4.1 Overview
4.2 Stage 1: research with stakeholders and service providers
4.3 Stage 2: research with target audiences
4.4 Recruitment
4.5 Learnings from recruitment
4.6 Discussion areas
4.7 Research timing

4.1 Overview

The research involved a two stage qualitative methodology. The initial stage involved research among stakeholders and service providers and consisted of 2 group discussions and 16 in-depth interviews conducted face-to-face or by telephone. A second stage of research among methamphetamine users from the target audiences followed. This comprised 34 small group discussions and 18 face-to-face or telephone interviews. Twelve of these interviews were with Indigenous Australians. Each small group discussion comprised between 4-7 respondents and was of approximately 1 hours duration.

4.2 Stage 1: research with stakeholders and service providers

The research objectives outlined above were consistent across both stages. In addition, the initial research among stakeholders and service providers sought to:
  • gain stakeholder feedback on the broad approach to discussions and methodology with the target audiences
  • apply any learnings that stakeholders and service providers may have in dealing with methamphetamine users and
  • gain feedback on the proposed sample structure.
The final sample of stakeholders and service providers is described in Table 1.

As main findings from the stakeholder research were later validated through group discussions with target audiences, these have not been reported on separately. However, stakeholders made a number of recommendations in regard to the structure of the sample among target audiences, including:
  • having injectors and non-injectors in different groups
  • recruiting on the basis of concern levels about use of ice
  • incorporating sex workers in the sample and
  • incorporating high end professionals in the sample, for example people working in financial services and banking.
As a result of the stakeholder research, all groups were subsequently recruited on levels of concern over use of ice. Sex workers were included in the sample either as specific in-depth interviews or as respondents in the group discussions. Recruitment of high end professionals was attempted, however this proved difficult due to potential respondents' concerns for their anonymity14. As such, the resulting discussion groups targeting professionals consisted of respondents on medium to high incomes. Due to the range of variables used in the discussion group segmentation, it also proved to be a difficult task in recruitment to have completely separate groups of injectors and non-injectors. Section 4.4 and Section 4.5 discuss recruitment Issues encountered throughout recruitment more detail.
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Table 1: final sample of stakeholder and service providers

Group depthOrganisationNo. of respondentsLocationState
Group 1Service providers, needle and syringe program managers and pharmacists6-8SydneyNSW
Group 2Service providers, needle and syringe program managers and pharmacists6-8MelbourneVIC
Depth 1Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia 1Canberra*ACT
Depth 2Australian Users Leagues4CanberraACT
Depth 3Australian Users Leagues1Perth*WA
Depth 4State based AIDS Councils1SydneyNSW
Depth 5State based AIDS Councils1Perth*WA
Depth 6State based AIDS Councils1Brisbane*QLD
Depth 7State & Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Councils1Hobart*TAS
Depth 8State & Territory AIDS and Hepatitis Councils1Darwin*NT
Depth 9Rural and Regional AOD Treatment Centres1Cairns*QLD
Depth 10Rural and Regional AOD Treatment Centres1Hope Forest*SA
Depth 11Rural and Regional AOD Treatment Centres1Armadale*WA
Depth 12Rural and Regional AOD Treatment Centres1Orange*NSW
Depth 13Drug & Alcohol Units of several Aboriginal Medical Services and Mental Health Services across Australia 1Metro and
Depth 14Drug & Alcohol Units of several Aboriginal Medical Services and Mental Health Services across Australia 1Metro and
Depth 15Drug & Alcohol Units of several Aboriginal Medical Services and Mental Health Services across Australia 1Metro and
Depth 16Drug & Alcohol Units of several Aboriginal Medical Services and Mental Health Services across Australia Metro and

* Interviews conducted by phone

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4.3 Stage 2: research with target audiences

The proposed sample comprised 36 small group discussions consisting of 4-6 respondents among the target audiences, and 12 individual or paired depth interviews with users among the Indigenous population conducted by the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre of Australia (CIRCA). The sample proposed was segmented according to target audience, frequency of methamphetamine use, gender, and state. The final sample included 34 small group discussions and 18 in-depth interviews with a similar distribution across groups of target audiences, frequency of use, gender and state as that proposed.

