Coffs is facing dawn of ?ice? age


IT COULD be any night in Coffs Harbour.

You start your evening off with a feeling of euphoria ? a wave of confidence and energy comes over you ? but later on you start to panic, grind your teeth together and experience psychosis.

You start to scratch at invisible bugs until you have no skin left and feel so agitated you violently lash out for no reason at all.

And then, when 'coming down', you might not sleep or eat for days on end.

According to the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre these are the short- and long-term effects users of 'ice' or 'crystal meth'may experience.

These highly purified crystalline forms of methamphetamine are cheap, highly addictive, destructive and now available locally.

While we may not be in the grips of an epidemic like many metropolitan areas, methamphetamine use has police, health workers and drug counsellors worried.

So much so that local residents, who have used methamphetamines at least once a month over the past six months, are being asked to join a regional study to identify the sorts of problems users are experiencing, as well as estimate the prevalence of the drug in this area.

The study is being co-ordinated by health care professionals from North Coast Area Health Service's Drug and Alcohol program in collaboration with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. Drug and alcohol clinical nurse consultant Tony Galloway said although several studies have already occurred in metropolitan areas this is the first major study of methamphetamine use to be conducted in a regional area.

"Over the past decade there has been an alarming increase in the use of the drug methamphetamine," he said.

"It is now the second most widely used illicit drug after cannabis and has overtaken heroin as the most commonly injected drug.

"To date there has been very little research on the impact of the drug in rural regions.

"When we started this study in July we hoped to interview 150 people.

"At the moment we have spoken to more than half of that number.

"We are interested in interviewing people who are between the ages of 16 to 65.

"We're also providing people with a $30 reimbursement for the interview, which takes about 45 minutes, to cover any costs they might incur as part of being a participant."

Mr Galloway said concerns had been raised further by reports of a shift in use towards the more potent forms of the drug, such as 'ice ' and 'base'.

"Ice is about 80 per cent pure," he said.

The Mid North Coast Division of General Practice Doctor David Ellis said there is a lot regional areas still don't know about this dangerous drug because it's relatively new here.

"Hopefully this survey will identify the common types of users and what sort of support they need from the community."

Have you tried methamphetamines? Has your family been affected by methamphetamines? Contact Bianca Clare on 6650 2948.

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