Tackling the Australian “ice” epidemic

| January 25, 2019

The Ice Epidemic presents considerable risks to not only the individual user, but their families, friends, and entire communities in Australia as well. It is no secret that Methamphetamine use in Australia has surpassed the use of all other illicit drugs, but why ice? How is this affecting the communities across Australia?

The Ice Epidemic

Approximately 280,000 individuals aged 14 and older report using ice in the last year. In addition, 57.3% of drug users report that meth is their go-to drug. Though the use of methamphetamine in Australia has remained fairly constant over the last 10 years, the quality and strength of the drug has been improving due to improved and simplified manufacturing methods.

Not only is it potent, but it is more economical than other illicit stimulants such as cocaine. Ice has become even cheaper due to the fact that the key chemicals used to make ice, such as acetone and pseudoephedrine, are legally imported from nearby countries like China.

Since these chemicals are legal and unrestricted, they are able to come into Australia in large quantities from some of the largest meth manufacturing labs in the world.

Methamphetamine is so addictive because it causes extreme shifts in the brain’s dopamine levels. When a person uses meth, their dopamine levels can increase significantly more than they do from cocaine and other stimulants. After repeated use, the brain begins to demand this dopamine reward, which is why addiction occurs so rapidly.

Devastated Communities

There is a lot of focus on providing affected individuals treatment, but not a lot of thought is given to the families and communities that are being torn apart due to the ice epidemic.

Children who live in a meth-affected home typically undergo some form of emotional trauma, neglect, and abuse. These factors end up making children more susceptible to becoming dependent on substances themselves in the future, carrying the epidemic on from one generation to the next.

However, the fact of the matter is that nobody is immune to the disease of addiction. Methamphetamine abuse effects private school teenagers, low income families, truck drivers who work long hours, and the middle class worker carrying two jobs. Anybody can be susceptible to this disease.

Since users can stay awake for days on end while under the influence, serious alterations occur in the brain. Due to the stimulant nature of ice, it can cause users to go into fits of rage, psychosis, paranoia, and aggression. This presents a serious issue to law enforcement officials who are trying to keep communities safe, as many violent crimes have been attributed to meth use.

Methamphetamine abuse also takes a toll on the Australian economy as major costs are attributed to policing, drug treatment, medical emergencies, welfare issues, and environmental damage caused by manufacturing labs. Costs attributed to these factors are estimated to be approximately AUD 5023.8 million.

The Healing Process

The first thing that can be done to help stop the ice epidemic is to take preventative measures. Families should talk with their children about the dangers of methamphetamine abuse and educate them on how prevalent this problem has become among Australian communities. Children should be educated on not only the effects of ice on their brain, but on how it can affect their health and life in devastating ways.

If a family member has already fallen into ice addiction and is struggling to quit, there are withdrawal and drug treatment services available to help. Speak with them in a compassionate, non-judgemental manner and show the person that they are loved and forgiven. If they are willing to go to treatment, local hospitals and doctors are equipped to help find a place that will suit their needs.

Due to the harm done on the family dynamic, studies have shown that integrating families into the treatment plan of the person abusing meth results in higher rates of success and various benefits for the family outcome as a whole.

Families who have an opportunity to participate in family therapy are more likely to develop better relationships with their loved ones in the future as they will have gained an understanding of ice addiction. Family therapy is a safe place for families to heal from harms done by methamphetamine addiction.

Not only should families tackle the ice epidemic, but the government has developed a National Ice Action Strategy (NIAS) to reduce the impact of ice on Australian families and communities. The NIAS works to provide better access to information, support, and treatment services for those affected. They are also training law enforcement to accurately target the supply and distribution of ice in order to stop meth production at the originating source.

The government has also made a Commonwealth investment to help reduce harms from ice by providing funds for drug treatment, prevention education, medicare benefits, and improvements in data sources to detect emerging drug threats.

Through collaboration of families, communities, law enforcement, and the government, communities have the potential to spread awareness around the ice epidemic. The devastation brought about from drug use isn’t the end of the road – individuals, families, and communities do have the potential to heal from the ice epidemic that is flooding the country.


One Comment

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