Pubdate: Sat, 23 May 2015
Source: Geelong Advertiser (Australia)
Copyright: 2015 The Geelong Advertiser Pty Ltd
Author: Mandy Squires
Page: 33


Semantics instead of confronting this scourge won't help

IN a week the Geelong community has talked openly and honestly about
ice, some bureaucrats and academics have sadly failed to do the same.

Concerning themselves more with the language used in the Addy's
Breaking Ice series than with the people and truth behind our stories.

Epidemic is defined as "the occurrence of more cases of a disease than
would be expected in a community during a given time period".

This week we have heard Geelong drug rehab providers say the number of
people being admitted to their centres for ice addiction has risen by
about 40 per cent in the last few years. We've heard the convener of a
local family drug support service say the group - previously made up
of family members of alcoholics, cannabis smokers, pill poppers and
more - is now "all ice".

Mostly, and most importantly, we've heard from the desperate families
of ice addicts and from current and former ice users. We've heard
their own stories, in their own voices. Their voices are valid.

They've told us, that all of a sudden, ice is "everywhere".

In suburban homes, in the mall, in schools, on job sites, at footy
clubs and at teen parties.

Yet the same health professionals and academics who ask us to call and
treat drug addiction as a disease, insist ice use is not "epidemic" in
Geelong or anywhere else.

People at the top of the regional division of the Department of Human
Services and Barwon Health's Drug and Alcohol Services told the Addy's
this week that word didn't apply, and it shouldn't be used.

That's despite the fact the number of people seeking treatment through
Barwon Health's own drug and alcohol service for amphetamine use has
more than doubled in the last three years.

Other language - the language actually used by the families affected
by ice addiction - was also "unhelpful", the Addy's was told by the
Barwon Health and DHS experts.

It was alcohol - not ice - that was the biggest problem in our
community, they said.

Barwon Health clinicians and DHS bureaucrats and service providers
were feeling offended by "the tone" of the Addy's ice series, they

The number of people seeking treatment for alcoholism through Barwon
Health's drug and alcohol service has remained steady over the last
few years, at about 48 per cent.

That makes it an endemic health problem, which is defined as "a
disease or condition regularly found among particular people or in a
certain area".

So yes, it's a wider problem than ice use, as university researchers
(often heavily invested in alcohol research) are telling us from their
ivory towers.

But of note is the fact the data used to inform the research papers of
academics in the ice versus alcohol debate is often old. Given ice use
has spiked in the last three years, there would appear to be little
benefit in penning papers based on statistical evidence from 2012 or
earlier, to inform debate.

The families of ice users - the people on the ground - are telling us
ice does more damage than alcohol.

Partners of addicts have told the Addy's the punches come more
frequently - and land harder and with more accuracy - when ice is
involved than with alcohol.

Excess alcohol consumption often results in poor reflexes, stumbling
and eventually, sleep, they say.

Not so ice. Awake for days at a time and with "almost superhuman"
strength, angry men on ice can, and do, inflict pain on their
partners, family members and even pets, without respite.

There are few, if any, family members of ice users (and even fewer
addicts) who would agree with the academics and health and government
officials who say the ice problem in regional Australia is a media

They would do well to climb down from their ivory towers, and start
listening to the people who really know about the damage done by ice -
the people involved.
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