Falling Through the Cracks: How meth reached epidemic levels in WA

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Mandurah Mail editor Gareth McKnight.

A man who has been arrested by local police over 100 times, despite being the cousin of an AFL footballer.

A woman whose five siblings and partner are all incarcerated, while her three children have been re-homed by the Department of Child Protection.

A former drug dealer who was rescued by the authorities after trying to commit suicide.

These are just a few of the people who have had their lives irreversibly impacted by becoming addicted to methamphetamine, as Western Australia's drug issues reach epidemic level.

Ahead of a potential federal trial to drug test welfare recipients locally, the Mandurah Mail has embarked on our Falling Through the Cracks series.

The purpose of the four-week project is to tell some of the most stark stories from former addicts who have had their lives destroyed by meth, dissuade our most-vulnerable residents from making the same mistakes and examine local services available to fight the drug scourge.

You can read the week one and week two of the project in full here and here.

Some of the stories have been hard to hear. The statistics are almost unbelievable.

In the first six months of 2019, a local needle exchange program for drug users swapped 173,663 used needles for clean ones. That's almost 29,000 per month in a city of just over 80,000 people.

Mandurah Palmerston chief Bram Dickens, who oversees the needle exchange program, even admitted he thought the figures were an error the first time he saw them, such was the number.

In upcoming weeks we will talk with our service providers and politicians to try and start a conversation about tackling WA's meth issues - it is clear that the current strategies just aren't working.

Sadly meth addiction isn't a something restricted to WA. In NSW a special commission into the use of meth in the Hunter and Newcastle region earlier this year. It heard that a 14-year-old girl was using Tinder to source the drug.

That said, despite the bleak subject matter and the sheer volume of people addicted to meth and struggling to get their lives back on track, there is also a message of hope.

We have met addicts who have turned their lives around and we have attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings where the positivity and sense of camaraderie have been uplifting.

While tackling meth supply and usage is a sizeable national problem, these stories of triumph over adversity show that small potential changes can make a big difference.

Gareth McKnight is editor of the Mandurah Mail.