Dubbo's youth under pressure from growing use of devastating drug

PIC DAVID THORPE ALBURY BORDER MAIL.... ICE DRUGS GENERIC  AGE NEWS 11/9/2014
PIC DAVID THORPE ALBURY BORDER MAIL.... ICE DRUGS GENERIC AGE NEWS 11/9/2014

INCIDENTS where children as young as 13 used the highly-addictive and dangerous drug known as 'ice' in Dubbo were a frightening reality, according to the region's top cop.

"Young teenagers are absolutely using it and our greatest concern is that its presence is increasing," Orana Local Area Commander (LAC) Superintendent David Simmons said.

That concern had very much prompted local police to focus their efforts on targeting the local supply of the drug in Dubbo and surrounding towns.

"Users are committing crimes to fund ice habits, and they have to steal from somebody to do it. Sometimes it's their parents, other times not," he said.

"The more people you get using it, the more people are going to be hurt, the more damage is done and the more people die.

"It doesn't look like plateauing at this stage and if it continues we'll get more crime, more break-ins, more valuables and cars will go missing and there'll certainly be more health problems.

"When you get people using it at such a young age there's a strong likelihood they'll very quickly become addicted."

Make no mistake, Superintendent Simmons said, ice destroyed the lives of users and those of their families and friends.

"Ice is very easy to become hooked on and when young people are addicted it's enormously difficult to bring them back from it," he said.

"There are immediate physical effects and the ongoing psychological effects can go on many times longer."

While ice was not necessarily a greater problem in Orana than

other commands in NSW, it remained "a significant and growing problem across NSW and Australia", Superintendent Simmons said.

In reality there was relatively little information about the number of people in the Orana region who used and sold ice. Like all crimes, statistics collected about ice supply and use referred to reported rather than actual incidents.

Nevertheless, a rise in those reported incidents had left local police in no doubt there had indeed been a massive jump in the rate of ice use and supply in the Orana LAC.

Ice was unheard of when Superintendent Simmons began his policing career in the 1970s, he said, but it shared similarities with other drugs that had through the years held the dubious honour of being a so-called "drug of choice".

"Like any other commodity, it's driven by supply and demand," he said.

"While users see it as a drug of choice, demand goes up. Suppliers will then go to any lengths to meet that demand because they can make money out of it."

The unpredictable effects the drug produced in users were what made it especially dangerous, Superintendent Simmons said, and that presented particular hazards for police and other emergency service workers who regularly had to deal with ice users.

"It's not a nice drug - nobody really knows what effect it's going to have on them," he said.

"The effects can range anything from a euphoric state to complete and outright aggression.

"A lot of people on ice get an unrealistic feeling of strength and power - they lose touch with reality and they think they are bulletproof.

"In terms of the individual, it makes them more difficult to control and results in more injuries. They injure themselves and may not necessarily even feel it at the time. And they injure police.

"Even the people that are there to help them, the hospital staff and paramedics, ice users doesn't discriminate who they hurt. If they are going to be aggressive they'll be aggressive to anyone, even their own family and close friends. They won't pick and choose who they put into hospital."

The collective impact of many ice users presented a wider problem for society, Superintendent Simmons said.

"The average person will feel it in that the more health problems we have as a result of ice, the more their Medicare levies will rise, health insurance goes up as there is that greater burden on hospitals and the state."

A push by members of the local legal fraternity for a specialist drug court to be established in Dubbo had followed "reasonable results" in some cases, Superintendent Simmons said, but the problem was that police and other agencies were "always having to play catch-up".

"The ones you are putting before the courts are already using it and supplying it," he said.

"The only way to get rid of it, and it's near impossible, is to stop the demand, because if that isn't there there's no supply and drug-related crime.

"How you do that is anybody's guess, but we (police) have absolutely made an effort to target it."

Superintendent Simmons said youths were often more likely to want to experiment and fit in with their peers and so were particularly susceptible to ice.

"Curiosity is the thing that gets many, initially, they think, I wonder what that's like?" he said.

"But using ice for the first time, just once, can be life-changing.

"You've only got to get in a fight and for somebody be to seriously injured or die, and that's your life gone out the window too."