IT IS well documented that ice, or methamphetamine, is the illicit drug of choice on our streets.
The Wimmera is caught up in the frightening escalation of this highly addictive stimulant.
The Mail-Times has teamed up with a wide variety of organisations across the Wimmera to raise awareness of this whole-of-community issue – it is something we cannot ignore.
TWO and a half weeks without sleep would seem like a nightmare for most.
But with crystal methamphetamine rushing through his veins, sleep wasn’t a priority – or even a possibility – for one Wimmera farmer.
The devasting drug, known as ice, was not only keeping the 23-year-old awake, it was also destroying him.
“I thought it would be like speed, where you have it and tomorrow would be just another day and I’d be fine,” he said.
“Before you know it, you are smoking every day and you can’t not have it or you will flip your shit.
“If you are willing to say yes the first time, you could be in trouble because it can grab you.
“If you say yes that first time, what are you going to do when your body actually needs it?”
Victorian Coroners Court data shows methamphetamine overdose deaths more than doubled from 14 in 2010 to 34 in 2012.
The farmer counts himself lucky to be alive after spending eight months gripped by ice addiction.
He narrowly avoided accidents while driving at more than 200 kilometres an hour and falling asleep at the wheel.
But the man said he also had to compete with the paranoia and rage that was part of ice use.
“It mentally kills you – it makes you suicidal and it is your own worst enemy – but you think it is fixing you,” he said.
“The hardest part is the rage, anger and depression when you come down off it.
“I thought that I would just use what I had and when it was out, it was out and I didn’t care if I was dead.”
The drug also took a physical toll – in a tell-tale sign of ice use, the man dropped to 62 kilograms, only eating Cyclone ice-creams and iced coffee.
He lashed out at those closest to him, verbally abusing his family and physically destroying his house.
The mother of his young son also cut ties, refusing to allow the man to see his child.
“If I couldn’t see the one person I cared about, it didn’t matter what I did – I just didn’t care,” he said.
“I could not have gotten any angrier and I just wanted to punch things and nine times out of 10, it was the walls.
“I would have punched people if I had the chance but I didn’t associate with anyone.
“It got to the stage where my hands were too torn up and I would just use my head to smash things.
“I would head-butt the wall time after time after time until I was just in a daze on the floor.”
It was his family and the harrowing story of another young ice addict that shocked him into sobriety.
“It took someone who was on crack themselves to tell me how bad it was,” he said.
“I was told about this one boy, he was about 18 or 19, who cut his parents’ phone lines and threw away their phones and then shot himself.
“If it weren’t for my mum and dad I wouldn’t be here.
“I would have been on the streets in Melbourne and doing whatever I needed to get it.”
Although the ice is gone, it has left its mark.
“I am much the same now as I was before, except that I am much more aware,” he said.
“I’ve lost a lot of trust in people because I know I got away with being off my face for so long – I could not sleep for a week and still fool people that I was a normal person.
“I saw something on Facebook the other day about the difference between a thief and a crackhead: a thief will just steal your shit but a crackhead will steal it and then help you look for it.
“That is so true.”
It has been a year since the man stopped using ice and began living again. He put on 13 kilograms in one week and has started working again.
While the farmer has turned to softer drugs, he is determined to stop using them once and for all.
“Crack just isn’t on the mind as much and I don’t have to get it,” he said.
“It is only in the last couple of months that, if I know someone has got it, I am not drooling inside because I want it.
“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy – it just isn’t worth it.”
If you or someone you know needs help or advice phone Grampians Community Health on 5362 1200 or visit the team at 25 David Street, Horsham.