Ice is a serious community issue

ARARAT - More than 200 concerned members of the community attended a forum at the Ararat Performing Arts Centre on Wednesday night to receive information on a growing issue affecting the region's youth - meth amphetamine or as it's more commonly referred to as, Ice.

Those attending were told of warning signs, risks and behaviours that users of the 'horror drug' may display, and also provided with information on various support services available in the Ararat, Northern Grampians and Pyrenees Shires.

A large group of community organisations helped run the meeting, including the Grampians Pyrenees Primary Care Partnership, Grampians Community Health and Victoria Police.

Senior Sergeant Damian Ferrari, Station Commander Ararat Police Station said Ice use has definite links to other crimes in and around the Ararat community such as family violence, assaults, burglary, thefts and road accidents and trauma.

Sen Sgt Ferrari said the problem was more than just a criminal matter, it is also a serious health issue.

"Something has never been so relevant and obvious to me in my role as policing and that is that it's a community issue and the only way that we can tackle this properly is if we band together as a community and address the issues together, because it is too big or too complicated for one group to deal with on their own," he said.

"All illegal drugs are concerning to me, but Ice is particularly concerning for a number of reasons.

"It is an extremely addictive drug and people get hooked very quickly and it has immediate and lasting health effects.

"It is also a very volatile sort of drug, so often users will become irrational and violent very rapidly. That is concerning for us as police, it is concerning for people in the community and it is also concerning for the health providers because they see this first hand and have to deal with it."

In the first three months of 2014 eight people started treatment for amphetamine use with Grampians Community Health (GCH) across the Ararat Rural City, Northern Grampians and Pyrenees Shires, including five in March.

In data released by the GCH between September 2012 and March 2014, the highest recorded number of users starting treatment peaked at eight in December 2012, with the majority of clients aged between 21-25.

Speaking at the forum on Wednesday, Ararat GP Dr Mark Deary said Ice works as a stimulant and some of the symptoms include agitation, dilated pupils, fast breathing, high heart rate, sweating, not sleeping and a feeling of euphoria.

Dr Deary said the drug has certainly had a devastating impact in communities around the state including here in Ararat.

"My general feeling that I get from people in the community is that this is a growing concern and more and more of teenagers and young adults are gaining access and using Ice," he said.

"I think it is all of our responsibility to do something about it. That is the 'take home message', if you see something, are concerned about something, do something."

Organisers of the forum were happy with the response from the Ararat and surrounding communities, with a strong representation of youth in the audience, along with an older demographic.

While the forum was as much about education and trying to prevent the problem before it occurs, Sen Sgt Ferrari assured those attending that police in the area are doing their absolute best to stamp out the Ice supply across the Wimmera.

He said one of the issues is the small crystal like substance is hard to detect because users only need a very small amount to have an effect.

"As big as a match head can give a person an effect, so that makes trying to find that very difficult for us," Sen Sgt Ferrari said.

"It may be being manufactured in local areas, but predominately it is probably being brought in from the larger towns and perhaps even Melbourne.

"You have to keep in mind that the majority of this Ice is manufactured in laboratories that are absolutely filthy, for want of a better word, so if we come across one of those laboratories as police we have to take extreme precaution to protect ourselves against any disease or infection.

"I'm sure if any users saw those laboratories they would be shocked themselves."

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