Ice and other drugs are destroying western NSW communities

Mental health and wellbeing is one of the biggest issues facing people of all ages, but early next year Dubbo's youth will have a place to go and seek help.
Mental health and wellbeing is one of the biggest issues facing people of all ages, but early next year Dubbo's youth will have a place to go and seek help.

Ice and other drugs are destroying small communities in western NSW, with a dramatic rise in the number of users in the past 12 months according to a senior worker at the Orana Haven Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre.

Drug and alcohol worker Alan Bennett said demand for positions in the centre’s three-month program had increased due to the rise in the number of hardcore drugs  being used.

Ice is now the problem drug, with patients coming in who have been in trouble with the law or lost their families because of their habit.

“Twelve months ago most people who were coming in were using heroin and a bit of speed. Now it is ice, morphine patches, oxycontin, anything they can find to chase that high,” Mr Bennett said.

“People who use it describe is as a high like nothing else they have had. It’s very destructive and so addictive,”

“We have had patients who have been here before and now they have come back and are using ice. There has been a huge change in their behaviour. They are more aggressive now, not so much physically but verbally. their personality has changed.

“Their families have abandoned them and yet they don’t see their drug use as the problem.”

Mr Bennett said patients who entered treatment had to work extremely hard escape the clutches of ice and if they did not have the will, it was basically impossible.

“We service about half the state. We have people coming from Sydney, Canberra, Dubbo, Bourke, Orange and a lot of other communities,” he said.

“We have 21 beds here but the problem is so big that if I had triple that I could still fill it easily. Our waiting list is three to four months.

“We want to help every patient who comes through here but some are court appointed and just don’t want to be here. All we can do is help them as much as we can and hope it works but it’s highly unlikely.”

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has spoken out about the growing epidemic, calling the drug trade an ‘insidious business’.

“The more we talk about it, the better off we’ll be - you cannot over-communicate in a (nationwide) crisis,” Mr Scipione told Macquarie Radio last month.

“This filthy drug doesn’t discriminate.

“It treats everyone equally and it’s just as devastating no matter who you are or where you come from - with life-changing consequences.”

Police from the Darling River Local Area Command declined to comment on the impact of ice in their region but Mr Bennett said they had been working hard.

“This is a community problem and everyone has to realise how serious it is. We can’t wait for the government to step in or the police to catch them, it’s in our backyard and it’s hurting families,” he said.

“In the past six weeks or two months the police have been very active here but there is a large group in this community who are using and a lot of dealers. This is a big problem, especially in small communities.”