"Ice" isn't cool, Catholic youth worker warns

Over 73,000 mostly young Australians are already dependent on cheap, widely available "ice" or crystal methamphetamine which is now more widespread than heroin, according to a Sydney Catholic youth worker.

Young people are especially vulnerable to the perils of ice because it is "often just considered a party drug", says Crispin Molloy, a case manager for Rendu Youth Services, according to a Catholic Weekly report.

"Heroin is often seen as a late teen's problem, but in certain cases we are seeing kids using ice a lot younger these days," he said.

Rendu Youth Services is a special work of the St Vincent de Paul Society, which provides assistance to teenagers in need. Mr Molloy regularly deals with young people affected by ice, a drug which police say is more destructive than heroin.

Ice is a powerful stimulant drug which affects the central nervous system. It causes alertness and euphoria, through to violent psychoses and depression.

Mr Molloy says ice is so highly addictive because of the "intense euphoric feeling" it produces.

Chris Meney, director of the Marriage and Family Office of the Sydney archdiocese, echoes Mr Molloy's warning.

"It has become a drug of choice among many because it is relatively cheap, easy to obtain and produces enormous highs," says Mr Meney.

Mr Molloy says the most worrying effect of ice is the "psych issues".

"The depression that is left afterwards is a major problem, because you have people who don't necessarily want to use, but find it really difficult to deal with the issues of depression afterwards," he said.

"This is often something that keeps people coming back."

The "ice epidemic" has prompted plans to open a treatment clinic at St Vincent's Hospital. The clinic will consist of a 20-bed detox unit and a six-bed psychiatric emergency care unit.

Dr Gordian Fulde, who is head of emergency at St Vincent's, says ice is "a huge problem" that has very rapidly spread through the whole spectrum of society" with the emergency ward seeing incidents of ice psychosis on a daily basis.

"Nothing else looks like a person who is totally berserk from crystal meth," says Dr Fulde, who also witnesses people with no pre-existing mental conditions who have simply "lost perspective".

Mr Meney says that the ice epidemic requires us to "respond both individually and as a society". But, he says, "simply providing more information" is not necessarily the key to combating the growing problem.

"By affirming the inherent value of every person we might be more able to convince them that they are capable of doing great things with their lives," he said.

Young at risk to perils of new drug (Catholic Weekly, 15/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Crystal Methamphetamine
Rendu Youth Services
Marriage and Family Office, Archdiocese of Sydney
St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney

12 Oct 2006