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Amphetamines

Also known as: ICE | Meth | Crystal Meth | Shards| Speed | Whizz | Goey | Rock | Crack | Freebase | Base | Dexies

Amphetamine-type stimulants (Amphetamines) are a group of drugs commonly known as speed. They are classed as stimulant drugs. This means that they affect the central nervous system by speeding up the activity of certain chemicals in the brain, producing a feeling of increased alertness and reduced fatigue.

Some examples of amphetamines include:

  • Dexamphetamine, which is used for medical purposes to treat conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Amphetamine sulphate, which can come as a powder or waxy paste
  • Methamphetamine, is a more potent form of amphetamine.

Where do amphetamines come from?

Amphetamines were first developed in Germany in 1887. During the 1930s, they were introduced as a treatment for asthma and low blood pressure. During World War II they were used to help soldiers fight fatigue.

How are amphetamines used?

Amphetamines can be swallowed, injected, smoked or inhaled (snorted). The effects of amphetamines can last from four to eight hours. Sometimes a person may experience a hangover effect that can last up to three days.

 

Called

Looks like

How it’s used

Prescription pills

Dexies, Ritalin

Pill or capsule different colours for different strengths

Swallowed

Powder

Speed, whiz, goey

Fine dry powder – colour ranges from white, pink, yellow, orange, brown

Smoked, swallowed or injected

Base

Paste, point, pure, wax

Oily or sticky damp powder – often with a brown tinge and strong smell

Usually injected or swallowed but can be snorted or smoked

Crystal

Ice, crystal meth

Crystal or coarse powder – colour ranges from almost clear to white with a tinge of green, blue or pink

Usually smoked or injected but can be snorted or swallowed

How many people use amphetamines?

The 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey reported that 3.8% of Western Australians aged 14 years and older had used amphetamine in the previous 12 months. This rate is higher compared to the rest of Australia.

Of those who use amphetamines in Western Australia, more are choosing to use methamphetamine, a more potent form, and they are using it more frequently than in the past. Analysis of recent seizures by enforcement authorities shows that methamphetamine potency has increased.

There has also been an increase in hospitalisation and treatment cases where the main drug of concern was amphetamine.

For more information on Methamphetamine see the Methamphetamine Infographic and Factsheet.

 

The effects of amphetamines will vary from person to person depending on the following:

  • Individual (user) – Mood, physical size, health, gender, previous experience with amphetamines, expectations of the drug, personality, whether the person has had food and whether other drugs have been taken.
  • Drug – The amount used, its purity, and whether it is smoked, swallowed, snorted or injected.
  • Setting (environment) – Whether the person is using with friends, on his/her own, in a social setting or at home, at work or before driving.

Short-Term Effects of Amphetamine Use

Short-Term Effects of Higher Doses of Amphetamines

Long-Term Effects of Amphetamine Use

Enlarged pupils

Sweating, headaches, pale skin

Malnutrition and weight loss

Reduced appetite

 

Restlessness, dizziness, shaking, repetitive movement

Reduced resistance to infection

 

Increased energy and alertness

Jaw clamping and teeth grinding

Dental problems

 

Increased confidence and talkativeness

Irregular breathing and very rapid or irregular heartbeat

Violent behaviour, emotional disturbances and paranoia

 

Inability to sleep

Feelings of being powerful or superior

Tolerance  and dependence

 

Anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks

Hostility and aggression

 

Periods of psychosis with delusional thoughts and behaviour

Irritability and

threatening manner

Psychosis including hallucinations and delusions

Brain scarring and memory loss

Increased rate of breathing, pulse rate and blood pressure

Overdose

Seizure, stroke and heart attack

 

Method of use

There are dangers associated with the method of use.
Snorting amphetamines can lead to headaches and burns and sores on the interior membrane of the nose.
Smoking amphetamines can damage the teeth and lungs. Sharing smoking equipment can put users at risk of contracting infectious diseases such as hepatitis C.
Swallowing amphetamines can cause damage to the teeth, throat and stomach lining.
Injecting amphetamines can result in major damage to the body’s organs, inflamed and blocked blood vessels, abscesses and blood poisoning. Bacterial infections can occur which may damage the heart valves, cause vein collapse, infection at injection site, bruising or more serious injuries if users inject into an artery or tissue. Injecting users are also at risk of blood borne diseases such as Hepatitis C & HIV if sharing equipment occurs.

