The well-mannered, former IT-consultant, Jarrod shifts in his seat, seconds before he raises his voice to speak. “I’m a former ice addict”, the 36-year-old proclaims. “I’ve been two and a half years clean.”
These are not words you expect uttered from the calm man sitting across from you in the room. After all, Jarrod appears to be the antithesis of those angry, skin-picking actors, throwing chairs across hospital emergency rooms in the government’s anti-ice television ads.
“I have good parents – they are still together and two great siblings. I went to a private school, am well-educated and a professional…But I know people from all walks of life who are ice addicts. I also know people from all walks of life who aren’t ice addicts.”
According to a new study, based on a survey of 1,000 Australian adults by Maidstone Consulting, almost seven per cent of Australians have ‘trialled’ crystal meth (ice) and amphetamines. That means they’ve dabbled in the drug for up to two months. In comparison, the research - commissioned by The Cabin - shows that only 2.5 per cent of the population ends up as an ice or amphetamines user.
“Ice, for me, just ticked all the boxes,” Jarrod explains. “For the people who have a tendency to be addicted, they will find ‘that thing’ that ticks the boxes for them and then they are done. They don’t stop.”
Jarrod had an ice addiction for around two years. Before that, he took recreational drugs – speed, cocaine and ecstasy – to party with mates on Friday and Saturday nights. He also had a prescription medication addiction in his 20s, which he managed to shake off without help.
“But my addiction with ice started when I was introduced to it by someone at work when I had a lot of work to do. Ice allowed me to function at a higher level for a lot longer. I’d do seven, eight days on the trot with no sleep and very little food. My brain ran a bit faster. It meant I could make more money. It was a performance booster really.”
The husband and father soon became a daily user. He started to get paranoia and his work productivity declined. The stigma attached with ice meant Jarrod couldn’t tell anyone about his addiction. So he kept it hidden from his family who thought he was living with mental illness.
“In the last three months of my addiction, I just fell. I lost my contract on the day my grandfather also passed away. It was the perfect storm. I lost my job, split up with my partner, became estranged from all of my family and lost my social network. I pretty much just lived and breathed to go and score on a daily basis.”
Jarrod also scored money by doing favours for dealers. “Imagine being able to go through life without a conscience, without guilt, without remorse, and feel nothing. Well once you get to that point of daily dependence on ice, you shut down those parts of your brain… You can function and be an unscrupulous human being and do whatever you want. And it doesn’t matter.”
“For the people who have a tendency to be addicted, they will find ‘that thing’ that ticks the boxes for them and then they are done. They don’t stop.”
Jarrod’s ice addiction all came to a head when he experienced hallucinations during his constant state of psychosis and went to the police to report that he was being followed.
“The police didn’t know if I was on substances or if I had a mental health issues but they let me leave. I went to my separated wife’s house. They had already called her. She asked me what was going on. I broke down and told her.”
He spent the night in a psychiatric ward before confessing his addiction to his whole family. One week later, he travelled to Thailand for a six-week course of rehabilitation with the private clinic, The Cabin. And, he hasn’t used illicit drugs since.
Registered psychologist and clinical director of The Cabin in Sydney, Cameron Brown says he often treats ice addicts from higher socio-economic groups, like Jarrod, who have a preceding tendency towards addiction exacerbated by mental health illness, stress, depression or financial difficulties.
“We get a wide range of demographics here, from a shift worker in heavy industries to people using it to stay awake to do professional work,” Brown says.
But, he believes, not enough addicts in need of help seek treatment because they don’t identify with the stereotype of what a user should look like.
“People don’t identify as those violent people in the TV ads so they don’t think they’ve got a problem.”
Research shows that ice users can become violent during periods of psychosis, usually brought on by frequent high-doses of ice, but not every user will be violent or be violent all the time. A Sydney-based study, conducted in 2005, also shows that around 27 per cent of methamphetamine users (including those on ice) were hostile during psychosis.
“Ice users think ‘I look like a successful person’ [before they recognise they are an addict]. The problem has to be so bad for them to feel like they need treatment…. But addicts are just sick people trying to get good, not bad people trying to get good.”
“I’ll be very open with my daughter about it. Because there are so many heredity links to addiction, it’s knowledge that she really needs to have."
Now in recovery, Jarrod is a full-time stay at home dad and a drugs and alcohol counselor in training.
“These days my life is pretty good,” says Jarrod. “But there are some significant downsides to being a recovering addict. The dating game, to say the least, is a nightmare. How do you bring up [your addiction] especially because of the stigma attached to being an ice addict? People do think of those [violent men] on the TV ads as soon as you tell them.”
The one person he will tell, he says, is his three and a half year old daughter when she grows up.
“I’ll be very open with my daughter about it. Because there are so many heredity links to addiction, it’s knowledge that she really needs to have.
“Yes she may use drugs like most people –the statistics are there. But if she needs it, I don’t want her to be too proud to ask for help if it’s getting out of hand. That’s what I will try and pass onto her.”
For more information about ice, access the online toolkit providing information and resources about crystal methamphetamine (including where and when to get help): Cracks in the Ice.
If you or someone you know is in need support, please:
- contact Lifeline on 13 11 14,
- contact the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015 or
- visit Real Drug Talk.
All six episodes of Struggle Street series two are available to view on SBS On Demand.
Struggle Street series two is produced by KEO Films with funding support from Screen Australia and Film Victoria.