Illicit drug use has grown 50 per cent in Western Victoria in three years - ranking it third in Australia, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey has revealed.
More than 22,000 people aged 14 and over participated in the 2019 survey, which collects information about alcohol and tobacco consumption and illicit drug use among Australians.
In 2019, 21.6pc of those surveyed in the Western District said they had used at least one of 16 classes of illicit drugs in the previous 12 months.
The latest result is well above the 16.4pc average across Australia for 2019, and ranks Western Victoria third - behind only Northern NSW and the Gold Coast.
Other Victorian regional areas are all much lower, with Gippsland at 12.9pc and Murray at 14.3pc.
Western Region Alcohol And Drug Centre (WRAD) director, Geoff Soma, said the results were concerning.
"We're getting an increase, and have done for the past few months, in referrals across our outpatient services for people that present with mainly alcohol, followed by cannabis, followed by methamphetamine-like substances," he said.
Mr Soma said while WRAD and other organisations provided good day and outreach services, there were no residential services in the region.
The closest were in Ballarat or Melbourne and, even there, waiting periods were up to six months.
When it came to beating drug addiction, Mr Soma said getting help early was exceptionally important.
"There are many people out there with illicit substance problems that don't access services," he said.
"We would like to see more accessing those services earlier because, the earlier people access treatment, the less complicated things can become in the future."
In four years, the Warrnambool community has raised about $630,000 for a local residential service and WRAD could contribute $600,000 but another $1.5 million was needed.
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