Northern Tasmania's ice crisis

TEENS as young as 13 are seeking help for addiction to the methamphetamine ice, as the Salvation Army increases its efforts to reach Northern communities affected by the devastating drug.

Salvation Army outreach counsellor Maurice Dawe said the organisation's Bridge program had been expanded to George Town, Fingal and Beaconsfield after the areas had been identified as hotspots for the drug.

Mr Dawe said education sessions led in each town revealed that use of the debilitating drug was widespread.

He said ice was cheap, readily available and its use was rapidly increasing.

``There is the perception that this is used mainly by people of a low SES (socio-economic status) . . . but it is far more broadly spread,'' Mr Dawe said.

Crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride has a high risk of dependence and its use carries a range of consequences, including brain and mental health conditions, heart and lung problems, paranoia, increased risk of stroke and chronic memory loss.

The drug releases monoamines and can eventually destroy the brain's receptors, leading to a point where the user cannot feel pleasure without further ice use.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs chief executive Jann Smith said people who injected ice were also at a high risk of contracting a blood borne disease, such as HIV or hepatitis.

She said anecdotal evidence showed that Tasmania was experiencing the same as what much of regional Australia was already going through, with police and member groups of the council confirming ice use was on the increase.

Ms Smith said it created particular challenges in small communities.

``In any small community, the impact will be broadly felt,'' Ms Smith said.

Mr Dawe agreed: ``It is damaging to family structures and impacts on our health services, courts and police.''

Ms Smith and Mr Dawe emphasised that support was available.

``Support and treatment can make a difference . . . there are services out there that are ready and willing to help,'' Ms Smith said.

 Contact the Salvation Army's Bridge program in the North on 6323 7500 or the 24-hour Bridge Centre hotline on 6278 8140.

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