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Getting Treatment for Ice Addiction – Crystallizing the Ice Debate

As concern mounts nationally about the rise and spread of crystal methamphetamine, the term “Ice Epidemic” is being more and more widely used.

Statistically, it has been shown that approximately 2.5% of Australians aged over 14 years (around half a million people) have used methamphetamines over the past year, compared  with around 9%  who have used cannabis and more than 4% who have used ecstasy.

There seems to be no doubt that “Ice” is a very powerful problem. It was introduced in the 1930s as a stimulant. It is a very effective one. Both the Allied and Axis powers in the Second World War used it to instil a sense of invincibility in their armed forces Methamphetamine is an attractive drug for many people: it induces euphoria, a sense of heightened strength and energy, is an appetite suppressant and can lead to weight loss. But it has an ugly side.

Repeated use results in addiction.

The amount used increases because of the development of tolerance. Previously effective amounts become ineffective. The user takes more and more and if use is interrupted suffers from withdrawal. The withdrawal syndrome is deeply unpleasant; it consists of a sense of lack of energy, inertia, increasing depression day by day, and in many cases suicidal feelings. Many of these features represent the opposite of the stimulating effects of the drug and the term “living on borrowed energy” which refers to the effects of amphetamines, is very apt.

In addition, increasing doses can cause psychosis, with the person believes they are living in an unreal world, experiencing auditory hallucinations (“voices”) and visual ones.

In amongst all of the important dialogue about the problem; the increasing levels in purity of the drug being used, the availability of the drug, the associated rise in crime, the increase in the frequency of use and the shift in population demographics using the drug, there is another critical dialogue that needs to be acknowledged and has yet to achieve the profile it requires in order to re-dress the balance of this problem.

That dialogue is treatment.

Information from the IDRS (Illicit Drug Reporting System) showed that in 2011 – 2012 the number of national amphetamine-related inpatient hospital admissions was 250 admissions per million persons. This is the highest number ever recorded. In addition – ambulance responses and treatment presentation data are also increasing specific to amphetamines. In addition, Australian drug treatment episode figures have recently indicated that amphetamines were the third most common principal drug of concern nationally in 2012 – 2013 accounting for 14% (1 in 7) of treatment episodes. This is an increase of 7% on previous data from 2009 – 2010 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014b).

These statistics would support that, if we aren’t talking about treatment in relation to ice, then we are missing perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle.

Dr. Ben Teoh, Consultant Psychiatrist at South Pacific Private, recently presented at a mental health professionals event on amphetamine use disorder and stated, ‘drug addiction is a cunning and baffling disease that increases in impact over a period of time as habitual patterns of use develop and become a regular part of life. A person’s relationship with ice becomes characterised by obsession and compulsion. The obsession refers to the way they think about the drug – the time spent thinking and planning about when and where they will use, or thinking up strategies to limit your use. The compulsion refers to loss of control over their impulse to use.’

A recent article in ‘Of Substance’ Magazine highlighted that psychological interventions remain the mainstay of treatment for methamphetamine use – as well as underlying mental health problems. This would suggest that recovery from a drug addiction is likely to be more successful when underlying causes and environmental factors are addressed at the same time as an individual stops using. Withdrawing from a chemical addiction can be challenging, uncomfortable and even dangerous when attempting it alone. For this reason a professionally supervised detox is strongly recommended.

Addiction is a cunning, baffling and deadly disease and is most effectively treated in a therapeutic environment supported by addiction specialist health professionals. Dr. Ben Teoh would concur, confirming that ‘At South Pacific Private Hospital many people seriously affected by methamphetamine use have admitted in a stage of crisis.

Ice doesn’t discriminate.

Both men and women have become involved with it and have found their lives put on hold as everything is increasingly centred on drug use.’ Ice addiction is a challenging illness on many levels; societally, economically, individually but also for the families and close friends of those affected and for the health care professionals at the front end of tackling this challenge.

Professor John Saunders, South Pacific Private Hospital and the Universities of Sydney and Queensland wrote in a recent article, ‘One of the advantages of a period of inpatient treatment is that psychosis and withdrawal can be treated and any underlying mental health problems can be identified. One of the great rewards for the person affected and their family is to have their life become more stable, to be relived of disabling paranoia and depression, and gain increased confidence and re-establish themselves in a productive way of life.‘

South Pacific Private Hospital is experienced in the treatment of methamphetamine addiction and has a combined inpatient and day patient program designed to help those affected recover from the mental and physical effects of ice use and achieve stability and purpose. The Program at South Pacific Private includes intensive group therapy supported by an integrated treatment program involving a multidisciplinary team. Medication may be required for detoxification, reduce craving and to treat severe depression or psychosis. Therapy is critical to help clients to understand the underlying issues related to their addiction and plan for long term recovery.

Access to treatment is critical.

One of the most effective treatment methodologies for methamphetamine use has been shown to be multi-disciplinary care under the supervision of an experienced team of professionals and involving motivational interviewing, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. Let’s hope that within the ongoing debate and political assertions, that this seed of hope and professionally acknowledged technique gets the voice and profile it needs to contribute to overcoming the problem at hand.

* SOURCE: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/courts-order-ice-addicts-into-oversubscribed-support-programs-20150328-1m9e93.html

** Of Substance November 2014. Vol.12 No.3

If you would like to find out more about treatment for ice addiction or an addiction to methamphetamines please contact South Pacific Private 24/7 on 1800 063 332 or email info@southpacificprivate.com.au