A KEY to reducing the risk of children growing into drug addicts is to give them a stable family, good schooling and strong links with the community.
That was a clear message from this week’s Warrnambool hearing of a special parliamentary committee inquiry into the supply and use of methamphetamines, particularly ice in Victoria.
Health agency workers and Aboriginal leaders told of increasing fears and concern within communities about how ice was affecting teenagers and young adults.
Brophy Youth and Family Services homelessness team leader Peter Flanagan described it as a gateway drug.
“The lack of protective factors is a huge thing,” he told the hearing on Monday.
“Risk factors are early school leaving and family breakdowns.
“Kids with strong links to school and good peers, we are very unlikely to see them in our programs. They may well be using meth recreationally.”
Brophy’s chief executive Francis Broekman also said family, schools and connection with key community personnel were important protective factors.
“Where there’s a traumatic background there’s a tendency to use drugs,” he said.
“In families they pick it up early.
“Ice is highly addictive. It has intense highs, is cheap and easily obtainable. First trial is free from the pushers.”
Headspace diagnosis clinician Mark Powell told the hearing there was anecdotal evidence of a link between broken families and substance abuse.
He said treatment and intervention programs for Aborigines grappling with ice problems must look at family and kinship.
Regional Aboriginal program manager Allan Miller said ice addiction was causing unprecedented incidents of family unit breakdown.
Several speakers suggested locally-based “healing centres” would provide a strong support network to help break the habit.