Staying safe

See the Staying safe section for information on protecting yourself.

Deaths

An Australian study found that methamphetamines contributed to a clinically significant number of deaths in Australia between 2000 and 2005.  Methamphetamine was the only drug contributing to almost 1 in 5 of the 371 methamphetamine-related deaths recorded and 51% of the deaths were due to combined drug toxicity and cardiovascular complications.

Tolerance

Regular, heavy amphetamine use can lead to tolerance. This means that a person needs more of the drug to achieve the same effects they did previously with smaller amounts.

Dependence

Regular, heavy amphetamine use can lead to dependence. This means that the drug becomes central to a person’s life and they feel they cannot function properly without it.

Withdrawal

Amphetamine users do not use every day. Rather, they are more likely to use continuously over several days to a week (sometimes called a binge).  For more information view a video on the Crash Cycle with National Drug Research Institute Director Steve Allsop.

A binge depletes the chemicals in the brain associated with pleasure, motivation, memory, mood and ability to deal with stressful situations (dopamine, serotonin, noradrenalin). Combined with lack of sleep and inadequate nutrition, irritability, hunger, tiredness, paranoia, anxiety, and depression are common during the crash period.

Withdrawal for heavy users usually begins two to three days after a crash, and can last for months. Common short-term symptoms include aggression, mood swings, irritability, sleeping disorders and cravings. Long-term symptoms include dysthymia, a mood disorder which features a chronic depressed or irritable mood. Other symptoms may include eating disturbances, poor self-esteem, depression and lethargy.

Many of these symptoms are primarily related to the re-establishment of normal levels of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline in the brain.

It can take six months to a year before the body is sufficiently replenished and normal functioning returns.

For information on withdrawal and how to stop taking amphetamines see the Quitting Options section.

Overdose 

Overdose occurs when the level of intoxication from the drug reaches a point where it begins to produce physical and/or psychological harm.

Overdose from amphetamines usually results from the drug’s stimulatory properties and can cause strokes, heart failure, seizures and death.

The risk of overdose generally increases with a larger dose. As the strength and content of street amphetamines is unknown it can be difficult to judge the dose, increasing the risk of overdose.

A drug overdose is life threatening. An ambulance should be called by dialling 000 immediately if someone starts experiencing any of the symptoms of a stimulant overdose.

Police will not be involved unless the ambulance officers are threatened or there is a death.

 

Data from the Emergency Department (ED) Information Service found that between 2005 and 2010, there were a total of 1872 reported amphetamine-related ED presentations to all metropolitan hospitals in WA.

Violent outbursts can be triggered by paranoia that is brought on by the drug. Patients can exhibit more strength, confidence and stamina making them more dangerous and more difficult for emergency room staff to manage. These patients require extensive resources, and patients frequently re-attend.

Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) in Western Australia (WA) experienced 156  amphetamine-related presentations to their Emergency Department (ED) over a  3 month period in 2005 . This represented 1.2% of all ED presentations and had a major impact on the service.  Of the presentations:

  • The mean time spent in the ED was 6 hours, with 32.1% of patients requiring sedation.
  • 7% of patients were admitted and 37.2% required psychiatric evaluation.
  • 5% had previously presented to the ED for amphetamine-related reasons.

For more information on Amphetamines and the ED, view our interviews with Emergency Physician Dr Francis Loutsky and Professor Daniel Fatovich.

 

Amphetamine use can cause anxiety, depression, paranoia and psychosis in those people who have a vulnerability to mental health problems.

People who already experience depression may find that using amphetamines makes their depression worse in the long term, as it depletes serotonin, the feel good chemical in the brain. Depression is most often felt when the person is not using the drug, which makes them want to go back for more.

Users without pre-existing mental health problems can experience psychotic symptoms and for those who already have a pre-existing mental health problem or psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia, their condition could become worse. Australian research suggests there have been notable increases in hospital separations due to amphetamine-related psychosis.

