal methamphetamine can cause the collapse of the user's health.
"It is sometimes associated with amphetamine-induced psychosis that, in extreme cases, may manifest in paranoia and violence and sometimes - tragically - in suicidal behaviour."
The commission will look at the cause of methamphetamine usage but Ms Dowling said much of it appears to be rooted in social disadvantage.
Poverty, unemployment and homelessness - things that lead people to "despair" about their future - are drivers.
The inquiry, set up by the NSW government in November 2018, will look at the prevalence and impact of the drug and other illicit amphetamine stimulants such as MDMA.
Someone using MDMA at a festival was different to someone with an ice dependency, Ms Dowling said, but there were patterns indicating who within society might be at risk.
Regional NSW residents, people in the criminal justice system, people with mental health issues, workers in some particular industries, members of ethnic and cultural minorities were all considered at higher risk.
Aboriginal communities have twice the rate of amphetamine use as the broader community, Ms Dowling said.
The commissioner said it was clear ice and other illegal drugs were having an "enormous impact" on society, but the responses to the issue also needed to be examined to make sure they weren't making the situation worse.
"We need to consider deep and difficult questions about the efficacy of our policies," Prof Howard said.
The inquiry will also look at the barriers for those seeking treatment which include stigma, language barriers, service availability and location.
The way law enforcement attempts to disrupt the flow of the drugs into the state and the way the court system deals with offenders will also be under the microscope.
Hearings will be held between April and August this year in Sydney and regional areas Lismore, Dubbo, Nowra, East Maitland and Broken Hill.
Submissions are open until May 7 with the commission to hand down its findings by the end of 2019.
Australian Associated Press