Ice causes a person’s delicate amino acids and enzymes responsible for our natural feelings of joy and wellbeing to flood the body. But ice delivers a far more powerful punch than nature would allow. A huge dollop of the happies in a few short minutes – so much so that the chemical reservoir of these natural compounds, after a few uses, is exhausted, at about the time addiction sets in.
Then, gone are the happy happies, but the craving remains. The behaviour that accompanies the addiction, increasingly, and almost immediately, is erratic, hostile and seriously harmful. Unlike our natural happy times – those we experience through hearing good news, good exercise, bushwalks, and great food – ice’s massive release of these chemicals prevents natural recycling. The user has started the dreadful slide to serious self-harm and, without amazing willpower, intervention and blessing, has most likely begun a hasty “hello” to a hellish death.
How serious is this problem? In the last 12 months, 400,000, mostly youthful people, have tried this stuff. Addiction can be immediate, but it is assured after three “hits”.
Perhaps the experience of a New Zealand politician and former policeman will prod us out of complacency. After being called to known users’ home by neighbours concerned for the wellbeing of the couple’s infant and toddler child, he resigned from the force and pledged to fight this insidious and diabolical threat to modern life as a result of the horrific scene he witnessed. The parents had decapitated both of their children with a carving knife. They were not even aware that they had done this foul deed, though the bloodied bodies were beside them.
Or perhaps the story of the young man, barging into a Darwin doctor’s surgery with a sore eye, will galvanise you to “dob in a dealer”. The doctor asked him to ‘kindly wait his turn’. Shortly afterwards, he went out to where the youth was sitting, and, yes, he was waiting, but holding his eye in his hand. The bloke did not feel a thing. He did not know he had gouged out his own eye.
Or, the tragedy, only a fortnight ago, on an Australian construction site. A young man, a backpacker from Italy, had donned a green high-visibility work singlet and walked onto the site and climbed to the top of the 14-storey building. The workers thought he was one of someone else’s crew. Convinced he could fly, the young man threatened to jump. The site was evacuated. Police were called in. At the change of shift, three hours later, despite best efforts to get hold of a translator, the young fellow jumped. He survived the fall, for about 12 hours, just about everything in him broken. Imagine how his parents now feel about Australia after hearing the news that their son, on the adventure holiday of a lifetime, had died from “ice”.
Ice, or methamphetamine, its various derivatives and other similacras can be deadly. Normally, the police’s first response to troubled, violent people, is discursive. With these hallucinogenic, paranoia-inducing chemicals, the police response absolutely cannot be “try to placate”. No. Users are out of control, know not what they do, and can be murderously violent. A young female addict was totally unaware that she had stabbed her flatmate to death. Under the influence of the drug, she remembered nothing.
The Dalgarno Institute’s research and its 150 years of extensive “pick-up-the-pieces”, if not “bury-the-dead”, counselling/healing, at the coalface, warfare against addictive substances shows that, almost without exception, ice use follows use of alcohol, then marijuana. This is the usual pathway of those who voluntarily try this lethal stuff.
But we also have to confront the frightening phenomena of “party drugs” and “spiking” friends’ drinks. Involuntary use results in similar tragic endings: poisoning, blood clots, heart failure, strokes – crashing trips.
How is this stuff distributed?
It is not openly sold. It is “networked” through friends of friends, mostly at parties. Vulnerable people, particularly the young, are targeted – those without a good “significant other” adult relationship are the most vulnerable. For many vulnerable people, rebellion and peer group cliques hugely influence their thoughts and actions. They are people who flee from, or are deprived of, responsibility: those we collectively fail to guide into how to make wise choices for a meaningful life.
The most serious side of the situation relates to the political moves to legalise addictive substances and to introduce “harm-minimisation” strategies to combat the scourge: needle exchanges, injecting rooms, methadone programs, etc.
Harm minimisation as an overall strategy has three key pillars that are supposed to work together to reduce drug use. These are: “supply reduction”; “demand reduction” (both protective “fence building” elements at the top of the societal “cliff of dysfunction”); and, the last resort, “harm reduction”. This is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to help keep the hapless addict alive and to get them off drugs. However, the genuine compassion of harm reduction has been hijacked by pro-drug advocates who shamelessly use “compassion” drivers, not to help addicts move away from drug use, but actually to entrench it. Harm-reduction ONLY ideologies in this place have very little to do with reducing or stopping drug use, but rather about enabling and even equipping continuing drug use without diversion, exit strategy or accountability. It is this issue that has made harm minimisation a toothless tiger of a policy.
The Dalgarno Institute says the strategies that do work require these three pillars to collaborate to the end of reducing uptake and helping drug users cease taking drugs. The institute says that the evidence reveals that, yes, supply reduction is important and should continue with stronger emphasis on Clan-labs (in the case of ice) but hitting traffickers harder. Of course harm-reduction practice is needed not only to “keep addicts alive”, but more to help users in all areas to reduce and eventually leave off drug use.
If recovery is central to harm-reduction practice, then all we will do is continue to have lazy policy that does nothing to reduce drug use and this is not only acceptable to the community, but appalling practice for those caught in drug use! However, the absolute imperative in all this, and the very pillar of the harm-minimisation strategy that has been grossly neglected is “demand reduction”. It is imperative that all and everything be done in this key area to reduce demand for drugs.
Prevention education, affective, cognitive and judicial domain education and strategies are vital to ensure uptake is slowed down. Early intervention is also vital. We have successfully done this with tobacco, reducing smoking rates of the legal drug from around 65 per cent of the population in 1945 to around 13 per cent now. Once we stop the cognitive dissonance around drug policy and call out illicit drug use what it is, then we will see real and lasting change.