These symptoms can last up to 2-3 hours, however sometimes they last longer and the person requires hospitalisation.

How often does this happen:

  • Nearly 1 in 4 regular users of methamphetamine will experience a symptom of psychosis.
  • Heavy or regular use is a key risk factor for psychosis.
  • Data from the Mental Health Information Service found that between 2006 and 2010, there was a reported 2062 persons with a primary diagnosis of amphetamine-related psychosis in outpatient and inpatient services of metropolitan hospitals in WA.

See the Mental Health section for information on symptoms of psychosis.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of mental health, we recommend seeking help, as these may not go away on their own. You could make an appointment with your GP or health professional for a mental health plan or visit Beyond Blue for information on mental health and help services.

There is emerging evidence that amphetamine-use can cause brain injury. A pilot study conducted at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) found that 1 in 5 people who agreed to have an MRI after presenting to the Emergency Department for an amphetamine-related reason had a brain lesion. This is a scar on the brain that is usually found in older people.

Although the study recruited cases based on amphetamine-related presentations, all those involved in the study had also used a variety of other drugs therefore this study cannot conclude the lesions were amphetamine-related.  However, there are similar studies that have found similar outcomes and there is evidence emerging to suggest that stimulant drugs cause problems for the brain, especially with memory, judgment, thinking and mood being affected. The findings from this study support the possibility of amphetamine use being a risk for cognitive decline.

View our interviews with Professor Daniel Fatovich for more information on the RPH study and the broader impact on the body and brain.

Amphetamine use during pregnancy has been linked with bleeding, early labour and miscarriage and can affect the baby’s development before birth. Amphetamines also cause the heart rate of mother and baby to increase.

If amphetamines are used close to birth, the baby may be directly affected, and may be born hyperactive and agitated. Babies of mothers who regularly use amphetamines during pregnancy may also experience withdrawal making them unresponsive and sleepless in the first few weeks after birth. It is not yet known whether children of mothers who used amphetamines during their pregnancy experience long-term problems in mental or physical growth, but initial studies give some cause for concern.

It is likely that amphetamines reach the baby through breast milk. The effect this has on the baby will depend on factors such as the amount and strength of amphetamines used and the time between using amphetamines and feeding the baby. Symptoms may include the baby being irritable, unsettled and difficult to feed. Injecting amphetamines also increases the risk of HIV infection and other infections for both the mother and the baby.

It is recommended that women check with their doctor (or other health professional) if they are using or planning to use drugs while pregnant or breastfeeding, including prescribed and over-the counter medicines.

Using more than one drug at a time can have unpredictable and dangerous effects.  Amphetamine users sometimes take other drugs such as tranquillisers, cannabis, alcohol or heroin to cope with some of the undesirable effects of amphetamines and a dependence on several drugs may develop. For example, some people may need amphetamines each day to get them going and tranquillisers each night to get them to sleep. This type of dependence can lead to a variety of very serious physical and psychological problems.

If amphetamines are combined with depressant drugs like alcohol, users may not feel the effects of the depressant drug straight away due to the masking effect that occurs. For example, if amphetamines are used with alcohol, Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) still goes up and motor skills such as coordination and reflexes are still impaired.

Combining amphetamines with other stimulants such as ecstasy or cocaine can greatly increase the negative side effects of both drugs. The effects can be greatly exaggerated and unpredictable and may be similar to taking a very large dose of stimulant drugs.

One of the major risks associated with illicitly manufactured drugs is that you won’t know what is in them, or the toxicity of the active substances. As part of the manufacturing process, dangerous by-products can also be formed, of unknown toxicity. Compounds used to manufacture the drug can cause them to be converted to other unknown compounds of unknown toxicity. This can result in accidentally mixing drugs and serious side effects.

Amphetamines and relationship problems

Drug use can lead to social and emotional problems and can affect relationships with family and friends.

When someone close to you is using amphetamines it can be worrying, stressful and emotionally draining. Their use can cause them to behave erratically, and it can be difficult to know how to act around them. They may become aggressive, angry or even violent, or withdrawn and detached. Everyone around them can be affected and this can be hard. They may become focused only on drugs and have no time for friends, or may argue over money, their behaviour or their drug use with friends and family.

