By Anne Tindall
I AM constantly hearing about the drug Ice so thought I would find out more about it.
I spoke to the Acting Senior Sergeant, Andy Boldiston, at the Wonthaggi Police Station and First Step Operations Manager, Gayle Wood and a very brave mum who I will call Wendy, to protect her son’s identity, about their take on this very pressing problem.
With a government that is cutting funding to this vital problem and tying up the little bit they are giving in so much red tape it’s almost impossible to access, what are we as a community supposed to do about this escalating issue?
Wendy tells me she has two sons who got into drugs.“One is now in a great place, the other is a work in progress,” she tells me.
She is talking about her experience in the hope it may help others who find themselves confronted with the horror of Ice.
“Everyone wants to be able to say how well his or her children are doing. It’s humiliating and sad when this is not the case.
“You can blame yourself,” Wendy said.
“My parenting could have been better, that’s for sure.”
Andy Boldiston from the Wonthaggi Police says that most people are doing their best with their kids.
He has children himself and hopes he is doing the right thing with them.
He wants to catch and convict the people who are financially gaining from the selling and manufacture of this horrendous drug.
“You may not get caught this week or this year,” he warns. “But you will get caught.”
He said that it doesn’t matter how secretive you are being, eventually someone in your circle will speak out about what you’re doing.
“The problem with the manufacture of Ice is that it happens in a very small place like a kitchen,” said Andy.
“The people making it don’t stick around the same place for long. They can fit it all into a boot of car and move on.”
The police rely very heavily on the public’s support. There are instances when a tipoff proves to be very helpful.
Even though the police want to help the drug users and catch the drug dealers, unfortunately those who get addicted to drugs end up committing crimes to help support their habit.
“They break into homes and businesses,” said Andy.
Here are some facts about Ice:
It is a form of the potent stimulant drug methamphetamine and there is a reason a person likes it.
It gives intense pleasure and clarity. Users say they have increased energy and that they feel they can make good decisions and plan effectively. It also increases sex drive.
BUT there is a huge downside, pretty obvious really. Coming down off it has the opposite effect. You will have difficulty making decisions, poor concentration and difficulty planning.
You can have headaches, blurred vision and feel very hungry.
It is common to feel flat, depressed, jittery and anxious. You can be so exhausted you need to sleep for a day or two.
Some people get mildly psychotic and hallucinate.
Then the tumultuous, vicious cycle continues as users attempt to experience the intensely good feelings again.
There is great harm done when users take higher and higher doses. The pleasurable effects tend to give way to less pleasurable ones.
It can lead to stroke and heart failure.
It is obviously better to try and nip it in the bud before it escalates out of control causing untold pain to all concerned.
It takes between 10 to 14 days to physically detox from Ice, almost twice as long as many other drugs.
After an acute withdrawal period, there’s a more chronic withdrawal period that may take 12 to 18 months.
“My son is actually a really good person,” said Wendy.
“He’s kind and funny, highly intelligent and very accomplished.
“Ice turned him into a monster.
“At first he just thought he was the smartest person in the room. He lost weight and looked handsome and told us he was very popular with the ladies.
“Then he started asking to borrow money and when I eventually said no, he was abusive and cruel.
“He had never said a bad word to me before that.
“I knew something was up. He got into trouble with the police and racked up a huge number of traffic fines. He would sleep for days.
“He ended up so down and out after a few months that he was sleeping in his car.
“Everything my husband and I read about drugs online told us not to take our adult son into our home. In our case I have to disagree with that advice.
“You cannot get your loved one into rehab. Maybe if you have money for a private clinic you can, but not otherwise.
“We took him in. He was committed to getting himself clean but it was a long, slow, painful process,” Wendy said.
“He slept a lot. He was unable to do much at all. He had completely lost his wonderful sense of humour. It was dismal.”
They got help from an organisation called First Step in St Kilda.
The operations manager is Gayle Wood and she explains the problems confronting this rather wonderful not for profit organisation.
“We have had our funding cut and we have had to lay off one of our mental health nurses.
“We now have to put in huge tenders to access funding which means paying for a person to put in these tender applications,” she said.
“The government has now made it even more difficult for desperate people to access help.
“The person looking for help now has to tell their story to a centralised organisation and can end up having to repeat their story over and over again.
“They are then put on a waiting list and it can take a very long time before anything at all happens,” continued Gayle.
“Our staff can wrap their arms around a person with a drug problem and help support them,” she told me.
First Step has a great relationship with Windana, a drug and alcohol recovery organisation in St Kilda East, and can help facilitate entry into their programs.
Windana has a Therapeutic Community Program that lasts for six months after someone has gone through rehab, which is situated at Maryknoll, southeast of Melbourne.
“The problem we had,” said Wendy, “was that he couldn’t be trusted to go to St Kilda for counselling on his own so I drove him there and waited outside then drove him straight back home.
“He didn’t trust himself to even go to Wonthaggi alone. Apparently it is very easy to get drugs there.
“Then one day after months of eating healthy food and being away from the stress of a drug fuelled life he cracked a joke. He started to smile and then slowly but surely he came back to us,” Wendy said.
“An opportunity came up for him to move interstate and go and stay at a relative’s house while they were away for six weeks. We seized the opportunity.
“He has been living happily in that remote place for well over a year now.
“He has a good simple job and he hunts and fishes. His beautiful fiancé who never gave up on him has now gone to live there with him and life is good,” said a relieved Wendy.
“What really annoys me,” said Gayle, “are people who think it can never happen to them. This can and does happen to all sorts of people.”
There are no easy answers it seems, however it is possible as family and friends of people affected by Ice to work together and help your loved one.
It takes commitment from all concerned and the message seems to be that you need to ask for help.
Even though the government is woefully out of touch with what is going on, we as a community can help support one another.
Let’s not be afraid but let’s work with the police to get the people who manufacture this appalling drug and try to distribute it to our kids, prosecuted.
If you see anything suspicious, report it. If your child’s jaw is grinding away and they sleep for days or are overly confident or uncharacteristically rude, confront them.
“Educate yourself on signs that your loved one is using Ice and don’t put up with their bad behaviour and most importantly, do not give them money as they will come up with all sorts of plausible reasons why they need it from you,” said Wendy.
A fellow called Dave Oliver has set up a wonderful organisation called Recovery Now.
He was recently interviewed on Radio National. He has got himself free of Ice addiction after his mates and family sat him down and confronted him. He plans to set up mobile units to travel around country areas and give people invaluable information about this terrible substance.
His website is www.recoverynow.com.au