Ice Towns: Crystal Meth Addiction in Regional Victoria

You always hear about people getting on the ice nowm You can really notice it in some people My teenage children tell me that they’ve heard of ice in the town, and quite commonly too We see a few patients using it and being affected by it i know a lot of people do do ice, a lot of people I grew up with, they smoke ice We definitely lock everything up now There seems to be more robberies and burglaries They come form families where you’ve always thought they had quite strict parenting You’d think that they would steer clear from that, but somehow they just get sucked in Tonight I’m going along to the ice forum that’s being held here in Horsham and I’m hoping that by going along I can gain a little bit more of an insight on the drug ice to help my son, or just help me feel I can cope better with what we’re going through Just because we’re country people in Australia we shouldn’t assume that ice isn’t here in our town, in our region We’re better off to front up and say, is it? Because, if anything, I’ve seen the town being on the front foot We’re hearing about this drug in the media a lot and we’re hearing how it can be a nasty thing and we want to be on the lookout Crystal methylamphetamine was largely unknown and there were very few, if any, users Moving on to 2014 now, what we’re seeing, especially in young adult circles, it’s becoming socially accepted It’s a place where it’s not uncommon to go to a pub on a Satuday night in bigger centres, and you can see there’s a group of drunks, but there’s also a different group there I think in town there could be a number could be ten different dealers in town at any time There could be new people having a go Could be anyone, could be well-respected people You know, everyday workers It could be anyone – young people just out of school I think in a small town, addiction is something that you can keep under wraps for so long As long as everything else that’s going on with your life is in order, then addiction can be hidden for a long time We’ve got an issue We’ve identified that ice has moved in to Horsham How do we go about it? What do we do? We are remote – we’re 310km from the CBD Having said that, we still have public transport systems We’ve still got the Western Highway direct from Melbourne through to Adelaide So whether it comes in by rail, by public transport, by motor vehicle Testing of 1 in 10 positive is one of the high performers right throughout the western regions in the year to date – it’s about a 12 month period We’re just doing random alcohol and drug testing today One long breath thorugh the tube until I ask you to stop Pink sponges, chuck them on the back of your tongue, and drag them down to the front and just hand it back to me, all right? Have you had any methylamphetamine or cannabis? Nah Yeah It’s not something that I see

It has never come into my office as a problem I’m unaware, personally, of anyone that’s affected by ice in my community – I think we need to to understand, if that is an issue, to get on the front foot and raise that awareness From what I find, a lot of the parents are keeping it to themselves A lot of people here know that my son has an addiction And I know that their son or their daughter has too I became aware that he had a serious problem, and it was probably in the month after he lost his job His behaviour was erratic He was very thin He lost weight rapidly Ice is his main priority in his life In my mind, for him to stop using ice, I think he’s going to have to lose his world I don’t ashamed of being a mum of a user I don’t choose to be anonymous about it because I’m ashamed I just don’t want to do anything to hurt my son When we were having an honest talk, I said to him, i need to try ice i would like to try it i said, I need to know how you feel, how people feel, when they take this drug I need to experience it And he said, Mum, don’t ever try it He nearly yelled at me He said, Mum, don’t You don’t know what you’re messing with He said it only takes one My heart goes out to the people around the user, especially the dependent user, because the user, mostly unintentionally, makes life a living hell for those around them No one is immune to ice use, and that’s what we’re seeing here We’re seeing older users, we’re seeing working class people, we’re seeing the poor We’re seeing the unemployed We’re seeing people from all walks of life using ice When you look at the pub, say 10, 20 years ago you can guarantee 100% of people are on the grog Now you go to the pub, and they’ll say, you see that big group over there? They’re not on grog They’re on something else, and it’s probably meth Going out in Horsham for the night is pretty average We’re at the pub to drink and have fun, let loose There’s The Royal, and Wilsons, and that’s it Wilsons is feral, but it’s good You can’t even sit on the toilets it’s the only nightclub in Horsham that’s open until 5am I don’t go to Wilsons cos there are lots of people on ice Ice is easy to find i have noticed ice in Horsham, and it’s bad, and disgusting, and it ruins people’s lives i think they should just get rid of all the dealers They should get them out of town The first time I took it, the first breath of it, it was instantly something I’d never experienced Gives you a feeling of indestructable confidence and energy The first time is always the best time When I first took it it became just a little bit of fun, here and there, and then gradually became something that you want more and more, until it becomes something that you’re doing all the time It really started to fall apart for me when, I guess, the financial strain it just starts to ct off relationships it starts to isolate you and put you in positions to do things that you wouldn’t normally do You spend all your savings, you take risks to try and make extra money with selling ice, or whatever you’ve got to do I did have to sell it sometimes just to make ends meet What keeps bringing me back to use would be something that’s always appealing up until the moment – even the moment you’ve had it – five minutes later you’d be wishing that you didn’t I guess you feel, sort of, alert Yeah, I won’t sleep tonight I’ll be out all day tomorrow It’s been a long process to cut down and work back Now I’d be down to once a month or a little bit over that Where it was going from every day I’ve seen families torn apart Well structured family units, loving families,

