Ice is an awful drug. That’s something we’ve all been told, by teachers, by warnings on TV, or through word of mouth from those touched by ice’s wide and sinister reach. A well-known example is that one government advertisement showing a user breaking free from police and assaulting medical staff. We all know ice is addictive, harmful, and ruins lives. But there seems to be holes in our collective knowledge about ice addiction. We know what ice does to a user, but not how they’re rehabilitated, why they turn to ice in the first place or who works with users to get them clean. That’s why I decided to speak to Jane Stone, who helps victims in their battle against the drug.
Jane founded the group HABZ in 2016, which provides a range of services to ice users and their families, such as monitoring, information and even diet planning. It was clear that Jane had an incredible passion for helping those affected by addiction. She spoke for over forty-five minutes about her experiences and how she views the issue of substance abuse.
“We (HABZ) understand that 10 per cent of people are willing, wanting to get help. It’s easy to help those people. We go to their home, have a chat with them, provide them with their options, do the assessments, get them into detox and from there they go to rehab,” Jane says.
What’s more difficult for Jane is the 90 per cent of users who aren’t willing. Despite that difficulty, Jane approaches unwilling addicts confidently.
“With HABZ, I want to work with those that aren’t willing, and not quite ready, but to plant the seed and start motivating that change. A lot of them are in denial, not about their drug use, but that things are going to get worse. They don’t realise they need help,” she said.
There’s a real stigma around drug use, and users themselves. But talking to someone like Jane, who has worked extensively with ice users trying to get clean, highlights that they’re just ordinary people. Ordinary people that have made a big mistake, and need help to get back on their feet.
“I’ve seen the most horrible things happen, both to family members and users. The most gut-wrenching thing is when you see parents using the drug and their kids are being removed from their care, because they’re not able to look after them,” Jane said.
“A mum I was working with – she’s been doing so amazing – but recently she fully relapsed. Total avoidance, won’t answer my calls, her kids have been removed again. The trauma I see these kids go through … I know she’s been avoiding my calls because she’s so ashamed. Shame, guilt, remorse … they’re feelings users have to carry.
“Seeing people relapse is the hardest thing. And how it affects the families, the kids. It makes me feel guilty too. I think, what didn’t I do? I didn’t follow up enough. How could I have done things differently?”
It’s no secret that ice destroys lives. Cracks in the Ice, a government-funded information hub, states that hospital admissions for methamphetamine use, dependence, psychosis, other mental health problems and methamphetamine-related deaths are all on the increase. So what makes people decide to use ice?
“I think for a lot of people … maybe it’s a mixture of mental health, depression, anxiety. But for a lot of younger people, it’s been more of a peer pressure thing. They’ve been somewhere, someone’s had a pipe and they’ve had a go at it, thinking it’s speed or another type of drug, thinking ‘I’ll just try it once’,” Jane said.
“They all think they’re immortal, they’re not going to become addicted to it. They all think they’re strong enough. But this drug is more powerful than the human being.
“It’s so readily available, it’s amongst so many demographics. It’s in the workplaces, it’s at schools, it’s at parties, it’s just so readily available. It doesn’t have any one age group. It doesn’t discriminate.”
The ice epidemic is an issue that’s growing, and doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. A parliamentary inquiry into the use of crystal methamphetamine found that closed treatment episodes for amphetamine use jumped from 12,563 episodes in 2010 – 11, to 46,441 episodes in 2015 – 16. That’s an increase of over 369 per cent.
So how can we solve the ice epidemic, or at least slow its growth? Jane argues that policy towards ice addiction needs reform.
“I had a family member who I found out was using ice. Trying to ring around various services and rehab facilities made me understand how difficult it is to access those services, because they’re not willing to talk to families, only the addicts themselves,” she said.
“They would say, ‘Get the user to give us a call’, and then they would make an appointment for them and say ‘Alright, we’re going to ring you back in two weeks at 10.30 on July 6 and do your assessments’. Well, someone in active addiction doesn’t know where they’re going to be in two hours’ time, let alone two weeks’ time, so they just keep falling through the cracks in the system.
“We need to have an outreach program, we don’t have one where there’s workers going to people’s homes and trying to motivate and engage with unwilling users.”
Though she advocates for new approaches to helping addicts, Jane admits that unfortunately the ice epidemic is something that’s not going to be solved any time soon.
“I just don’t see the ice epidemic getting any better. It’s (the drug) very easy to make … I know just recently police pulled over a car coming into town, they decided to do a full vehicle search and he had an esky in his boot that he was producing crystal methamphetamines in, and he was bringing that into town to sell.
“It’s that easy to make it, and make huge profit on it. Anyone using regularly would be spending $1000 to $1500 a week.”
Ice is a huge problem, and one that won’t be easy to solve. It’s an issue that is currently looked at simplistically by the authorities. But, with enough determined, innovative people like Jane Stone working to fight it, and more resources allocated to treatment, education and prevention, we can at least alleviate the spread of ice, and hopefully one day, end it.
If you or someone you know is struggling with ice addiction, you can contact HABZ here.