The NSW government’s inquiry into methamphetamine, commonly known as ice, is welcome but long overdue. Far too many parents in the Shoalhaven have felt the sharp end of the drug’s destructive effects for years now, watching in horror and an abiding sense of helplessness as their children have succumbed to the drug’s temptations.
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Unfortunately dubbed the region’s drug of choice, ice has been implicated in a range of mental health issues, violence, road crashes and relationship breakdowns.
It now accounts for 24 per cent of referrals to the Shoalhaven Drug and Alcohol Service. Its effects are felt even more oppressively in the local Indigenous community.
Disturbing figures from the Indigenous Oolong House in Nowra indicate some 69 per cent of treatment sought is for methamphetamine use. That’s up from 8 per cent in 2008. Clearly, there is a need for urgent, locally based action.
The drug shows up repeatedly in court cases, so the message about its perils is clearly not being heard.
Methamphetamine’s grip on drug users is explained by its ease of manufacture, relative cheapness, and the lack of sufficient treatment facilities and programs in the local area.
Sadly, it’s an easy drug to get on and a very hard one to get off.
The Special Commission of Inquiry announced by Premier Gladys Berejiklian will investigate and report on the nature, prevalence and impact of ice in NSW, the adequacy of existing measures to tackle ice and options to strengthen the state’s response to the drug, including law enforcement, education and treatment and rehabilitation.
While we appreciate the government’s intention to drill down into the ice problem, we wonder why it has taken so long, when there has been no shortage of data to show the destructive impact the drug has had, particularly in regional NSW.
In Shoalhaven, we have seen a number of police operations to crack down on the supply and distribution of the drug. Strike forces Croci and Arctic have taken a number of distributors out of circulation. But ice is a bit like Medusa. Cut the head off one snake, and another appears to take its place.
The inquiry’s multidimensional approach to the problem is the right way to approach it. Law enforcement alone won’t beat the drug but with sufficient treatment and education, it might just succeed.
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