Current intelligence available to Portland police suggests crystal methamphetamine is not being manufactured in Portland, Senior Sergeant Paul Phelan told the Breaking the Ice Portland Forum on Thursday night. "At the moment intelligence suggests it is being imported into the area," he told the crowd of 250-plus at Portland Golf Club. But, he said, that did not mean police were resting on their laurels, or that Portland was immune from such an eventuality. "It is easy enough to manufacture, there are recipes available on the internet," he said.The forum gathered on Thursday night in a bid to address crystal methamphetamine use, colloquially known as ice, a growing problem across Australia because of the devastating affects the drug has not only on the user, but anyone involved with them. Users find an exhilarating high comparable to fear, strength to carry on when they could not otherwise, an overwhelming confidence, they don’t eat, they lose weight, they become dizzy and then they "crash". When they crash they become irritable, paranoid, depressed, cannot rationalise anything, suffer from anxiety, sometimes become suicidal and generally answer the call with more drugs. They pick at themselves, thinking things are crawling under their skin and sometimes they succumb to total psychosis, where nothing is real. "They can’t stand the crash, so they keep using," said Bev McIlroy, a steadfast member of the community at the coal front of counselling addicts in Glenelg shire and its greater surrounds. She said the most important elements of treating an ice user in the throes of the drug were keeping their body temperature down and an eye on their blood pressure. An expert panel lead by psychologists, drug and alcohol counsellors and police and ambulance officers told members of the Portland community that the problem was surmountable, but it would take effort from us all.
The sombre gathering was told only 2.9 per cent of the community was using crystal methamephetamine and that represented just a sliver of the challenges facing society today. People younger than 25 years old were at the greatest risk of any drug use because their brains were not yet fully developed, the forum heard.And the finger was pointed squarely at alcohol use, and the fact it lead to experimentation with other drugs, be they legal or illicit.The answer does not lie with the police, people charged with treating addicts or the law, the forum was told. Australian Drug Foundation head of information and research Julie Rae said: "We know why, we know the harm and we know the risk factors. "It takes a village," to find a solution, she said. She said it was upon the entire community to mitigate risk factors for society’s most vulnerable individuals. "There is no magic bullet, no magical formula," she said.
Engaged parenting and working through issues and likely social scenarios would help equip young people for the situations they would undoubtedly encounter in society, she said."Practise pressure situations," she said. "Ask them ‘What will you say if someone offers you a drink, a joint, or a tab? Work through it with them, help equip them. "She said scare tactics did not work. "We’re not showing the faces of ice here tonight," she said, "because the only people that would scare, are people who wouldn’t take it up in the first place." "Ice is illegal, but it still gets out there."
For a forum dedicated to the ice, or crystal methamphetamine problem, alcohol loomed large at the Portland Golf Club on Thursday night.As Glenelg Southern Grampians Drug Treatment Service manager Bev McIlroy looked across the room she mused "there are a lot of men here, that’s great, you’re accepting this is a real family responsibility."And that was the tone of the evening, that intervention before things spiralled out of control and people no longer recognised their children’s behaviour was the ultimate answer to a more peaceful society.Julie Rae, from the Australian Drug Foundation (ADF), said the organisation had been formed by Sir Weary Dunlop in the aftermath of World War II because he saw veterans returning to Australia and taking to the bottle."Now we’ve morphed into prevention," she said."We’ve built digital resources available to everyone."She said the ADF trawled through masses of research, questioned its methodology and the studies that held up to interrogation were passed on.And yet some things had not changed since the end of WW II"There is no question that alcohol does the most harm," she said."It kills 5000 people a year," she said, pointing to the anomalies that existed within our society when it came to danger. "When 3500 people died on our roads we introduced seat belts," she said."And yet 80 per cent of the population drinks, 20 per cent use cannabis and steroid use is on the increase."She said some needle exchanges were reporting that most people collecting syringes were using them to self administer steroids rather than recreational drugs."Why are they using steroids? In the pursuit of the body beautiful. "And that was just another example of how society was changing. She said steroid users didn’t think of themselves as drug users.And then she harked back to alcohol."We’ve found 40 per cent of 12 to 17 year olds had drunk a full measure of alcohol at some point in their lives."That’s a full measure, not a sip, and where did it come from?"Almost always parents."Ms Rae said people had to accept that most young people were not using illicit drugs and generally young people were drinking less and using less drugs. "Who are you talking to for those figures?" came a call from the crowd."Well, they’re random surveys," said Ms Rae, and admitted that people must admit to using drugs in such surveys."Why use ice? It makes them happy, confident, gives them energy they wouldn’t otherwise have."We really don’t know how many people are using it, but why use it? It’s available," she said.She said the most important initial action parents could take would be to defer the use of alcohol for as long as possible.Tony Oxford, regional director of the Ambulance service, said: "What drugs do we see?" We don’t get called out for specific drugs, but rather an unconscious patient, a lot of the time it is drugs, but many people won’t tell you, because they’re scared of police action."What we’re seeing is alcohol, not ice, alcohol is the big problem, people don’t just take one drug," he said."We do however get serious aggressive behaviour from ice."He said alcohol was almost always at the forefront of their call outs.
Mr Oxford advised that if there was a problem they should immediately call an ambulance."We don’t call the police," he said.Senior Sergeant Paul Phelan emphasised that the key problem facing police was alcohol."It is the main driver of violence," he said."There is a stigma in the media about ice usage," he said, "but it is a very small percentage and we are taking a strategic approach.Sen Sgt Phelan said early intervention remained the key to combatting drug use."There is nothing worse for us than calling home to say we have a young person at the police station and asking for someone to come and pick them up and being told there is no-one, because the parents are drug affected or drunk."
To download a copy of this article click here.
Photo courtesy of the Portland Observer.