THE prevalence and use of crystal methamphetamine or ice has increased dramatically in the Shoalhaven, according to the chief executive officer of a drug and alcohol treatment centre in Nowra.
Oolong House’s Ivern Ardler said one in three men applying for treatment was addicted to ice.
“It’s frightening, the increase in this drug. It is just so prevalent in the local area, especially in Nowra,” he said.
“At one stage it was more of a Sydney or Wollongong thing but, sadly, the issue is now widespread on the South Coast.”
He said the drug was readily available, even on the streets of Nowra.
“When we take our clients shopping, unfortunately we have to accompany them for their own safety and protection. There are people trying to give them the same stuff they are trying to beat,” he said.
“This is the reality.”
Mr Ardler says between 140 and 150 men apply to be taken into Oolong House for treatment each year.
“We still treat people with alcohol addiction and it is a major problem but drugs have overtaken it. Many have dual addictions,” he said.
“Our clients are aged 18 to 35. For the younger ones it is often extremely difficult to give up drugs.
“There are around 30 other local services offering help and while I can’t speak for them all, I have no doubt they have seen an increase in drug use, especially ice.”
He said with ice being a “relatively new drug”, there was not a lot of research on the damage from long term use.
“The changes to their facial appearance is incredible but what other damage does it cause to the body we don’t know,” he said.
“Our clients have already gone through detox and we offer a four-month program to provide education to help stay clean.
“It is an extremely stressful time, not only for the clients but our staff as well.
“They have to dissociate themselves from people they were involved with during their drug dependency. That means making new friends who are not on drugs and that can be hard.
“But there are organisations like Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous who offer support and mentors.
“As a community we have to say, ‘Enough is enough’ and we need to work closer with local police to try to get these drugs and the people dealing drugs off our streets.”