Tai Tipene and Daniel Lloyd, both former ice users, are case workers with the Methamphetamine Outreach Program in Alice Springs. (ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin)
A drug rehabilitation worker in central Australia is concerned the rise of methamphetamine usage in the region is because of an outback corridor coming from Adelaide, Australia’s unofficial “ice capital”.
According to Daniel Lloyd, who manages the Methamphetamine Outreach Program in Alice Springs, the drug is entering the town via the Stuart Highway from Adelaide.
“There’s a seedy underbelly in this town. Whoever is perpetuating or pushing the drugs, or dealing or being involved in criminal activity, don’t really mind who their customer base is.
“I’ve always said from day one, that Adelaide is, as far as I’m concerned, the ice capital of Australia but it’s not talked about — it’s always Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
“[Adelaide] has always been the sleeping giant, it’s about time we wake up to that too.
Daniel Lloyd says it is hard to find definitive statistics on ice usage in Alice Springs. (Supplied: NSW Police)
The most recent report from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program shows methamphetamine use is on the rise in the Northern Territory, with tests conducted in December finding Darwin had the highest average ice consumption increase of any capital city.
However, drug use trends for regional centres such as Alice Springs are not measured in the same way, which is a source of ongoing frustration for Mr Lloyd.
“Unfortunately, hard statistics are something that are not kept in our professional community as we have tried in vain to glean this information ourselves,” he said.
Mr Lloyd said alcohol still remains the main concern in the region, but the ice problem is worsening since the mobile outreach service opened in 2017.
“It is a lot bigger problem than I realised [and] it’s affecting a lot more social economic backgrounds than I realised,” Mr Lloyd said.
“There’s a seedy underbelly in this town,” said Daniel Lloyd, one of the managers of the Methamphetamine Outreach Program in Alice Springs. (ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin)
He has treated children as young as 14 using ice in Alice Springs.
“[There was a ] child injecting, that’s very concerning,” Mr Lloyd.
“The oldest we’ve dealt with is around 60 years of age.
Daniel Lloyd, one of the two managers of the Methamphetamine Outreach Program speaks of the underbelly ice addiction in Alice Springs.
Mr Lloyd knows the dangers of ice intimately given he was an addict for four years.
“You just want the best for your clients because you’ve been there and you know how they’re feeling.
“It is challenging because it keeps you on the straight and narrow because I’m a role model to these other people. They’ve healed me as much as I have tried to heal myself.”
From his experience, Mr Lloyd said ice effects individuals differently.
“It’s putting fake happiness in your brain and taking the real happiness chemicals out and then all of a sudden eight hours later, you’ve got neither.
“Hence the depression, the crash and the strange thoughts.”
The outreach program, which Mr Lloyd manages with fellow case worker and former addict, Tai Tipene, was established as a mobile facility for the 50 or more clients that utilise the rehabilitation service.
“[It is] for people who can’t get into rehab for certain reasons.
“Where they have kids, mortgage or work commitments, we bring that kind of rehab program and structure and case management to them.
“Basically we are a one-stop-shop for anything methamphetamine or ice-related.”
Healing through words
Irena Kobald cradles her third son, who has struggled with addiction as a teenager and adult. (Supplied: Irena Kobald)
Alice Springs mother, Irena Kobald, has put her and her son’s experience with ice addiction into a picture book which she hopes will help other families cope with the trauma of watching the devasting effect of drugs.
Ms Kobald is an award-winning children’s book author, a mother to four children and a teacher.
Her new picture book, The Dream Peddler, with illustrations by Christopher Nielsen, is due to be released in October 2018 and provided a way to cope with the horror of her son’s addiction.
The narrative of the book centres around the Dream Peddler who peddles drugs and not dreams.
“It still makes me cry. It’s probably the hardest story I wrote because I remember writing it — I was bawling my eyes out.”
Ms Kobald hopes that her book could be used in facilities such as the Methamphetamine Outreach Program in Alice Springs, which is a suggestion welcomed by Mr Lloyd.
“Without a doubt. I would be happy to use it in our outreach programs.
“I’m sure our rehab facility would me more than happy to use it, as would most services around the town, such as Headspace and others.
“She’s used her negative experience and pushed [it] into a positive direction. This book is going to be an amazing resource,” Mr Lloyd said.
A mother’s perspective
Ms Kobald remembers when her son started taking drugs.
“It started off with what is most available in schools and in many places; marijuana.
“But at the end it was ice and there were times when I met with him — and while I am quite naive about all this because I have never had anything to do with it personally — it was very scary. Very scary.”
“I didn’t recognise my son. I couldn’t wait to get away from him. I knew he needed help but no matter what I tried to do,” she said.
Ms Kobald said supporting her son through his addiction and recovery required some tough love.
“I had to tell him ‘Look, there is help available. You are the one who has to do it. Nobody can do it for you and you know that we all love you. You know we all want you to get better, but you are the one who has to do it’.”
Irena Kobald has put her experiences of watching her son spiral into drug addiction into a picture book, The Dream Peddler. (ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin)
Ms Kobald said her key message in her book is that ice addiction can happen to anyone regardless of social standing or economic background, but that recovery is possible.
“It’s also about the possibility to survive and become a person again, because the interesting story here is how the character of the young man changes,” she said.
“He becomes this fox and in the end he changes back into a human. So that’s very significant and very symbolic.”