Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Experts: 'ice' drug a growing problem

Cobram drug forum aims to educate the community, as methamphetamine reports rise across regional Victoria.

ROB HENSON April 24, 2014 3:37am

Use of the drug ‘ice’ is leading to a downward spiral in the lives of many regional Victorians, including the Cobram region.

An Ice Awareness Forum in Cobram tomorrow night will bring together local experts to inform the public on the increasing prevalence of methamphetamine, especially among young people, and its potential short and long-term effects for users and the community.

Odyssey House offers rehabilitation services in the Hume catchment region (including Cobram), whether it is taken up voluntarily or ordered by a court following a drug-related incident.

Odyssey House manager Andrew Hick said alcohol remained the majority of their work, but ice had surpassed cannabis and amphetamines.

‘‘Ice is clearly an increasing problem in the north-east,’’ Mr Hick said.

‘‘We’ve definitely noticed in three or four years the amount of people that attend our program and say ice is their major problem (has) probably tripled.’’

The Odyssey House program centres around providing people with routines and therapy around self destructive patterns and insight into their habit.

Mr Hick said those seeking help for ice tended to be younger.

‘‘Part of that might be if you’re using ice you’re likely to lose in 18 months what it takes an alcoholic 20 years to lose — the spiral down is often quite dramatic.’’

He said family, legal problems, jobs, health and finances were often part of the ‘‘spiral down’’.

‘‘And something (which suffers) that’s very important in small country towns like Cobram is your reputation.

‘‘I think it’s become quite acceptable to use ice, in some circles. But certainly that isn’t the case for the majority of people.

‘‘You’re dealing with a drug that has some pleasant effects, it’s cheap to produce and has a high profit margin for those producing it.’’

State Member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy, as part of the Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee, has been inquiring into the supply and use of methamphetamines, particularly ice, in Victoria.

While not permitted to speak about the outcome of the inquiry, expected to be handed down after June, he said the drug was affecting all sorts of families, from disadvantaged to the more well-off .

‘‘It’s infiltrating families that haven’t had a brush with drugs in the past, that’s the scary thing,’’ Mr McCurdy said.

Also alarming was the speed at which the drug impacted on people’s lives, Mr McCurdy said.

‘‘The speed in which people become addicted, alcohol takes years generally, whereas ice can be weeks and months.’’

Mr McCurdy said the inquiry had heard about the extreme violence that the drug provoked, causing concern for police and paramedics.

‘‘Obviously when you’re full of booze, and you start swinging, all the cops have got to do is wait until you’re tired out,’’ he said.

‘‘Ice gets you overactive — we’ve heard situations where multiple officers still can’t hold down people who want to get punchy,’’ Mr McCurdy said.

‘‘Nobody knows if they’re going to an ice situation. It might start out as a call out to domestic violence, they don’t know it’s an ice case until they get there.’’

Mr McCurdy said Cobram suffered from the ice problem ‘‘no more than anywhere else’’.

‘‘We’ve been right through regional Victoria with public hearings. We don’t see any towns are any worse than others.’’

With the inquiry’s public hearings finished, the MP said the Victorian Government had heard there needed to be some changes, but had not decided on what those changes might be.

On the supply of methamphetamine, the inquiry’s terms of reference instructs the MPs to examine ‘‘links to organised crime organisations including outlaw motorcycle gangs’’.

Cobram police Officer in Charge Gerrard Warren said ice, like any drug, had a significant impact on the community, and was cause for concern because of the effects it had on users.

‘‘And that’s where this forum comes in, telling people, in particular parents (about the drug),’’ OIC Warren said.

‘‘The issue is there’s a lot of parents totally unaware, that think their children might be using, aren’t sure and don’t know what to look for.

‘‘What are the signs? What can you do to assist? What can you do to prevent it? Education and this kind of forum are only going to make people wiser.’’

OIC Warren said it appeared more young people were using the drug, but that didn’t mean it was solely a ‘young person’s drug’.

‘‘Young people seem to come under notice more, suffering the effects of it,’’ he said.

‘‘That doesn’t necessarily mean they use it more.’’

The Ice Awareness Forum is on tomorrow from 6.30pm to 8.30pm at Cobram Civic Centre, Punt Rd, Cobram


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