ICE use is significantly under-reported among our Aboriginal community, according to Baroona Healing Centre’s former manager.
And drugs are now a bigger problem than alcohol because they were so cheap and accessible, George Calleja said.
Mr Calleja was responding to Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council chief executive Scott Wilson’s comments that the ice problem is significantly bigger than the community realises and is tearing many indigenous communities apart.
Mr Wilson also said in many parts of Australia, ice is cheaper to buy than a takeaway pizza and in some areas as cheap as $5.
‘‘That doesn’t surprise me at all,’’ Mr Calleja said.
‘‘Like any drug that floods the street and there are a lot of, it becomes cheap.
‘‘Drugs give them a quicker fix and are cheaper than a slab of beer.’’
During his time at Baroona Healing Centre, Mr Calleja said 95 per cent of his clients started on marijuana before moving onto pills and ice.
‘‘They’ve all tried it,’’ he said.
And according to Mr Wilson, in many communities the use of ice is so widespread it has become an inter-generational issue, with grandparents, parents and children all using the drug.
‘‘I’ve been out of it for three years but when I was there (Baroona), marijuana was quite a common family issue. Someone had become addicted because mum and dad smoked it and their brother or sister and so it became a cycle,’’ Mr Calleja said.
‘‘The problem is worse in country areas because there is not a lot to do for the 14-17-year age group, so they get high.
‘‘A lot of kids in Koori communities are also in isolated areas and a lack of public transport makes it hard to get to places.’’
Mr Calleja said Mr Wilson’s call to develop rapid response teams across Australia to help addicts when they are in crisis would help, but said more support and treatment options were needed for younger addicts.
‘‘A lot of rehabilitation places only accept people from 16 onwards,’’ Mr Calleja said.
‘‘There is nothing out there for kids under 16 and you need to get them from an early age to get them on the right track.’’
With the Christmas period surrounded by a lot of pressure and high expectations, Mr Calleja warned people to stay away from the dangerous drug.
And he had a message for parents who often could not see the scale of the problem.
‘‘Never think your child is not involved in drugs,’’ he said.
‘‘A lot of parents are in denial with their kids but there is so much peer pressure out there and kids are going to try stuff.
‘‘Keep an eye on them and look out for any character changes. If you believe they might be using, get help. Don’t be ashamed. Think of the child first and foremost.’’