A powerful government investigation into a worsening crystal methamphetamine epidemic in Australia is to examine its impact on Aboriginal communities. The New South Wales Special Commission of Inquiry into the drug was set up last year.
“It does not take long for ice to cause damage, a public service announcement running on Australian media warns.
Crystal methamphetamine, known in Australia as ‘ice’ is highly addictive. It is usually injected or smoked, and its immediate effects are intense pleasure and clarity of thought. But when the drug wears off users can suffer paranoia and hallucinations, as well as stroke and heart failure.
Addiction made Julie Danser’s son aggressive and unpredictable.
“He was very violent like breaking in, like kicking doors and that sort of thing because he would want money for his addiction. He never hurt me physically, but he was scary," she said.
A New South Wales government commission is investigating the drug’s impact on First Nation communities.
Indigenous Australians are five times more likely than anyone else to be hospitalized for ice-related problems.
Homelessness is also a major concern, according to Michelle Dixon from the Waminda Women's Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation in the town of Nowra, south of Sydney.
“We eventually find some of our women are living in tents or living out their cars," she said. "That is when they are high-risk if they have children then it is another cycle of the kids being removed, their drug abuse basically escalates even worse because (of) their grief and loss for their children.”
Dixon says there’s an urgent need for programs that are tailored specifically for Aboriginal women.
“If they are not culturally-appropriate services a lot of the women come back complaining ‘ah, they are racist’ or they can feel the negativity within those environments and that turns them off ever going back to rehab or to detox,” Dixon said.
Crystal methamphetamine was declared a "national menace" by former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.
Experts say the drug’s impact is felt most keenly in country areas, where health professionals have warned an entire generation is at risk.
This week, an Aboriginal former Australian Rules Football player, Chris Yarran, was jailed for five years for an ice-fueled crime spree in the city of Perth. It included the carjacking of two vehicles, attempted robbery and an assault on a police officer.