Table 2 below illustrates the differences in these variables between the proposed sample and that achieved.

Table 3 and Table 4 show the final sample.

Table 2: Differences between proposed and final samples

Target audience

Target audienceProposedAchieved
Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender44
Regular rave/ dance party attendees43
Mix rave party attendees/ young people/ uni students33
Workers in particular industry97+1 depth
Young people aged 16-2444
University students34
General (including occasional/ regular) and those over 25 yrs56
Rural/ regional43+4 depths
Sex workers01 depth
Indigenous12 depths12 depths
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Frequency of use

Frequency of useProposedAchieved
Heavy - several times a month1313+2 depths
Regular - at least once a month1010+2 depths
Occasional - less than once a month910+2 depths
Stopped using - not within the last 3 months41


State/ territoryProposedAchieved
NSW98+4 depths
WA88+1 depth


Males1512+3 depths
Females 1210+3 depths
Mix males/ females912
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Table 3: Final group sample of methamphetamine users

GrpTarget audienceUsageConcernGenderLocationState
1Gay, under 30'sHeavyNot concernedMMetroNSW
2Rave party attendeesRegularNot concernedMMetroNSW
3High end professionalsOccasionalMixMMetroNSW
7Uni students, 18-21RegularNot concernedMixMetroNSW
9GayHeavyNot concernedFMetroSA
10GeneralHeavyNot concernedMMetroSA
11Truckies, construction, hospitality (older)RegularNot concernedMMetroSA
12ProfessionalsRegual / OccasionalMixFMetroSA
13Young, Uni students, Rave party attendeesRegularNot concernedMixMetroSA
14General (incl. sex workers)HeavyNot concernedF MetroSA
15Gay Regular Mix F Metro Vic
16Rave party attendeesOccasional Not concernedMixMetroVic
17Rural/ regionalOccasional / heavyNot concernedMixRegionalVic
18Rural/ regionalOccasional / heavyMixMixRegionalVic
19GeneralNot any moreNot concernedMMetroVic
20YoungRegularNot concernedMMetroVic
21Uni studentsHeavyMixMMetroVic
25Drivers/ construction/ labourHeavyMixM (one F)MetroWA
27GeneralHeavyNot concernedFemaleMetroWA
28Young, Uni students, Rave party attendeesOccasional / HeavyConcernedMixMetroWA
29University/ TAFE studentsOccasionalNot concerned FMetroWA
30GayRegular / HeavyConcernedMMetroWA
31Construction/ labour/ hospitalityOccasional MixMixRegionalQld
32Young, Uni students, Rave party attendeesOccasionalConcernedFRegionalQld
33GeneralRegularNot concernedMMetroQld
34Rave party attendeesHeavyNot concernedMixMetroQld
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Table 4: Final in-depth interview sample of methamphetamine users

Table 4 is separated into 2 smaller tables in this HTML version for accessibility reasons. It is presented as one table in the PDF version.

Rural/regional, taxi driver or sex worker

IDTarget audienceUsageConcernGenderState
1Rural / regionalHeavyNot concernedMNSW
2Rural / regionalHeavyNot concernedMNSW
3Rural / regionalOccasionalConcernedFNSW
4Rural / regionalNot any moreConcernedFNSW
5Taxi driverRegular / heavyNot concernedMWA
6Sex workerRegular / heavyConcernedFQLD


IDAgeGender Location
718-27MIllawarra, NSW
818-27MIllawarra, NSW
918-27MIllawarra, NSW
1018-27MIllawarra, NSW
1118-27FIllawarra, NSW
1218-27FIllawarra, NSW
1332-36MWestern Sydney, NSW
1432-36MWestern Sydney, NSW
1532-36FWestern Sydney, NSW
1628-34MInner Sydney, NSW
1728-34MInner Sydney, NSW
1828-34FInner Sydney, NSW
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4.4 Recruitment

The primary recruitment strategy used was to identify potential respondents through accredited recruitment specialists and then to use the technique of 'snowballing'. This involves recruiters identifying people who may know other people who fit the profiles of the target groups. Once identified, the nature of the study is explained and they in turn are asked to approach others who fit the profiles of the people required in the sample. Blue Moon has used this technique successfully in the past on a number of projects involving users of illicit drugs.

