IT’S the addiction that’s gripping parts of the country like never seen before.
It’s been around for some time, but the ice epidemic has reached levels over the past three years that has caught many Australians off guard.
While seven per cent of Australians aged 14 years and over have used meth/amphetamines one or more times in their life, only two per cent of that same demographic have the drug in the previous 12 months. Yet, the problem of addiction continues to grow.
Why don’t people get help? How does one get help? How can we help?
According to the Australian Drug Foundation, the problem blocking the solution lies in the stigma surrounding ice addicts.
In a bid to breakdown the negativity and misunderstanding, the ADF has rolled out a three-part video series, which looks at the effect of ice on a former addict, a mother and a doctor.
The clips discuss the lack of understanding about addiction, and that underneath the problem lies someone’s child, brother or friend.
In 2015, Jay made headlines after appearing on the front page of The Advertiser,where he revealed how his addiction to crystal meth led him to an “Ice Hell”.
From prostitution to being forced to live under a bridge, Mr Morris’ two-year addiction started when he moved back to Australia after a stint abroad in London.
“Drugs offered me an escape to be who I wanted to be,” he said.
“I’d have a shot and two hours later I’d need another one. I’d be up 24 hours on end. I was shooting up and selling myself.
“I felt like a king.
“I felt wanted, in charge, powerful,” he said.
Now, Mr Morris has sat down as part of the ADF video series, where he speaks of the “loneliness” as an addict, and the sense of isolation from those around you.
“I started using ice when I was 20 years old. I used it recreationally, and formed a habit over a period of a couple of months,” Mr Morris says.
“It ended up spiralling in to something that I couldn’t control, and then went through a very long and painful recovery period.”
It wasn’t until a stranger spoke up, and suggested Mr Morris “go to rehab” that he realised his habit was hurting those around him.
“It was a few things that came together for me to realise I needed help,” he said.
“I was going out regularly to night clubs, and there was actually a security guard who said to me that I needed to go to rehab, which was amazing.
“To this day, the fact that somebody put their hands out and said ‘you need help’ was a kick in the arse.
“It really pushed me along and that was the moment I realised, ‘Yes, I need the help. Yes, I need to move forward.’”
His addiction, which led him to lie and steal from his family, saw him take one gram of the drug each day, which has a street value of around $700.
“Everyone has their individual rock bottoms. Mine was I was on the streets, I didn’t have a home, I lost my job and I was escorting to support my habit,” he said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
Mr Morris finished his treatment at the Calvary Drug and Alcohol Centre (DAC) in 2015, and now hopes to help others who are going down the same path he followed.
“My life has changed dramatically since recovering from crystal meth,” he said.
“I’m going to be studying in social work, and giving back to everyone who has given to me.
“My hope for the future is to see that the stigma around drug addiction ceases and that as a community, and as an individual, we look at the people with addiction as human beings.”
THE MOTHER: DEBBIE WARNER
As a mother of five children, Debbie Warner has seen first hand what devastation can be caused by crystal meth.
As part of her intimate video, Ms Warner spoke of how one of her sons developed a problem with ice, which only worsened because of the stigma around the addiction.
“He comes home and he has blisters all over his feet, and he’s got dirty clothes on and he smells, and I still hug him and still say I love him heaps. I don’t judge him at all, because our relationship is very, very strong,” she said.
“I think the headlines around methamphetamine have become out of control, and quite negative, so then it makes it even more difficult for people who have problems using the drug because then they become even more isolated.”
In 2015, Ms Warner’s son went to Thailand’s DARA rehab clinic to complete a three-month rehabilitation program. In an interview with the Geelong Advertiser, Ms Warner revealed that just 10 days after returning from the centre to Melbourne, he ventured back in to old habits.
“This revolting old man rang me and said, ‘You bring the money or you’re not getting your son back,’” she said.
“I went and paid the $150 and said to my son, ‘I don’t know what else that disgusting man has done to you but you’re getting on a plane and going straight back to rehab.’
“There seemed to be no point going to the police or to the hospital, so we just went to the local doctor to get some valium to help him come down from the ice and got him on the plane.”
Ms Warner revealed in the video the “shame” put on ice addicts is only contributing to the growing problem of addiction.
“You feel that you don’t want anyone in the community to know about it,” she said.
“You try and hide it away, so you become quite consumed.
“Most families will feel guilt and shame around their young person’s drug use because of society’s views. They will go back and look at what they did, and think this is why it’s happening.
“Every parent does it, and it’s really quite destructive to do it because we can’t control what another person does.”
THE CLINICIAN: DR SUZIE HUDSON
Outside Substance Abuse Disorder, drug addicts often suffer with a second, underlying mental illness. Dr Suzie Hudson, who is the Clinical Director at theNetwork of Alcohol and other drug Agencies, said the problem with the “powerful effect” of ice is the reason why “it’s a drug that does not discriminate”.
“The drug itself, including alcohol, has been very much a part of our culture in Australia, and what that means is that crystal meth is used by a wide range of people in different circumstances,” she said.
“I spent over 12 months working with women on the streets of Kings Cross who were injecting stimulant drugs including crystal methamphetamine. And what I saw there was not only the impacts and harms associated with these drugs, but the resilience and strength of the people using them.”
The evidence of stigma is everywhere, and this is what Dr Hudson says is the biggest roadblock for people who need to seek help.
“One of the biggest issues I see with crystal meth use is the huge amount of stigma and discrimination that is around this drug,” she says.
“What you have then got is an isolation of those who are experiencing difficulties with this drug, which keep them away from treatment.”
Dr Hudson said that as a community, we need to be increasing confidence around the treatment that is available.
“It does work, it is effective and what I would like to see is people engaging more with the human being, and not being overwhelmed with the drug itself,” she says.
“These are just people. They are our husbands, our sisters, our children. And that’s why as a community, we need to come together to provide the solution.”