Ice (also known as Crystal Meth) is a huge problem. At Youth Off The Streets, it is a drug we deal with at our Dunlea Alcohol and Other Drug Youth Service (Dunlea) on a daily basis.
Dunlea has been running as a service since 1996, and we have been dealing with the Ice epidemic for many years now. Next to Marijuana it is the most used drug of the young people who access our service (aged between 13 – 19 years). The media has only just caught up with the issue which is why there is a lot of hype about it at the moment. The ads on TV don’t show all the affects of Ice, but they do convey the pain and damage it does to a person’s life.
The reason Ice is so damaging is due to its high potency. Drugs such as Speed come from the same main ingredient as Ice, Methamphetamine (Meth). However, where Speed may have been about 20% meth, Ice is up to 80% meth. This means more addictive, increased effects and a harder comedown. Whereas speed and base may have been the drug of choice for amphetamines users, it is now Ice or Crystal Meth.
The effects on people who have an Ice addiction are very intense. It causes a lot of psychical and mental health conditions which negatively affects other areas of life. Users can often fall into engaging in risky behaviour, suffering from relationship breakdowns, crime, prostitution, and dying through an overdose. At Dunlea, we have seen cases where young people were going well in their treatment and then started using Ice for the first time. This experience has showed how it directly impacts the young people’s lives causing a great deal of pain and damage. It has caused many young people to be homeless, add to onset of mental illness, family breakdown, thoughts of suicide and self-harm. Whether the young person is coming down from the drug, high from the drug or craving the drug, their behaviour is different. One year we had 13 broken windows and a glass door broken from young people using Crystal Meth
Ice changes the way the young person physically looks and their motivation to make positive changes in their lives. We have seen a lot of young people who are using Crystal Meth commit crimes in order to fund their drug habit, which has lead to long prison sentences. With use of these drugs also comes a lot of aggression which at times we have to deal with during the program. We also have a number of clients who are going through court at the moment for dealing this drug and working with the young person on all issues associated with this experience.
There is very little people can do if someone needs medical treatment from using too much Ice. Normally someone would just have to be locked in a room at the hospital until they come down. There are no drugs to combat Ice so all they can do is monitor problems which occur, such as dehydration or self harm.
However, we can focus on getting our young people off this drug through treatment programs. For example, in order to deal with young people affected by drugs, Dunlea provides:
– A lot of harm minimisation strategies and education on drugs
– Sharp boxes around in case young people need to dispose of any injecting equipment or Ice pipes safely
– Help with physical issues such as dentist problems or skin infections
– Counselling to ensure their mental health is being monitored
– Direction for what they want to do with their drug use, as long as the community or the young people are not any in direct harm, we support the young people to make their own decisions
– The information needed to make an informed decision on using drugs – and if they choose to use, how to use it the safest way possible
Overall, the most important thing to remember in working with young people using Crystal Meth is not to judge them or turn them away as in a lot of cases society has already given up on them.
Crystal Meth is proven to be one of the most addictive drugs, and you can really see the pain in the young people wanting to better their lives but they feel so trapped. Here at Dunlea, and programs like ours, we give them the tools to tackle their addiction head on and escape from the trap.