The height of the COVID 19 pandemic saw an increase in cannabis use among Bridgetown’s drug users as methamphetamine, or meth, became hard to get because of travel restrictions.
From a harm minimisation perspective, that’s good news, as cannabis is a lot less harmful than meth and a lot less addictive, according to drug experts.
Blackwood Youth Action’s Lisa Burgess thinks meth use isn’t a big problem in town, with “probably not 1%” of the town using it.
Meth use is generally around 1.4% in regional and remote areas and about 1.1% in major cities according to statistics from Crime Stoppers.
Ms Burgess said Bridgetown’s meth users were generally comfortable sticking to themselves and weren’t on the streets, though some people and families were affected by it.
“It’s absolutely an issue, but it’s not overtaking the town,” Ms Burgess said.
While it tends to be a problem for older people, she said any young person needing help with a drug problem should contact Blackwood Youth Action.
Sergeant Phil Nation of the Bridgetown Police agrees that meth use declined during the lockdown due to its cost and restricted supply and that cannabis has become more prevalent.
But cannabis and meth aren’t the only drug issues of concern he said.
“This time of year there’s mushrooms,” he said.
Magic mushrooms of the species Psilocybe subaeruginosa are native to Australia and New Zealand and grow wild around the region, most famously in Balingup.
The potential harm from magic mushrooms doesn’t just come from the psilocybin, the hallucinogenic drug in them, but from mistaking them for other mushroom species which can be deadly.
“It’s very hard to tell the difference between the mushrooms that have psilocybin and the mushrooms that are very poisonous,” he said.
“It’s madness, some of them are really poisonous.”
While picking the right mushroom can lead to euphoria and even a treatment for depression in clinical settings, picking the wrong one can lead to the emergency ward as some of your organs start shutting down.
One of the dangers of psilocybin mushrooms is flashbacks. They can be unpleasant and can occur several years after you’ve taken them. Bad trips and overdosing are also hazards.
Possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms is illegal and policing it is an annual event for the Bridgetown police.
The good news about the local drug scene is that there’s not a lot of drug-related crime, or crime more generally, in Bridgetown, with few burglaries.
The little there is is usually transient, committed by people moving through town and taking advantage of people’s complacency about locking up their homes and sheds.
Alcohol remains Australia’s biggest drug problem, but in Bridgetown the police work with the local liquor industry to reduce the harm through a Liquor Accord.
“All our liquor outlets in Bridgetown are very good, all our managers are very good,” he said.
Barring notices prohibiting disorderly problem drinkers from obtaining alcohol from outlets around Bridgetown and Greenbushes prevent a lot of problems, according to Sergeant Nation.
However, more generally the Alcohol and Drug Foundation remain sceptical about the effectiveness of Liquor Accords in reducing alcohol related harm.