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Brisbane priest shares anguish of families with ice addicts

Family conflict can drive a wedge between parents

Family conflict: “It can drive a wedge between parents because of how they hope to address the problem and help their child break the addiction – some favour a direct approach, others a more subtle one.”

THE drug ice has taken such a grip in Queensland that government and care agencies are swamped by demand for crisis intervention, treatment and support for the families of users including children, and the effects are being felt in parishes.

A Queensland Government report has revealed one in every three children found to be in need of protection in 2016 had a parent who used methamphetamines, most commonly the highly addictive and easy-to-obtain crystal meth, ice.

About 60 per cent of those 749 children suffered neglect, about a third were subjected to emotional harm, and 11 per cent experienced physical harm.

“One mother said to me – it’s stronger than a mother’s love,” said Fr Peter Dillon, until recently dean of Brisbane archdiocese’s South Country deanery, including Ipswich, and recently appointed to Surfers Paradise parish.

The Gold Coast including Beenleigh, Ipswich and Brisbane North to Caloundra are identified as “ice corridors” in the government report, collectively being responsible for 40 per cent of all cases in the state.

As ice use spreads, filling a vacuum of unemployment and boredom, Fr Dillon said the drug was also tearing apart working and middle-class families, affecting people from all walks of life.

He said the anguish of parents and families of ice addicts was relentless.

“They’re constantly living with the thought that this person is going to end up in hospital, in jail, or in a coffin.

“It is not a designer drug. This is the suburban drug that is cheap and easy to get hold of. It has permeated every area of society.”

For about $40, a hit of ice can last over half a day.

Users describe the effects as “totally euphoric” and “feeling like superman” even though users can become paranoid, aggressive and even psychotic.

Queensland Police Comissioner Ian Stewart has publicly drawn the link between ice use and an increase in domestic violence callouts by police.

It is now the most commonly used drug among those entering prison, while ice-related hospital admissions in Queensland have increased by 20 times in the past six years.

On the Gold Coast, the St Vincent de Paul Society receives between 100 and 150 calls a day and, according to the society’s South Coast diocesan council executive officer Shane Klintworth, “a lot of those people are affected by ice or drug and/or alcohol addiction”.

“Rosies – Friends on the Street is gravely concerned by the increasing prevalence of drug-affected persons on the streets as noted across all of our eleven branches,” Rosies general manager Andrew O’Brien said.

“Our statistics indicate a growing number of patrons, including children, seeking friendship and community provided by Rosies.”

Other “ice corridors” identified in the government report were Rockhampton to Aitkenvale, including Townsville and Emerald, Gympie, Maryborough and Bundaberg; and Springfield to Mount Gravatt, including Browns Plains.

One care worker supporting families of ice addicts told The Catholic Leader the scale of the problem as “immense, complex and growing” to the point that agencies had neither the funding nor resources to deal with the growing ice scourge and its treatment of addicts.

Fr Dillon said there was a need for family networks and providing support for parents and siblings of ice users, as they shouldered the burden as primary carers supporting ice addicts.

“And it can drive a wedge between parents because of how they hope to address the problem and help their child break the addiction – some favour a direct approach, others a more subtle one.”

Queensland’s Child Safety Minister Shannon Fentiman said the latest quarterly child protection data unveiled at the state’s first ice summit held in Rockhampton on April 27 had helped set up strategies to combat the problem.

Ms Fentiman said 60 per cent of children who had a parent using ice were aged under five.

“It’s especially concerning to me that so many children whose parents were using ice were so young,” she said.

“The study also showed us that where parents were using ice, they were also more likely to have a criminal history (seventy-eight per cent), a diagnosed mental illness (seventy-three per cent), they were more likely to have experienced domestic and family violence in the past year (sixty-eight per cent) and more likely to be homeless (nineteen per cent).”

Ms Fentiman said parents in families identified to be having problems with ice use, but who wanted to keep their children at home, would be forced to undergo mandatory drug testing.

“We have also announced for the first time we will have drug and alcohol nurses embedded in our family support services,” she said.

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