fantastic parents – I’ve seen families destroyed, their personal possessions sold and pawned, all for the sake of being getting a few dollars to buy the substance I’ve witnessed road trauma I’ve witness psychotic episodes i don’t know how much more i can take In Victoria, across the state, all regions are experiencing a dramatic increase in the maount of people who are coming before court for drug related offences There’s a general feeling that the violence that we’re seeing attached to methylamphetamine users is greater than what we’ve seen in the past 20 years I think one of the most surprising things that I’ve noticed about the ice epidemic is that is has visited upon very small communties, traditionally close knit communities, are suddenly finding that there’s a high level of drug activity in their community Well, in Shepparton, ice users have skyrocketed You can see it on people when you go out in the nightclubs and on the streets, even during the day I’ve known friends that have siblings or children that have been involved with ice and it just ruins their families i think that Shepparton has become an unsafe place In the younger generation, a number of people that I know have chosen to move away because of that concern Our police will always tell you that they’re undermanned, or underwomanned it’s a not very pleasant scene to go out at three or four in the morning, on a Saturday night, in this part of the world, and be confronted with vomiting, fighting, agressive, semi-conscious people who have triple the strength because they’re full of drugs The growth of methylamphetamine use in Victoria has not stopped And it’s a drug, quite honestly, you can’t experiment with It has a very high uptake of immediate addiction because it is so powerful So I don’t think we’ve reached a peak in Victoria at all i think that’s still to come I hope our magistrate is wrong Unfortunately she’s probably on the right track, because at the moment there is no foot on the brake We’ve got these scumbag criminals who are making fortunes, and are supplying these drugs to the second stage, the next round of dealer, they’re making a fortune, they’re not being picked up too often I’ve had people as young as 11 and 13 appearing before the court addicted to ice One young man appeared in court a couple of months ago, and his face was completely pock marked He’d lost more than 10 kilos of weight he was tiny in any event And he was wild Just wild Unfortunately in terms of the ice epidemic we see people from all walks of life All social strata We’ve seen doctors and carpenters, mothers, nurses, people who had really high-functioning lives appearing before the court Chris has grown up in a time when Facebook came, and everyone wanted a piece of him, but at home he wasn’t happy, and he and I butted heads We’re probably alike in a lot of ways I remember the day he packed his car and left It’s just not the way you want to send your son out into the world Chris left that day Yeah, you wish you could have been able to stop him, but you couldn’t i remember, he’d been home at some stage, and he’d synced his phone on the computer all of his photos were slotted in amongst ours And there were things I didn’t want to see There was a garbage bag full of marijuana, and naked girls, and just horrible things that you don’t want to see It’s just like you’ve lost somebody right there and then We’ve had a lot of tragedy in the last few years And you try and get it out of them but you can’t, you can’t get him to confess Mum and Dad tried to keep a lid on things

