Ice addicts can be 'like a paranoid schizophrenic'
As the dangerous drug 'ice' continues to be a threat to our community, the Sunshine Coast Daily's four-part series with the University of the Sunshine Coast examines the impact of the drug with those who are battling it on the front lines.
THE Sunshine Coast's top medical experts are warning the damage already being done by the deadly drug ice - or methamphetamine - could lead to a rise in serious mental illness for users, even if they eventually shake their addiction.
Dr Wayne Herdy, a Coast GP with more than 30 years of experience, said he had never seen a drug take hold of a community as ice has.
"I think it is incredibly easy to get ice, in quite a number of public bars," Dr Herdy said.
"The number of patients that we are seeing on ice now has escalated quite dramatically, especially in the last three years."
In the first part of this series, the former lover of an ice user described the drug's availability as an "epidemic" on the Sunshine Coast, with sellers routinely offering it as "you walk down the street".
MORE IN THIS SERIES:
When used, ice causes rapid speech, delusional thoughts, hallucinations, the inability to follow logic, and may keep users awake for days or weeks at a time.
But there are also long-term effects, including mental health impacts, which Dr Herdy said could be very serious.
"Easiest way to summarise ... is they become like a paranoid schizophrenic," Dr Herdy said.
It can persist for days, weeks, months or even years after they stop taking the amphetamine.
We Help Ourselves Sunshine Coast, also known as Najara, is a drug rehabilitation centre based in Nambour that encourages users to regain a sense of responsibility as part of their treatment.
Najara's Trevor Hallewell said about 70% of the centre's clients had some form of mental health issue.
"A methamphetamine user may have been struggling with varying different stages of psychosis," he said.
"Anxiety, paranoia - those sorts of things - are fairly high on the list; depression, bipolar, borderline personality disorders.
"You do find that issue in the drug and substance use population anyway, but it can be exacerbated by the methamphetamine usage."
Najara steers away from describing users as "addicts" or "drug abusers" in an effort to reduce the stigma that surrounds those who grapple with addiction.
Those entering Najara for rehabilitation on the Sunshine Coast are likely to have had at least some experience with ice, according to a survey done earlier this year.
In May, 94% of the residents admitted to using ice at least once, with the average cost being between $300 and $500 a day.
The same survey was done in Newcastle, with only 61% having used ice, and the average cost per day being between $100 and $200.
"I think historically our larger clientele has been amphetamine users," Mr Hallewell said.
"However, even after rehabilitation, there's no way of knowing how many people stay clean.
"It is a chronic relapsing condition.
"Some relapse for one day or one week … Or they call us and say, 'I've made a huge mistake - can I come back?' Some end up in jail, and some end up dead, and some end up doing their own thing."
This four-part investigation is a collaboration between the Sunshine Coast Daily and students from the University of the Sunshine Coast.