The cost of ignoring the ice problem

Biripi ACMC's Anthony Paulson, Lauren McDermott and Troy Cochrane. Anthony will be speaking at the ice information forum in Taree on August 20.
Biripi ACMC's Anthony Paulson, Lauren McDermott and Troy Cochrane. Anthony will be speaking at the ice information forum in Taree on August 20.

"IF you saw the end of a needle after it's been used four or five times, it's like a fish hook, it rips and really does damage."

They're the words of Anthony Paulson, co-ordinator of Aboriginal Health Programs at Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre (ACMC), when he talks about the drug ice and the damage it does to users' bodies.

"It's definitely an issue in Taree," Anthony said.

He highlights the struggle of a client who recently sought help for their addiction, only to be told the waiting period for a treatment facility was three months.

"Our clients can't wait three months and be abstinent from it," he said.

Alcohol and drug worker at Biripi, Troy Cochrane, said the growth of the drug in the last two years was "craziness."

"It doesn't discriminate, we're seeing younger kids on it, 15, 16-year-olds," Troy said.

He said addressing the issue would be a "tough battle."

"It's too easily accessible and cheap," he said.

Anthony added that the ease of use was also a reason for its popularity.

"There's different forms of ingestion, not just injecting," Anthony said. "It's as easy as heating it up and smoking it."

The lack of drug treatment services was something the State government looked to address when it pledged $7 million over four years for ice rehabilitation services, with centres promised in the Mid North Coast, Illawarra and Sydney areas.

Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead also announced on Wednesday, August 8 that an additional $400,000 over four years would be spent on existing stimulant treatment services. However, the president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, Dr Alex Wodak, said that the initial State funding "wasn't enough" and was "token money."

Anthony said local ice information sessions would at least provide residents an opportunity to learn about getting help.

He will be one of the speakers at two upcoming information sessions to be held in Taree on August 20.

The first session will run from 10.30am to 12.30pm at Bushland Multipurpose Centre, on Mudford Street, Taree.

The second session will take place at Manning Uniting Church from 2pm to 4pm.

Other speakers will address the legal and health ramifications of drug use.

Similar sessions have already been held in Forster.

"If you've got a family member impacted by it, or you've got any questions, come down," Anthony said. "There's no silly questions and if we don't know the answer, we'll make sure we find out."

Anthony and Troy agreed that the cost of ignoring the issue is much too great.

"We'd lose another generation," Troy said. "For the Aboriginal community, we'll have no leaders, we'd have no elders."

Anyone seeking assistance to stop using drugs can contact Biripi ACMC for assistance, support and advice.