Every town believes it is the ice capital of Australia, according to the director of a Riverina drug and alcohol treatment service.
Stephanie Stephens from Directions Health, which runs Pathways Murrumbidgee, said the impact of methamphetamines (also known as ice) was keenly felt in regional areas.
“We acknowledge there’s been an increase in the rates of people injecting methamphetamines (and) in NSW and the ACT, it’s a cause for concern,” Ms Stephens said. “(Ice) has been in the limelight but we have to acknowledge that alcohol is also a major drug of concern.”
There are multiples theories around dependence and addiction, but like alcohol, ice is relatively inexpensive, accessible and addictive. The sheer number of people using the drug has led to a shift in the way addiction is treated, which includes at-home recovery.
“Historically it was bed-based… the abstinence approach,” Ms Stephens said. “But a lot of people can go through treatment and recovery in the community. It’s far more affordable and accessible as you don’t need to leave your home, your job, your children… it reduces barriers to accessibility and there’s an option for all ranges of severity.”
Three years after then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the National Ice Taskforce, considerable resources have been poured into reducing the effect of ice, including state funding of anti-ice programs. While that funding was certainly welcomed by people like Ms Stephens, the Riverina was a large area to cover and sustained access to treatment had to be a priority.
However, beyond the sensationalism and panic surrounding the “ice epidemic” were the people who use the drug and Ms Stephens said there were some incredible stories of recovery.
“Drugs of dependence don’t discriminate,” Ms Stephens said. “Some community members believe that if you’re dependent on a drug then you’re a particular type of person, but it spans a whole range of ages. And while we acknowledge the concerns of the community, we’re delighted to see people regain their independence, be in recovery and lead meaningful lives.”
Call Pathways Murrumbidgee on 6971 7330 or visit 201 Tarcutta Street, Wagga.