While there are no simple answers about exactly what to do, the Parent and Family Drug Support Line can provide advice on things that can help you to help those close to you. 

Amphetamine and financial problems

The street price of amphetamines changes depending on availability and market trends. The cost of purchasing amphetamines can lead to financial problems for both occasional and regular users.

Whilst some users report using amphetamines as a cheaper alternative to other drugs such as alcohol, regular and occasional users may experience varied financial problems such as:

  • Loss of employment and finding it hard to get more work.
  • Missing payments for rent or bills.
  • Spending most of their pay on drugs.
  • Choosing to purchase drugs over items such as food or medicine.
  • Owing money to people.

Amphetamine and the law

In Western Australia, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981, it is illegal to use, possess, manufacture or supply amphetamines. Offences under this Act carry heavy fines and/or prison sentences. Penalties range from a $2,000 fine and/or two years in prison to a $100 000 fine and/or imprisonment for 25 years. A person convicted of a drug offence can receive a criminal record, which can lead to difficulties in getting a job, health insurance, credit and/or visas for overseas travel.

Drug driving

In Western Australia, it is against the law for anyone to drive with the presence of an illicit drug prescribed within the Road Traffic Act 1974, or impaired by a drug.

Amphetamines can cause exaggerated feelings of confidence giving a false sense of driving ability, which may result in users taking greater risks and increase the risk of having a crash.

Amphetamines, taken in combination with alcohol, can greatly impair driving performance.

See the testing section for information on roadside drug testing.

People decide to quit using amphetamines for a lot of reasons including it is harming their physical and/or mental health and wellbeing, their relationships with friends and others they care about, or because they are starting new employment and may be drug tested.

Thinking about quitting your amphetamine use? Worried you may struggle? You are not alone. Help is only a phone call away. The  can also assist in planning your quit attempt, and talk with you about the options available to assist you (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 (country callers).

Sometimes it can be scary thinking about cutting down or quitting your use as you don’t know what to expect. Some people may find it easy to cut down or even quit using, but some people may find it a little harder and may experience some withdrawal symptoms. Remember, this is normal.

Time since last use

Common Symptoms

Time since last use

Common Symptoms

1 - 3 days

Usually referred to as the ‘comedown’ or ‘crash’:

-       Exhaustion

-       Depression

-       Oversleeping Overeating

-       No cravings to use

7 - 28 days

Most symptoms will start to settle down, although some symptoms may still be around. These include:

-       Cravings to use again

-       Mood swings

-       Feeling anxious, irritable or agitated

-       Lack of energy or feeling flat

-       Poor sleep or sleeplessness

2 - 10 days

Withdrawal symptoms start around this time:

-       Strong cravings to use again (be aware of the "binge and crash" cycle)

-       Mood swings

-       Feeling anxious, irritable or agitated

-       Lack of energy or feeling flat

-       Poor sleep

-       Poor concentration

-       Headaches

-       General aches and pains

-       Increased appetite

-       Paranoia or strange thoughts (such as people are “out to get you”)

1 - 3 months

-       Major improvements in general health and mood.

-       Return of normal sleep and levels  of activity and mood.

At the beginning of your withdrawal, it is important to get a few things in order:

  • Organise a safe environment –going through withdrawal can be scary, especially if there are people around you who are still using. Organise a safe place where there will not be drugs or drug use going on around you. Let those around you know that you will not be using, and don’t want to use, and ask those who are using to stay away until you contact them. 
  • Organise support –You may find it easier to go through withdrawal with some support. It is important to have the right people around you while going through withdrawal. Friends and/or family, your doctor or health worker can also help you cope with everything that is going on around you. Support groups, such as Narcotic Anonymous/SMART recovery group can also be helpful. 

Getting through withdrawal can be easier if you take it one day at a time and focus on activities that help you cope with the effects of withdrawal. Knowing the symptoms to expect can help you get through. Following are some tips on how to cope with the various withdrawal symptoms you may experience:

Withdrawal Symptom

How to cope

Cravings

Cravings are common and can be very strong, so it is important to be prepared for this. Cravings can be mistaken for hunger of thirst so make sure you are eating and drinking regularly. Severe cravings generally last forshort periods of time.. When you get a craving, try to delay the decision to use for as long as you can (aim for minutes), this can allow you the time for the craving to go away. Find something to distract yourself such as listening to music, watching TV, cleaning, going for a walk, or ringing a friend.You may find it hard to concentrate, so don’t try and do something too complicated or you may get more frustrated.

