Ice report reveals impact drug use has on Northern Rivers

A LACK of resources and the stigma of using the drug ice has left many people on the Northern Rivers feeling like they can't get the help they need to tackle their addiction.

The NSW government this week publicly released a 1200-page report following the 18-month Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug Ice.

Last year the inquiry heard from key witnesses in Lismore about the long lasting impacts the drug has had on residents, families, police and medical staff.

The report revealed between 20013-14 and 2016-17 the rate of ice-related hospitalisations had trebled in the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD), while in 2016-17 the rate of ice-related hospitalisations in the NNSWLHD for people aged 16 years and over was 35.1 per 100,000 population higher than the state average.

The Buttery CEO Leone Crayden told the inquiry she had seen an increase of people seeking assistance for ice use at the Bangalow facility double in four years from 12 per cent in 2014 to 24 per cent in 2018.


The NSW government this week publicly released a 1200-page report following the 18-month Special Commission of the Inquiry into the drug ice.



However, The Tweed Hospital emergency director Dr Robert Davies said he had observed the number of ice-related presentations to the hospital had peaked in 2016 and "seemed to have reduced and plateaued since that time".

The inquiry also heard the lack of detoxification facilities and safe injecting facilities and a shortage of drug clinicians within the community mental health centres in the Lismore region would need to be addressed to improve the problem.

"I think everything that we can do towards harm minimisation for this client group is an opportunity … to provide better health for (them) … the ramifications across the community into their families, into their functioning, into their ability to be kind of prosocial and partake in society is increased with every single harm minimisation program we put in place," Richmond Clarence Mental Health Service clinical director Dr Edward Wims told the inquiry last year.

But this week NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said five of the key recommendations, including additional medically supervised injecting centres, pill testing, syringe programs in jails and ending the use of drug detection dogs, had already been rejected by the government.

Mr Hazzard said the other 104 recommendations were being considered.

The report also revealed those using ice tend to have deeper rooted mental health issues, and many come from a poorer socio-economic background, and are more likely to be homeless and identify as Aboriginal.

"We're dealing with a whole lot of other complexities and it's about engaging or having services to engage and provide support, as well, if you're looking at a whole lot of child sexual assault, physical trauma, maybe a familial background with an enormous amount of violence experiences", MERIT spokesman Robert Lendrum told the inquiry.