Tuesday Talks:  Australia’s Ice Epidemic by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

The biggest threat facing Australia today is not Donald Trump it is not ISIS it is ICE.

Statistics out today show that over 1.3 million Australians have tried Ice.  It effects all levels of society.  It is addictive, destructive and it takes over 18 months to shake an Ice addiction.

Detective Chief Inspector Michael Cook said this morning on ABC News:

Ice is the biggest threat facing Australia today.

It is a growing industry, this battle is not being won.  Ice labs are being set up all over the country, in hotels, domestic houses, cars everywhere.  The labs are primarily operated by Australian middle aged men.

Ice places an enormous strain on the health industry and on health and emergency workers.  Around 40 % of patients in health facilities are ice addicts and health professionals are struggling to deal with it.

Is is a drain on our resources and we are in desperate need for more rehab facilities.

What is needed is more education to push the need for the drug down.

To find out more, the  ABC  4 part series called  Ice Wars starts tonight at 8.30pm.  I highly recommend that you watch it.

Ice Wars examines the scale and scope of the challenges facing law enforcement, health workers, users, families and the community as they grapple to mitigate the effects of ice use in Australia.  “This provocative series takes us to the frontline of Australia’s drug war on ice. Through unprecedented access, we follow the stories of Meth lab busts, front line importation arrests at the docks with Task Force Polaris, decontamination of suburbs by the clean up crews, forensic teams tracing precursors and toxicologists investigating human impact from passive Meth cooking”. Ice Wars ABC

Today in this Interview Cathy Mandile talks to us  about Drug Addiction.  What is it?  What is this epidemic called Ice?  What resources are available for rehabilitation and support?

Cathy is a passionate advocate of peoples rights to  receive support and compassion through the darkest times in their lives.  She is a professional counsellor currently working in the public mental health sector and has cared for many people with dual diagnoses of mental illness and substance abuse.

Cathy thank you so much for joining us today on Sunday Everyday.  I want to talk to you about Drugs and what this looks like in our Australian landscape.  This is a huge topic and I’m sure it will be the first of many posts.  However, firstly lets look at some statistics by ANDREW CARSWELL – THE DAILY TELEGRAPH  JULY 07, 2014 12:00AM.

“AUSTRALIA, a country of sports champions, innovators … and drug takers. The nation has the inglorious distinction of having the highest proportion of recreational drug users in the world — an embarrassing new low, albeit from getting high.

Our collective craving for a hit is only set to heighten, with the number of drug users continuing to rise steadily. The frightening statistics in the United Nation’s 2014 World Drug Report confirm Australia as leading the world in the use of party drug ecstasy, third in methamphetamines and fourth in cocaine.

Of greater concern is the addiction to prescribed or black market opioids such as codeine and morphine. We rank second only to the US, with 3.1-3.6 per cent of people between 15 and 65 considered regular users, mostly women”.

“AUSTRALIA is in the midst of an ice epidemic, with the drug being linked to a growing number of crimes, and higher quantities of the amphetamine seized at our borders”.

And there is no end in sight to our addiction.  Evidence showing the extent of the problem emerged last week with an Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) survey showing large numbers of people who had been arrested had amphetamines in their system, with ice being one of the most common varieties.  The report said the long-term use of ice can lead to aggressive and violent behaviour, depression, cardiovascular problems, and kidney failure” (Article by news.com.au JUNE 04, 2014 11:36AM).

LW:  Cathy do these statistics ring true to you?  Personally I know so many families devastated by drugs;  and it effects the whole family not just the one taking the drugs?

CM:  Absolutely! Ice is one of the most evil substances on this planet not only for its addictive nature but because of the effects it has on families and individuals alike. We see in the media daily reports of robberies, domestic violence, and car accidents and of course lives taken as a result of ice addiction. It is not a respecter of race, religion, age, sex or socioeconomic demographic. It can cause psychotic episodes and behavioural changes that are extremely confronting and quite often frightening. I have counselled many people with substance abuse and mental health issues including businessmen/women, mothers, fathers, GLBTI community, individuals being exited from jail and Flo and Joe next door. I can honestly say that these precious people have families who have been devastated and traumatized by the effects of their substance use.   Addiction Monitor Shows Craving And Substance Abuse

What is Drug Addiction

CM: Where do I start? Wikipedia suggests. A drug addiction, is defined as compulsive, out-of-control drug use, despite negative consequences.