Sleep disturbances

It can take a number of weeks before your sleep patterns return to normal.
Remember this is normal  and it’s not permanent. Some things that can help include, lying down to go to sleep only when you are actually sleepy, and only using your bed for sleeping. If you don’t fall asleep within about 30 minutes, get up, go to a different room, and try to find something to do that’s not too stimulating such as reading a book or listening to music, and only return to your bed when you feel sleepy. Try getting up at the same time everyday no matter how long you have slept, as this can help your body develop a routine. Try not to nap during the day as this can make it harder to sleep at night. Exercise and cutting down on stimulants such as caffeine can also help. If you're still struggling after 4-6 weeks you may wish to visit your GP for further support.

Irritability

It is very common to get agitated and irritable during withdrawal, so it will be important for you to do things that will help you relax. Whether it’s just taking time out to watch TV, listen to music, read a book, or doing specific relaxing techniques, do whatever works for you. Noticing your rate of breathing and controlling this can also help when you are feeling anxious or agitated.

Mood swings

One of the most important things to coping with mood swings is to remember that they are part of withdrawal and they will go away eventually. Relaxation techniques, exercise, getting into regular sleep patterns and eating properly can also help mood swings.

Strange thoughts

Some people may experience paranoia, while others may misinterpret things they see or hear around them. Remember that this does not mean you are going mad, the symptoms will settle. If the symptoms continue for a while, or if you are concerned, you can discuss these with your doctor, counsellor or health worker.

Eating again

Most people who use amphetamines regularly have poor appetite and nutrition. Your appetite usually improves within a few days of stopping use, and it is important to try and eat healthy and stay away from greasy and fatty foods. Eat small meals regularly. This may help with decreasing cravings. Drink lots of fluids.

Aches and pains

Due to the increased muscle tension, general aches and pains and headaches can be quite common. The worst of the pains generally settle within the first week or two. Warm baths, spas and saunas can help. Massages and light exercise can also be beneficial.

Don’t be afraid to ask for support or help to plan your quit attempt. Don’t give up if you slip up - a slip up is not a relapse! Consult with your GP or other qualified health professional if you have any concerns about your withdrawal. Alcohol and Drug Support Line can also assist, and talk you through the options and services available to assist you (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 (country callers).

See the Staying Safe section for information on safer use.

Dave’s* Story

25 years old from regional Western Australia

“I broke up with my boy's mum and used meth once at a party. I loved the way it felt and it stopped the empty feeling I had about my boy's mum. Over a short time I began to feel like I couldn’t do anything without it. I felt helpless. I began struggling to wake up for work …so I started using more so I had the energy to work.

When you take meth you feel unstoppable, indestructible. When you come down it's not great. I used to get the shakes in my legs and I'd start to feel all the sores in my mouth from chewing all the time. Then I'd sleep sometimes for days. I would get infections on my chest from picking. I was severely malnourished. And my teeth would sporadically crumble in my mouth.

Meth affected my relationship with everyone I knew. My parents were on the brink of meltdown. At 25 they were still supporting me to live – I was incapable of supporting myself. My siblings hated the sight of me. My son wasn't getting looked after properly by me so my parents had to do that.

My drug dealer became my only friend. I couldn’t hold a job and I started trafficking for money. A meth addict with unlimited supply is bad news for everyone involved. I got caught with 24 thousand dollars when I was on my way to the city to buy meth to bring back to my town.

I had stopped myself (using) for 6 months then opened a shop and started using again. That’s when I knew I needed help. I went to residential rehab and am happy to say I’m still clean. I’m 10 months clean.

Looking back, there is literally nothing good about using meth. The friendships you think you have are fake. You achieve nothing. It's just a downward spiral of destruction.”

