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Tackling the ‘Ice Epidemic’

Tackling the Ice Epidemic

By John B. Saunders, South Pacific Private Hospital & the Universities of Sydney and Queensland

The term “the Ice Epidemic” is not mine.

It is being widely employed at present – by the State Government, which has recently announced a specific strategy to combat ice, by concerned members of the community, and by health professionals who see the effects of this drug.

“Ice” is the powerful stimulant methamphetamine.  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, it 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.

At South Pacific Private Hospital we have seen many people seriously affected by methamphetamine use.  Both men and women have become involved with it, typically when in their late teens and twenties. They anticipated a period of “party time.” Instead, they find they have become trapped because of the increasing amounts they use.  Life is put on hold as it is increasingly centred on drug use. Episodes of psychosis are common; people become paranoid, thinking everyone else is looking at them, talking about them and plotting to harm them.  Not surprisingly users often become violent in this state.

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 essence of the program at South Pacific is therapy based on a group approach.  It has also been a pioneer of the judicious use of medications specifically designed to relieve withdrawal symptoms, reduce urges and craving to use, and increase the likelihood of the person remaining free of drug use in the future. Antidepressant medications may also be needed, while if the person is experiencing psychosis that is treated with specific anti-psychotic medications.

Ice addiction is a challenging illness, both for the person affected, for their close family and friends, and for health professionals.  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.

If you are concerned that you or someone that you love is struggling with an addiction to methamphetamines and more specifically, ice, please reach out for support. South Pacific Private is available 24/7 on 1800 063 332 or by email at info@southpacificprivate.com.au

You can also do a quick self-test on our website here to determine whether there might be a problem. We support you to get help by reaching out to a professional service and by contacting your GP.