An addictive drug is both rewarding and reinforcing  otherwise people would not engage in it. I have asked many clients what the ‘pay off’ is in using illicit drugs and the response is often around these themes.


  1. It makes me ‘feel’ good.
  2. I don’t have to deal with the trauma.
  3. It is an escape from ‘life’.
  4. Everyone is doing it.
  5. I just wanted to try it and now I can’t stop.
  6. I can go for days without sleeping and party all night.
  7. To lose weight.

Just to name a few! In the beginning of using methamphetamine (Ice) the experience can be euphoric and very pleasurable. However it leads not only to physiological difficulties as you have stated above but also HUGE psychological and behavioural consequences. Confusion, anxiety and agitation, impaired cognition, aggression and violent behaviour, paranoia and delusions. Scary stuff!!! It is easy for us to say to an individual to ‘just stop using’ however we need to explore drug addiction in its entirety. What other factors are going on in their life? Have they endured significant trauma? Is there a family history of substance use? Is there polysubstance use? (use of more than one drug) What, if any, medications are they taking?

People often find themselves in a quagmire of hopelessness and helplessness when facing drug addiction.  They want to give it up and often relapse into further addiction.  Mix these with anxiety, depression, psychosis and other mental illnesses and you are faced with very difficult and soul destroying circumstances.

LW:  Why has Ice become such an epidemic and why is this addiction so hard to break? Human hand stretch out from prison bars

Firstly the epidemic of Ice. 

Ice is a stimulant drug and when a person takes it, they can stay awake for days on end. It is also an appetite suppressant and the user will not eat for long periods of time.

Let’s look at this for a moment. We live in a 24/7 society. There is such a lot of pressure to perform at our best and an obsession over our weight that these can often override our  family life and self care.

Another reason to consider is that long term Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation that is government funded have waiting lists that stretch into months.

People often think that if a person detoxes from the drug of choice, which takes about 10 days, then they should be as good as gold.  NO! Ice and other drugs have a significant psychological addiction too.

This needs long term rehabilitation in most cases. We simply do not have enough rehabilitation centres available to facilitate the growing pandemic of Ice and other drug addictions.

Secondly why is it so hard to break this addiction?

Some drug addictions respond to pharmacotherapy drugs.

For example: Alcohol withdrawal can be treated with benzodiazepines (eg diazepam);

Heroin with methadone.

Ice however does not to date have a standard pharmacotherapy treatment for the management of withdrawal or dependence. Medications such as dopamine agonists (which have similar properties to methamphetamines)  and antagonists ( which block the effects of stimulant drugs, Herman et al 2005) have been trialled for their effectiveness in managing methamphetamine withdrawal or dependence. (Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre).

Furthermore, the beginnings of meth use cause euphoric and pleasurable feelings. The more dependent one becomes the more frequent and higher doses are required to sustain the ‘pay off’.The addiction then is set and the ‘pay off’ subsides to the negative consequences depression, psychosis, anxiety etc. A very vicious cycle.

LW:  Recently I heard of a brother high on ice, breaking into his family home and terrorising the family, head butting the father and threatening to kill his sister.  This is a boy who would normally never dream of acting out like this.   It’s so difficult because your natural inclination is to protect or to help but I am hearing more and more parents and siblings saying; “We just don’t know what to do”. 

What do family and friends do in these situations?  Do they have avenues of help and protection? What practical steps can they take?  Can they go to the police?  Will this just make it worse?

CM:  There needs to be a plan.  Don’t do this by yourself!!!!! Support! Support! Support!!

There is help out there!!! I think of the scenario of when you are on a plane and the hostess states that if in the event of a crash and oxygen is needed then place the oxygen mask on yourself first and then your child. We are no good to anyone if we don’t self care first.

If you are in danger?

Leave the situation. Call the authorities.Be informed about what options you have in support for you and your loved one. Is this selfish? No! It is giving an opportunity for you to be at your best when your loved one needs you.

