Crystal Meth is Ravaging Australia
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Crystal Meth is Ravaging Australia


Unlike some illicit drugs, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone proclaiming crystal meth is harmless. The highly addictive methamphetamine not only destroys its users but also the planet via the thousands of pounds of toxic waste dumped into the ecosystem. It makes people lose their teeth, their marbles, their memories, their skin and their lives on a continual basis. And in Australia, the problem has escalated into a national crisis.

Big Problems Down Under

Today, Australia has the highest use of crystal meth of any developed nation on the planet, with nearly 350,000 citizens taking the cheap and easy to access drug that causes such intense psychosis that users gauge their skin and pry out their teeth during hallucinations. Within the past two years, “ice” use there has increased by 10 percent—44 amphetamine-like substances were seized in 2011, but the number jumped to 415 by 2014. Last year alone, police raided nearly 750 ice labs, most discovered in the rural parts of the country. And children as young as 11 are becoming hooked.

Crystal meth shoots up dopamine levels in the brain from 100 to over 1000, approximately 12 times as much of the endorphin as you’d get from things like eating a molten lava cake, saucy hot sex or kicking ass on the elliptical for an hour. Dopamine is that “feel good” chemical, and if your brain floods with it, you start feeling euphorically grand, but this can eventually escalate into psychosis.

Small towns are stuck with the worst of it, especially Victoria and Tasmania. Part of the problem is that international drug cartels are in cahoots with local biker gangs to push ice out of the cities. Compounding the problem is the lack of treatment facilities for those who want to kick the habit in these regional towns, in addition to an underfunded police force and lack of education on the horrific effects of the drug.

ABC News reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna, who did a special report on the meth crisis, met with addicts in the region. “I met a woman named Kim in Tasmania. For her to get into rehab, which is a sixth month program to reboot the brain to start producing dopamine again, she would lose her housing commission house and become homeless.”

Cooking With Deadly Gas

Australia’s problem doesn’t end with the devastation that is meth addiction. Many young people are getting sucked into cooking it, often without wearing any protection against the toxic byproducts from the process.

Caro reported that “young and desperate’ kids from broken homes, often lonely and with great responsibilities to provide for their families, were being targeted by outlaw motorcycle gangs to do their dirty work —dealing and cooking ice for other bored teenagers in country towns.”

After meeting with one of these cooks, who started making meth at 15, she said, “At just 19-years-old his body was falling apart already, his joints pop out of place, he is riddled with early onset arthritis, he’s vomiting blood, paralysed by muscles aches. His brain has suddenly changed, he is very sick and probably won’t live very long.”

Just Media Hype?

It’s easy to wonder if the media’s regurgitation of the crisis is simply fear-mongering hysteria—that’s what Australian journalist Luke Williams thought. So he shacked up with some meth addicts to get a glimpse of the problem first hand, and what do you know—he was lured down the rabbit hole by the other users and wound up a full-blown addict.

“Ice addiction is very much about this gradual grinding down of the border between fantasy and reality,” he says. “For me, my foray into this sordid world showed that liberalism has its limits. I learnt that meth use is not merely a transgressive and misunderstood rebellion against the pressures of working life and the banality of Australian suburbia. It does kill.”

‘Nuff said.

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About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.