Meth use in Dubbo and the wider western region is increasing dramatically because of cheaper and more pure product being available but is still isn’t as damaging as alcohol abuse, according to the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSW LHD).
People who would have previously used speed have now turned to ice because it is more readily available and more affordable and occasional users are turning into habitual users.
Drug and Alcohol Consultation Liaison / Clinical Nurse Consultant Melissa Romeo said the percentage of the population who use meth-amphetamines have remained steady at 2 per cent but the switch to ice has increased the number of associated problems.
The WNSW LHD reports that the number of people presenting to the drug and alcohol consultation liaison service has increased in the last 12 months.
Ice users are presenting through hospital emergency departments, mental health facilities and the justice system.
Ms Romeo said there has been and “increase in associated harms including admission to mental health facility, exacerbation of mental health conditions and disorders, and other psychosocial harms”, such as financial issues leading to relationship breakdown, homelessness.
“The way people are using ice has changed. They are now seeing it as an affordable drug and if you are depressed and can find something that cheers you up, you will come to rely on it,” she said.
Side effects of ice can include aches, increased cravings during withdrawals, while the more serious issues can include injuries from risky behaviour, paranoia, psychosis and seizures.
Ms Romeo said users can present a greater danger to themselves and others because they don’t consider consequences or risks and can be aggressive.
Another problem for health officials is that people have to want help for rehabilitation to be successful.
Dubbo Local Court Magistrate Andrew Eckhold has noted an increase in the number of ice users coming through his court room. During cases he has voiced his concerns about the prospect of psychosis and mental illness as a result of using the highly pure drug.
He described the drug in Dubbo as “problematic” and has told drug users rehabilitation will be one of the hardest things they will ever do.
Country Labor candidate for Dubbo Stephen Lawrence, who is also the principal legal officer for the Aboriginal Legal Service, is calling for a rehabilitation centre to be located in Dubbo.
Currently the closest facility is the Lyndon Withdrawal Unit in Orange, while Orana Haven in Brewarrina is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility for indigenous people.
“It is no secret there is an ice epidemic. I have personally experienced this in my work. I see people in the court cells, I see them in the streets of Dubbo. It is the most addictive drug we have seen and it turns people into a shell of themselves,” Mr Lawrence said.
“We see children as young as 11 and 12 using it. It is truly frightening because it changes people’s brains permanently.
“Young people who don’t really know what they are doing are permanently harming themselves.”