Another method used by some recruiters was to contact organisations that offer support and assistance for drug users. This method is useful for reaching groups such as intravenous drug users. However, it does have the limitation of only targeting those who have already sought some assistance or support for their drug use. Despite these strategies, a number of difficulties were encountered during recruitment. These in turn resulted in the changes (described above) that were made to the proposed sample.

The first difficulty was recruiter reluctance. In contrast to previous research undertaken with users of illicit drugs, many recruiters were unwilling to approach people on the topic of methamphetamines, particularly when the example of ice was given as a potential drug that could be used. This reluctance was based on:
  • a perception by many that all methamphetamine users are 'junkies'
  • an unwillingness to ask people on their database due to anticipated negative reactions and
  • general fear of encountering people who use methamphetamines, particularly by those that held the groups in their offices.
The second difficulty encountered through recruitment was a greater reluctance by respondents to admit to their use of methamphetamines, particularly ice, than that previously experienced with research among users of other drugs. Many tended to fear loss of anonymity by attending groups and this made the use of snowballing difficult. This fear was exacerbated among the target groups where the social network was smaller and there was greater potential of respondents encountering someone they already knew or may meet in the future. This was also the primary driver of changing the location of the proposed Northern Territory groups to Queensland.

Recruitment in Indigenous communities was just as difficult. In previous research among users of illicit drugs, CIRCA had successfully recruited respondents through rehabilitation centres, Aboriginal Medical Services, youth workers, Indigenous researchers and their network of community organisations. These recruitment channels did not prove effective for users of methamphetamines, with a number of barriers identified.

Firstly, there was little awareness with Indigenous researchers and community organisations of methamphetamine use. Secondly, recruitment through Aboriginal Medical Services was not possible due to:
  • concerns of anonymity
  • the need for ethics approval by some services and
  • indications from stakeholders that Indigenous users of methamphetamines were likely to be accessing mainstream services rather than Indigenous services due to the stigma associated with methamphetamine, specifically ice, use in their communities.
All research among Indigenous users was undertaken in urban areas, as opposed to also incorporating respondents from rural and regional areas. The sample was changed as research among stakeholders indicated uncertainty about the prevalence of methamphetamine use in regional, rural and remote locations. Stakeholder perceptions of use outside of urban areas tended to be anecdotal and were unable to be substantiated when organisations were contacted to assist in recruitment. Top of page

4.5 Learnings from recruitment

In contrast to previous research among users of illicit drugs, the reaction of recruiters illustrated a greater stigma held among the general public towards ice users, which also extends to users of other methamphetamines. Later group discussions indicated that methamphetamine users recognise this public perception, resulting in a reluctance to discuss use of the drugs with those outside the ‘social’ using circle. There was also some indication during recruitment that the use of snowballing was made more difficult by the fact that heavier users tend to disguise the extent of their use even from those within their ‘social’ circle.

4.6 Discussion areas

Semi-structured discussion guides were developed for use in both stages of the research to ensure that all the issues were covered in every interview. The use of semi-structured guides allows the respondents themselves to dictate the flow of discussions with guidance from the moderator, rather than the questions being administered in the question/response format common in quantitative research.

A separate but similar guide was prepared for the Indigenous target group. All discussion guides are appended (Appendix A). Each guide was approved by members of the department prior to use.

4.7 Research timing

The initial research stage among stakeholders and service providers occurred between 10-21 September, 2007. The majority of fieldwork among the target audiences was conducted between 2-23 October, 2007. The fieldwork concluded with a small number of Indigenous interviews on 5 November, 2007.

14. Given the difficulties in targeting this group in this study and in the methodology used in other community surveys (McKetin, R. et al, 2005 cited in Illicit Drug Use in Australia: Epidemiology, use patterns and associated harm, (2nd edition), Ross, J., (ed), National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, 2007), some consideration should be given to other methods of encouraging participation should further research among this audience be undertaken.