New research shows the annual death toll from methamphetamine use in Australia has doubled.

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre looked at the 1,649 meth-related deaths between 2009 and 2015.

Overdose was the most common cause of death at 43 per cent, followed by 'natural' diseases such as heart disease at 22 per cent, and suicide at 18 per cent.

Forty-one per cent of the deaths were in rural or regional locations, and 156 ice users died while at the wheel of a car or on a motorbike.

The annual national death toll was found to have doubled over the seven-year period.

Researcher Shane Darke said the number of deaths appeared to be stabilising, but at a worryingly high level.

“This is not a harmless party drug, this is a serious drug that killed over 1,600 people over seven years,” he said.

“I think the image of the drug needs to change. Ice, it sounds like it's a cool name, it all sounds very marketable but this is a drug that causes just as much damage as a drug like heroin.

“The thing that's really important is that each of these deaths had an average of 44 years of lost life, that is they died on average 44 years before their life expectancy.

“That's a huge number and it shows the wasted potential and the impact on our society.”

Professor Darke said people needed to be more aware of the wide-ranging health risks of methamphetamine use.

“One thing that people who are treating them may not be aware is, the young person coming into you with methamphetamine dependence may also have a heart problem, and this need to be borne in mind and assessed,” he said.

A copy of the report is available here.