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Gympie doctor leads national campaign against ice

DRUG DANGER: Gympie Hospital’s Dr Stephen Priestley is fronting a Federal campaign against the lethal drug, ice.
DRUG DANGER: Gympie Hospital’s Dr Stephen Priestley is fronting a Federal campaign against the lethal drug, ice.

A GYMPIE doctor's disaster story of the region's ice epidemic forms the front line of Tony Abbott's national campaign against "the most dangerous illegal drug we have ever seen".

Worryingly, he bases his concern on what he sees during regular shifts at the Gympie Hospital Emergency Department.

Stephen Priestley is regional director of emergency medicine for Gympie's Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service.

Amphetamine use is not growing in Australia, he says, but the disastrous side effects for individuals, families and the community are immensely worse with the drug's availability in the high-potency form of ice, or crystal meth.

The  white powder drug commonly known as "speed" is nothing new in Australia and nor are the health dangers, violence and social breakdown associated with it.

But the often diluted amphetamine product, which has been bad enough, is relatively survivable, it seems.

Ice is something else again, Stephen Priestley says.

He warns the highly purified smokable form of the drug delivers a massive high-dosage brain shock, an instant Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde personality change.

He says his observations indicate the crystal form of the drug takes psychosis, irrational violence and self harm to a whole new level.

And that is what is happening in Gympie, he says.

"The effect on the brain is very sudden, with feelings of paranoia, aggression... and the potential for violence, including random violence, is much greater.

"It's not an uncommon picture - they can have incredible stamina, strength and can be completely out of touch with reality.

"The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says data shows the number of people using methamphetamine has not actually increased, but within that group, they are using more ice, the most potent form of the drug.

"There's been a shift from what was called 'speed,' the powder form amphetamine, to the much more potent form of crystals, known as ice.

"We are seeing an increase in the use of ice crystals, which are smoked and absorbed very quickly through the lungs into the blood stream.

"It is very potent and dangerous and powerfully addictive. The effect on the brain is sudden and people using it can be prone to feelings of paranoia, aggression and violence, including random violence.

"It is not uncommon for people to feel incredible stamina and strength and they can be completely out of touch with reality.

"Sometimes we need to restrain people and sedate them, but we don't know what other drugs they've taken.

"Emergency department staff do not always have time for full blood tests."

Ice facts

What is it?

Methamphetamine was first synthesised in Japan in 1919. Synthesised from ephedra plant with other chemicals including those used in drain cleaner, rust neutraliser and anti-freeze.

Uses:

No good ones apparently - high doses were given to Kamikaze pilots before suicide missions, found to result in unfocused aggression in soldiers.

Bad effects:

Inability to sleep, instant addiction, paranoia, aggression and violence, including random violence.

Topics:  drugs ice politics tony abbott

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