Also remember that a drug affected person does not have the same reasoning capacity as you.

LW:  If you do have a drug problem and you want help, where do you turn?  What are the first steps that you can take and how hard is it to rehabilitate?  Is there government assistance?

CM:  There are many public and private drug and alcohol support services in Victoria.  These include detox units, rehab centres and counselling services.

Many of these are government funded. I suggest calling
  • Directline 1800 888 236 which is a confidential alcohol & drug counselling and referral service in Victoria for people of all ages and backgrounds.They will be able to direct you to support in your area. (this includes carer support too) Very Important!!!!
  • See your G.P. for a referral to private hospital services if you have private health cover.

LW:  Lets go to the Christian parallel.  I know that many Christian families find this particularly hard because of the stigma and the desire to portray the perfect Christian family and of the fear of people finding out.  Also the church is not the greatest at talking about these issues.  What would you say to this predicament and do you face this dynamic in your work from Christians?

CM:  You know Lisa, I find this incredibly puzzling  I think our Christian culture has lost the very basics of what Christianity is all about.  Didn’t Jesus come to save the lost?  Aren’t we all lost?  We create walls to ‘protect’ ourselves and these extend to our loved ones too. I recall a pastor who was using Ice blamed the devil for his addiction whilst his wife was in agony watching the man she fell in love with soliciting prostitutes. She was trying to hold the family together and ‘keep face’. Recovery followed once he accepted responsibility for his actions and sought after help and support.

In my work with Christians who have drug addictions and mental health concerns, isolation and shame is prevalent. It makes me ask. How can we make a safe place of hope for ALL Christians and ALL Non Christians without the fear of judgment and retribution??

LW:  Oh so many questions, I can see that we have so many more conversations to come.   Cathy is there something else you would like to add?

CM:  If you are a Carer of a loved one who has an addiction or if you suffer from addiction yourself, please don’t think you have to do this journey alone.

Call someone.   Family Drug Support 1300 368 186  Lifeline 13 11 14. If you are feeling suicidal. There is hope!

LW:  Cathy thank you so very much for joining us today.  I hope that you will join us again soon.

Resources and Recommended Reading:

Brilliant 3 min DVD on “What is Drug Addiction by Dr Gabor Mate http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/what-is-addiction-gabor-mate/ http://www.turningpoint.org.au/ http://www.adf.org.au/ http://www.getoffdrugs.com.au/ice-epidemic/ (Article about Ice)

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Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

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Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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3 Comments on “Australia’s Ice Epidemic

  1. Pingback: Ice Addiction a Survivors Story | Sunday Everyday

  2. Although ice is obviously a big problem it is not an epidemic. The def: of epidemic is ‘ affecting a disproportionally large number of people in the population’. Currently 4.2% of the Australian adult population use ice (National Drug Strategy Household Survey). However around 40% of 14-19 year olds drink at levels that risk harm (ABS). Alcohol is the major cause of violence in Australia – now that’s an epidemic!


    • Hi Liz, so great to hear from you. I can see how the word epidemic is a strong word and possibly a sensationalised term which is being used by all Australian Media at the moment. Great observation. I totally agree with you, Alcohol is also a massive problem effecting very large areas of our society in varying complex and horrific ways.

      I do however feel that the Ice Issue is far larger that we believe. Is is decimating many rural communities, for them it is definitely an epidemic when one in 10 people are addicted to Ice in a community of only 4000. See Four Corners programme by Caro Meldrum
      -Hanna. http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2014/10/20/4108571.htm

      Alcohol abuse is totally out of control and you are right,it is one of the main contributors to violence. Unfortunately because it is a legal drug it has a big social following. Along with cannabis and nicotine it is considered a ‘soft drug’. Its abuse is often a stepping stone to the ‘harder’ drugs being methamphetamines, cocaine and opiates. All have the potential to be addictive and in epidemic proportions.

      This is such a great conversation to have and we need to have many many more. If we are not educated and informed we are completely useless to help. Personally I am walking with four families right now whose lives are being torn apart by Ice and many more who are breaking apart because of alcohol. Thanks again Liz and lets keep the conversations going. It will take all of us to make a change. Love Lisa


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