IF YOU don’t think ice is in your town – you’re wrong!
This startling statement was one of the key messages passed on to community members at the Ice Forum, held at Leongatha Memorial Hall last Wednesday evening and hosted by South Gippsland Shire Council.
Close to 200 attendees gained an insight into how this illicit and dangerous drug is impacting our community, our health services, the police and the court system, thanks to information provided by guest speakers Detective Sergeant Craig Poynder of the Victoria Police Clandestine Laboratory Squad, Inspector Graeme Sprague – Local Area Commander of Bass Coast Police Service Area, Eddie Wright of Ambulance Victoria, and Magistrate Clive Alsop of Latrobe Valley Law Courts.
Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks played a key role in encouraging Council to host the forum, believing that there is an urgent need for public education on the subject and for this information to be delivered by qualified professionals.
Inspector Graeme Sprague said that although crystal methamphetamine (commonly known as ‘ice’) does not seem to be used in South Gippsland in the epidemic proportions seen elsewhere, such as in the Dandenong area and parts of the Latrobe Valley, it is foolhardy to believe it is not in use in each and every town in our district.
He and the other guest speakers admitted that what is currently being seen is only the tip of the iceberg where this issue is concerned.
“We need to build up knowledge by collecting information so that our resources can be used to try to prevent the manufacture and supply of this drug,” Inspector Sprague said.
A recent Parliamentary Inquiry into ice use consulted widely throughout Victoria and found that ice use is having a profound and disproportionate impact on rural and regional communities. Between 2011 and 2012/13, the number of ice related ambulance attendances increased by nearly 200 per cent in regional Victoria. Waiting lists for treatment are long and there are few services that have specific programs the methamphetamine users.
The Ice Forum coincided with the release last week by the Premier, Daniel Andrews, of Victoria’s Ice Action Plan, which, on the advice of Victoria Police, health and legal experts, will see the instigation of a $45.5 million effort to reduce the supply, demand and harm of this drug that is ruining lives.
“Across our state, good, smart kids are dropping out of school, running away from their families and falling out of society. Ice is ruining lives, and the time to act is now,” Premier Andrews said.
“Supporting families, treating users, making our communities safer – these are the things that cannot wait,” he added.
Under the Plan, the Government will invest $4.7 million to help families identify and manage ice users and $1 million to support frontline workers who are at risk of getting attacked at work. Aggression and violence seem to go hand in hand with ice use.
Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said the Ice Action Plan focused on reducing the harm caused by ice use, particularly in regional Victoria where it is causing disproportionate damage. Initiatives include $18 million to expand innovative drug treatment services, focusing on rehabilitation for users in rural and regional areas.
“This funding will make it easier for families to get advice and easier for their loved one to get treatment,” Mr Foley said.
The Forum heard that a very disturbing trend has been seen by the Victoria Police Forensics team of chemists whereby instead of the purer form, ice is manufactured by people who have absolutely no knowledge of chemicals. Its purity depends entirely on the skill of the maker. If one ingredient is unavailable, the manufacturer will use whatever chemical can be found which may sound vaguely similar. In some instances, ice has been cut with Drano (which is very caustic), acetone, caustic soda, iodine, ammonia (the fumes of which can be deadly), hydrogen cyanide (corrosive and carcinogenic) and sulphuric acid (which is highly corrosive).
Mixed in the right proportions with the necessary precursor chemicals, the formulation produces a ‘high,’ but it can also cause many serious side effects such as erratic behaviour, paranoia, mood swings, psychosis, aggression and hallucinations, which can cause the user to pick and scratch incessantly at their skin, believing that they have insects on top or underneath their skin. The ice user often has little or no interest in eating and rarely sleeps. Highly addictive, ice use over a relatively short period of time causes irreparable physical damage to the user.
One of the many disturbing facts delivered during the Forum is that those manufacturing ice often do so not only without any knowledge of chemicals, but also in very unhygienic conditions and often in the presence of children. Ice can be made with just a few basic pieces of equipment and its manufacture can be carried out in a shed, a house, and even in the boot of a car!
The Clandestine Laboratory Squad have found that the following can sometimes be indicators of a crystal methamphetamine laboratory: covered windows; a strange chemical smell; multi exhaust fans; a number of water hoses leading inside; the staining of walls and ceilings. In some instances, it has cost as much as $100,000 to have a house completely cleaned and decontaminated following its use as an ice lab.
If you see anything which you feel may indicate the presence of a clandestine ice lab, call Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.
The opportunity to have questions answered saw a large number of attendees speak up on a variety of issues concerning ice, such as methods of raising awareness at schools of the danger of this drug and at what age children should be made aware.
In a couple of instances, attendees spoke about their first-hand knowledge of what it is like to have a child who uses ice and the heart-rending impact it has on the family unit.
Other attendees commented that an ice user is only likely to admit that they are a user and agree to receiving help when they have absolutely hit rock-bottom. Once that admission has been made and the offer of help accepted, it is then necessary to know where to go for help.
For advice and information relating to ice use in those aged 12 to 25:
- Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS). Freecall 1800 458 685 or visit www.ysas.org.au
- Youth Drug and Alcohol Advice (YoDAA). Freecall 1800 458 658.
For advice and information relating to adult ice users:
- Narcotics Anonymous. Freecall 1300 652 820 or visit www.navic.net.au
- Lifeline. Freecall 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au
- Counselling Online – free drug and alcohol advice. Freecall 1800 888 236 or visit www.counsellingonline.org.au
In an emergency situation, dial 000.