 

Jane’s* Story

30 years old from metropolitan and regional Western Australia

“When I was 15 I had an older boyfriend. I had already been dabbling in pot and alcohol, running away from home to hang out with my 'friends'. I went over to his place for an overnight visit and him and his friends were (using). I wanted to try it; I wanted to be 'cool'. I didn't touch it for a little while again but then about a year later my new group of 'cool friends' were all doing it and so began my first month long bender.

Almost everything was bad about meth. After the initial (short term) pleasure I was left feeling awful, remembering my troubles, realising I had failed yet again and was one step closer to losing my babies.

Meth has affected every single relationship I've ever had. Destroyed partnerships, destroyed my family, caused my mother and brother untold amounts of anguish and heartache, caused my grandparents grief, caused me to a be a terrible mother to my beautiful children – heart-breakingly causing me to put the drugs ahead of their mental and physical wellbeing, allowing me to feel guilt-less about dumping them on my mother who financially struggled as it was without the added financial and emotional responsibility. It has caused unfaithfulness in my partnership with me prioritising drugs over my wonderful partner. It has destroyed my relationship with myself - I have no idea who I am anymore.

Meth ruins everything. I've done terrible things that I wouldn’t usually do. Said terrible things to the people I hold dearest, that I wouldn't usually say. I've been abusive, I’ve been a liar and I’ve been a thief.

I lost all my friends, although because of the drug use I struggled to make real friends anyway. I only associated with dealers and other (users). I am very lucky to say that I have one true friend left.

It's ruined any short-term job I ever held, not that there were many as drugs were usually more important to me. It's ruined any studying I've ever started, causing me never to complete any of it - leaving me unemployed and unskilled at 30 years old.

I was constantly losing and gaining large amounts of weight. (When I was using) I was usually scarily underweight. In the time I'd get clean my weight would balloon, stacking on 15-30kg easily in 1-6 months. At my lowest weight my skin, hair and nails were shocking. Blemishes, limp hair and (sores on my extremities) were the norm. I am starting to have problems with my teeth from long term use.

Meth destroys your mental health. My emotions are like a roller-coaster. I have hallucinated, I have been paranoid to the hills, I have been suicidally depressed, I have been scarily anxious, I have heard things that weren't there, I have been so sure people were out to get me that I’ve set up recording devices and listening devices. The worst was the psychosis, conversations with invisible people, conversations complete with different voices and accents and genders of which I was the one orating them all. The psychosis didn't seem scary at the time, after the fact I was terrified for my fragile mind.

I’ve been admitted to the emergency department several times. A few times to be admitted in to the psychiatric ward and the last time to be admitted into detox.

Rehab has saved my life and my soul. The staff and other residents have helped me immensely. They have changed my life, they have saved me. I couldn't pinpoint the most helpful thing; I think honestly it's been the whole combination of the service. This has saved my life.”

 

 

Di’s* Story

Mother in her 50s from regional Western Australia

 “I don’t really know when my son started using meth – I suspect it was quite young but he always denied drug use other than cannabis smoking. I think he started using meth in his teens, using it for partying and having a good time. When he was 21 he became unwell  - poorly nourished and possibly a touch of amphetamine psychosis as well. He tried to come home (a long drive to a regional area) but eventually collapsed from dehydration and had to be rescued by family members, who eventually got him to my home where he needed to be. He detoxed there over a couple of months then got the first of many jobs on the mines.

He loved work on the mines. He met and fell in love with a girl who also got a job on the mines with him. They moved in together and did well for a few years, surfing the boom-time wave, buying property (in Perth) and living fairly extravagantly. When they broke up and divided the property, he was less emotionally and financially buoyant. He started using meth with mates and his use became more and more frequent. He started to fail the drug tests that are part of every mining job. After a while he was being sacked from sites for positive drug tests.

Soon he found he was having to get through periods of unemployment that were getting longer and longer – so with time on his hands, became increasingly immersed in the meth scene. Gradually it wasn’t his mining mates any more that he was associating with – criminal gangs, other habitual users filled his days.

I don’t know the half of what went on and I don’t want to know. But when I look at my son, the desperation of the past 10 years is etched on his body like a branding. The multiple scars on his arms and abdomen from picking at himself which has led to abscess formation. He is dappled like a leopard.

