THEY are the people who least deserve it but often the first to feel the rising scourge of the drug ice that has hit the streets of Ballarat.
The families of drug users are being devastated by the behavioural effects of the drug, also known as crystal meth, including violence and criminality, according to Ballarat experts who are calling for more support.
UnitingCare withdrawal nurse Darren Cutts, who deals with youth between the ages of 12 and 22 at Tabor House who are recovering from drug use, said it was often the flow-on affects of drug use that were less publicly acknowledged but the most destructive.
“Since the explosion of use in Ballarat, the impacts of methamphetamine on families have been acute and devastating,” Mr Cutts said.
“More parents are ringing up to seek advice on how to cope and help their children.
Mr Cutts said that 80 per cent of his clients this year have had experience with ice, often in conjunction with other narcotics; an alarming spike from 18 months ago.
“And it’s not just our clients that are impacted, it’s the emergency department, it’s having a significant impact on the legal system, police and ambulances.”
Health and community care providers are also asking for more support for the families of ice users in the region and experts are pointing to peer support groups as one aid to guide families.
UnitingCare Alcohol and Other Drugs family counsellor Margaret Radcliffe said similar peer-support groups to one set up in Bacchus Marsh could be a great idea in Ballarat.
“It seems to be working for the families in Bacchus Marsh and maybe that’s something our community should look at doing.”
Ms Radcliffe said peer support groups for families of drug-affected people existed about 10 years ago, but were unsuccessful because of parents’ tendency to experience feelings of shame and guilt.
“They’ve tried to keep the problem behind closed doors. That’s a barrier. It’s about trying to overcome that.”
Ms Radcliffe said that almost 50 per cent of parents seeking her support were concerned about their children’s ice use.
“Families are unsure how to manage behaviour related with ice and will continue to seek support,” she said.
The Family Drug Help group that serves the Bacchus Marsh region is comprised of mothers who have faced the tirade of their own ice-affected children,including psychosis and violence.
Ballarat Police Divisional Response Unit Senior Sergeant Darren Tanis said the spike in ice addiction over the past 18 months was a community health issue,
not just a policing issue.
Senior Sergeant Tanis said the increasing demand on policing services was corresponding to alarming social and economical consequences.
“Ice addiction has a devastating impact on drug users and their immediate families,” he said.
“We are finding people with no history of drug use becoming addicted very quickly.”
Outgoing magistrate Peter Couzens had also warned Ballarat earlier this year about the rising tide of drug-related cases that were flooding the magistrates court, particularly involving ice and heroin.