Use of methamphetamine is on the increase in Queensland and scientists have the data to prove it.
Professor Wayne Hall from the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland has lead a study into wastewater at two cities in Queensland over the past six years that has shown levels of methamphetamine residue has increased nearly five times in the study period.
"We have been sampling continuously since 2009 and monitoring trends in various forms of illicit drug use," Professor Hall said.
"We have been looking at cocaine, MDMA, cannabis along with a variety of other drugs including methamphetamine."
The study, to be published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday, used two different sites that cannot be identified as a condition of accessing the wastewater, one is a coastal metropolitan city in south east Queensland, the other is a major inland regional city.
Using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to analyse nearly 500 samples from the coastal city and more than 700 samples from the inland city researchers are able to say consumption of methamphetamines has increased 4.8 times since the study began.
"We had noticed (the increase) from year to year but when we put the cities together and plotted from 2009 to 2015 we saw how significant the growth was," Professor Hall said.
The study matches anecdotal evidence of increased use of methamphetamine in the community.
"It's consistent with a lot of information coming out about meth use," Professor Hall said.
"The numbers of young people presenting to hospitals and addiction treatment centres for meth use taken together with our wastewater data shows a big increase in use in the population as a whole."
Professor Hall said the increase in usage of methamphetamine was particularly concerning because of the reaction people have to the drug.
"People can get involved in very heavy binge use where they are using it continuously for two or three days," he said.
"(That can lead them to) develop psychosis, hallucinate, they can become quite violent, they become frightened or scared because of their paranoia.
"Often they become involved in violence when they are involved in dealing, which many have to do because it is expensive and that can also lead them to becoming involved in various forms of criminal activity.
The research has had a side benefit of proving that wastewater testing is successful at measuring drug use in the community.
"There is a real value in having much more frequent data collection," Professor Hall said.
"We have money for a national project so we have now started monitoring waste water in plants from most states and territories, another group doing this in South Australia as well.
"The work we have done here is testing the methods and we can see it provides really important information about what is happening over time with methamphetamine use."
Other data gathered by Professor Hall and his team showed that most other drug use stayed roughly the same.
They will soon publish data on decreases in MDMA usage that coincided with times the drug was difficult to obtain.