Attendance at Thursday’s night free ‘ice’ forum at the Tenterfield School of Arts far exceeded expectations at more than 120, reflecting the community’s concern over what some consider the scourge of today’s society.
Those concerns, however, were tempered by several of the presenters at the forum. Paul Phillips, a youth outreach worker with The Buttery rehab facility at Bangalow, said cannabis is by far the biggest drug problem in youth, followed by alcohol and then ice and heroine.
“Long-term use of ice is hard to maintain. The central nervous system is just lit up, whereas heroine anaesthetises them from their problems.”
Mr Phillips said there is also a cost disincentive, with a point (0.1g) of ice costing around $100.
Most of the presenters emphasised that addition is a human condition, not a drug condition, and success will come only from addressing the reason people take drugs in the first place.
While many of the cases he encounters stem from some sort of trauma, Police Inspector Roger Best of Armidale Local Area Command also warned that he has detected a commonality in teenage ice users that they tend to be risk takers as 12- and 13-year-olds, advising extra care with children demonstrating that personality trait.
Insp Best said the presence of ice addicts is reflected in property crime statistics driven by people addicted to ice coming into the community. He cited the recent example of a regional spike of 200 incidents in a month, up from the average 15-20. Most of the incidents were isolated to Armidale and it was discovered an addict from Kempsey was perpetrating five or six break-ins a night to feed his habit, which itself extended from a family breakdown.
“Tenterfield is not the crime capital of the state,” Insp Best assured those present. “Our communities aren’t full of ice.”
John Gordon of Hunter New England Health’s Drug & Alcohol Clinical Services said of his 33 years in drug counselling there is always some epidemic in relation to drug abuse. He said there are a variety of treatment services available, including non-voluntary detainment facilities in Sydney and Orange. Presenter Deborah Lions – who continues to struggle to help her ice-addicted son – said these facilities are oversubscribed and impossible to access.
While ice addiction may not be a widespread issue, it has devastating repercussions for those who are affected. Mrs Lions’ harrowing account of her son’s descent into addiction and the impact on his family stunned the audience. He continues to live on the streets of Tenterfield and she said she is terrified that some park worker or cleaner will find his body one morning.
She is pushing for parents to be given the power to force their child into a rehab facility, as she watches her son self-destruct.
“It took him three months from having a good job and being recently married, to living on the street,” she said.
Educational materials used in Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s Annie Bleeker’s presentation are also available at adf.org.au. That site advises that public awareness and a strong community are two of the tools to fight ice, and Thursday’s drug forum was instrumental in achieving those aims.
Tenterfield Social Development Committee’s Karen Mooney thanked her staff, MC David Townes, the Tenterfield Community Drug Action Team and Regional Australia Bank for making the forum possible, and the Tenterfield community for taking the time to participate.
Click below to view Ms Bleeker’s presentation, and Insp Best’s (truncated).