and try and have a normal life, but yeah, when things were bad, things were bad and it was an unhappy place to live in I went through his belongings one day in his bedroom, and i found something that was a powdery substance that is something they mix with ice He was very angry It was like losing a brother You’d look at other friends, and they’ve got their big brothers, their siblings, people that they can lean on and talk to, and I didn’t There was a sequence of events He wheeled a car around the corner up here and rode it up on to somebody’s nature strip He’d lost his licence then for drink driving We’ve got photos of him at the kitchen bench, asleep, in his work clothes He wasn’t engaging in normal conversation, he wasn’t laughing at appropriate times I got a phone call from one of his friends I said, call the ambulance, He must have told the ambulance officers that he’d been using ice out at the river, and he said, I’m really worried The doctors showed me the X-ray, and it was like it was He wasn’t supposed to walk again i got hold of Darren, and I said, Chris has had an accident and broken his neck I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it This whole time, Chris was basically in a detox situation as well That point in time his whole world unfolded in front of us, because we had his phone There were messages coming through asking him for what he could get them And names of people that deal in the product The big boys When a family member wants to have help you’ve got to go to the city for detox or rehab That there’s no facilities available here in Horsham At one stage earlier on, he did agree to go through the detox program and rehabilitation But he was so frightened of being removed away from everything that he knows The most frustrating thing in my day to day work in that we cannot access good quality detoxification quickly in the country It’s just not possible But it is frustrating when you have people coming to court, and you have a real opportunity to force them to do some kind of rehabilitation, and the facilities and the serrvices are just not there There’s only a handful that I know who have quit forever it’s not easily achieved There’s always, I guess, the thought or the temptation for them as well it’s just a matter of not wanting to go back there We would have paid anything We would have done anything but we didn’t have the option There were no options – Hey, buddy! – Hey, how are you? How’s the hilux going, all right? Yeah, righto If I didn’t break my neck in the river, I would be dead or in jail I would have done something stupid in some other way That’s the sad part about it I nearly had to kill myself to realise what an issue I had If it wasn’t for that, then I wouldn’t have had that compulsory rehab period through hospital Like, I’d still be doing it My experience is probably unique There’s probably not too many stories like it Guys who go to rehab clinics for three months – I’ve seen it time and time again They go in for three months, they come out, within a week they’re back on it Or even while they’re at the rehab clinic They never actually get off it, because there’s drugs that go through the doors I had a horrible, compulsory rehab I was stuck in a hospital bed I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything for months And then when I got home, I still had this halo traction which stopped me going anywhere or doing anything Mum and Dad were worried about me long before that They knew that there were problems They knew that I was doing stuff I shouldn’t have been doing But that had no idea After the first time I took it, it took me a week until I was going, where can I get some more of that? Because that was pretty awesome It’s the hardest thing to resist that I’ve ever had I didn’t realise that until I fell down the rabbit hole and I was like, wow, everyone’s doing this It was only costing me a couple of hundred dollars a day I was using anything from half a gram to a gram a day, and to everyone else, that was between $500 and $800

It was cheaper for me becauseIwas selling it, simple as that It basically controlled me from the minute I got out of bed in the morning I was on it straight away In that first six months in hospital, I was hanging for it all the time But you have to tell yourself, no – dude, you’ve gotta get through this If I didn’t who knows where I’d be now? I will always consider myself a drug addict That’s something that I’ve got to deal with forever now I thought this is going to be a good opportunity for me to get away That was another big part of moving on Breaking ties with old friends who maybe aren’t really your friend, and starting fresh somewhere People are desperate And we know exactly where they’re at People, really good people, around doing the same as what we’ve done and they’ve got children with some major issues My life has changed dramatically If I didn’t stop doing it, I couldn’t imagine what would have happened, but since then it’s been positives most of the time, you know It could very easily spiral out of control again, but I won’t let that happen I have a beer and a cigarette if it’s that bad That’s my vice now