My name is John, and I would like to talk about some of my drug using experiences and how I came to being an ice user much later in life.
First, a little background. I grew up in Melbourne and the first illicit drug I tried was fresh, black Afghani hash which I chopped up finely and drank with a liquid coffee with chicory essence. As a non-smoker I held out on adding tobacco or “spin” to the mix that most people smoked through a bong and others through rolling joints.
I moved out of home to St Kilda in the late 1970’s and loved the cheap rents, diverse population and bohemian lifestyle. Living on the dole was far more feasible than it is today with rent on our spacious flat only $30 per week, shared amongst three of us. Experimenting with drugs was a rite of passage and the sub-culture was quite small. It was something that was done socially, and cannabis was the main drug of choice, at least until the arrival of the “Christmas drought” saw an increasing availability of powders such as heroin and speed.
I was involved in a car accident whilst on a holiday “up north” that left me with square pieces of glass embedded in my left cheek, some scars and damage to my left ear. On getting home I was suffering quite a lot of pain and a friend suggested trying heroin for relief. I will never forget the first time I experienced injecting heroin. I suddenly needed to vomit but it was unlike any previous experience as I stood next to the toilet with the “Big M girl” poster smiling at me. I had found the genre of drug that worked for me!
Life as a 20 something was just full of new experiences like playing and discovering new music, going out to see live bands, reading and being introduced to new ideas, meeting women and enjoying their company and generally enjoying life.
There were some down sides to all this youthful fun and experimentation. As time went on, I began to inject heroin more often. Being sourced from the Golden Triangle the heroin was high quality and you had choice. Those who were more focused on the rush preferred “rocks” and those, like me, who preferred the “legs” went for the #4 white powder. It is important to add that the scene was relatively small and there was a lot of learning as you went along. For example, I contracted hepatitis B a couple of times before I figured out that the most likely cause was sharing injecting equipment. This was well before the existence of the Needle and Syringe Program (NSP). I managed to find a surgical supplies place in Richmond, who had an extensive array of injecting equipment, and bought a glass syringe with metal “Luer Lock” needles. I maintained my beautifully engineered equipment, boiling it after each use and never shared with anyone. That solved my getting hepatitis B problem.
After getting a job in the Public Service, I had more money to spend and started to use heroin more often. Eventually, I ended up with a dependency and to finance my habit I worked two jobs which didn’t leave me a lot of free time. Eventually, after using up all my savings, the time came when I needed to decide how best to go forward. A friend told me about methadone, so my partner and I signed up with a GP across town who you had to pay to see weekly and also do a urine specimen. The dosing pharmacy in St Kilda expected you to buy your own orange juice as well as pay a daily dispensing fee (despite the fact that the federal government provided the methadone for free). I settled into the routine of daily dosing of methadone and continued to work and life went on until I came down with extreme fatigue which after many years was finally diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I had to stop working and the only brief relief I got was from the methadone.
In 2004 my long-term relationship ended, and I moved to Canberra on the “change is as good as a holiday” theory. I bumped into an old friend who had just separated from her husband, and it was if the stars had aligned. Being on DSP I could not afford to score very often but things slowly improved health wise. With my partners encouragement I went for and managed to get a part time job that allowed me to put something back into helping illicit drug users deal with the stigma and discrimination that come along with prohibition.
For many years, I was content with being on methadone and eventually didn’t bother to spend money on heroin as it was not good value for money. When you are looking in the mirror to see if your pupils are ‘pinned’ you know you have not got good quality. It got to the point where we gave up even thinking about scoring. Then a strange set of circumstances led to coming into contact with crystal methamphetamine aka ‘ice’ and this led to an entirely new experience. We took to smoking ice like a duck to water.
The dopamine rush one experiences taking ice cannot be replicated any other way and initially it was a lot of fun. The ability to do things for long periods of time, the capacity to get tasks done or just while away the hours. It did cross my mind many times how strange it was that so many committed opioid users were taking to a drug like ice? Like any drug in a black-market quality varied enormously. Ice has a significant impact on your libido and capacity to stay awake for long hours but eventually the negatives began to overwhelm me. I suffered a seizure that saw me taken by ambulance to hospital which was a scary experience. I had an MRI to make sure that I had not suffered any brain damage.
There are some harm reduction tips that I would recommend:
-take breaks using ice whether injecting, smoking, snorting or rectally.
-cut back on alcohol consumption
-practice safe sex including sex toys
-use new equipment every time if injecting
Eventually the downsides of using ice reached a point where I decided to simply stop using. My partner wanted to continue so that became a significant point of our growing apart. Since stopping smoking ice I have had a struggle with getting my health back together, which I partly attribute to over-doing using ice at an older age. I have seen a couple of friends really go downhill from continuing to use ice for long periods. Even people with really strong minds have lost the plot after continuing using ice for too long. I do think it is a drug to have a healthy respect for and be cautious with. I still cannot say for sure what so attracted me to ice having not been an amphetamine using person in the past but I am not alone!