The weight gain, caused by having years of see-sawing between starvation when bingeing on meth and then binge eating when there is no meth around. Meth use has wrecked his ability to regulate many of his normal functions. He now never feels full after eating. He once ate a $300 food shop in a day and then went out that night for hamburgers. The resulting spikes in blood sugar levels make him vulnerable to infections, as do the periods of no nutrition when bingeing. This means that any cuts, pimples or ingrown hairs can rapidly turn to large, painful abscesses.

Then there’s the depression and hopelessness. My son used to be an energetic go-getter type. He played sports, swam, fished, surfed. He was a champion athlete in primary school. Now, he sleeps for days at a time. Or just hides in his bed for days at a time. His health is wrecked, his life is wrecked and his reputation is a bad one.

Any (non-drug using) friends he had disappeared years ago. Now, he gets the occasional visit from people he knows but often there’s a drug agenda for the visit.

My son really only started spending more time with his family when things became so bad he needed help. He nearly died from a systemic infection.

He had a series of meth-fuelled relationships with people as fired up and messed up as he was. Meth makes people highly sexually active. His days were filled with meth binges, food binges, sex binges and then periods of down time in which he’d had to rely on prescription drugs to sleep. 

On returning to his house after his last FIFO swing he had a huge argument over money with a woman he was seeing. After a binge she accused him of a serious assault, for which he served a year in jail on remand, only to have the charges against him dismissed. He lost his last job opportunity when that happened.

Whilst in jail his car was repossessed, and his house became the local crack-house. Everything in it was stolen, the fittings were damaged, walls and cupboards kicked in, windows smashed, garden dead. Even his oven and fridge were gone.

Poverty has become a trap for him. He lives on his dole money, but struggles to manage. I’ve given him discarded phones of mine but they get stolen – he can’t lock his house. He bought a car with his tax return and that was stolen and trashed. It was impounded and he hasn’t got the money to get it towed home. The bank is poised to foreclose on his house. He can’t get work, has no transport, can’t afford the internet, can’t afford to get fined for anything - a traffic or parking fine is a major disaster as it would mean he couldn’t pay it and eventually have his driver’s license suspended – which in turn means he (definitely) can’t get work.

I love my son. I feel desperately sorry for him. He still can’t seem to believe that this has happened to him and I get the impression that he thinks he’s just another FIFO job away from salvation. Years of ice use have affected the way he relates to other people, the way he handles money and his ability to cope with problems – always looking for the quick fix – not just in the drug context but in life as well. There is no quick fix with methamphetamines – it’s a long slow drag into destruction and a long slow slog to claw back your life.”

 

 

Jen’s*  Story

32 years old from regional Western Australia

“I used meth on and off for a period of five years. When coming down I would be irritated, short-tempered, empty and regretful. My relationships with my 'real' friends and family grew distant; my relationship with my partner was rocky and unstable because drugs always came first. I spent a lot more time with people that used or dealt.

After a while, everything centred around using. I would be late because I would have to (use) before I went to work, I would want to get out early so I could get high, I would race through my work which led to mistakes and eventually I usually found another job before I got laid off.

I was depressed and ended up paranoid. My partner was extremely paranoid and so he would make me sit for hours 'watching out'. This eventually resulted in my own paranoia. I feel that I am still affected by ongoing paranoia, anxiety and panic attacks now, nearly nine years on, mostly when I am on my own at night.

I rarely ate or slept. My skin was terrible and I rarely got a period, got heaps of blood noses and felt faint constantly.

There was nothing good about using meth. I needed help to get away from my partner, I needed help to be a better mum, I needed help to stop. I wanted to stop using and it was completely out of my control. I ended up crying every time I (used) because I didn't want to use anymore but I couldn't stop. Eventually I (got help), then finally left my partner who refused to stop even for our child and moved back with my family in a regional area. I slept for about a month as I was so tired physically and emotionally that I was completely useless. I was lucky I had a family to support me when I was ready and that I hadn’t already killed myself.”

* These are real stories of how Meth can take control. The names have been changed to protect the identity of the story tellers. 

 

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New Drug Aware Methamphetamine Campaign

View our new Drug Aware methamphetamine campaign 'Meth can take control'.