WOMEN in violent relationships are turning to the drug ice to cope with or mentally escape the horror of family violence.
Methamphetamine use is a common contributing factor when used by perpetrators of family violence, but news.com.au has uncovered another shocking link between the two biggest social and health issues facing the nation.
Blocking out the pain, a means of mental escape when they’re physically trapped, and even using the drug to stay awake and keep control in a dangerous environment are among the reasons vulnerable Australian women are turning to a dangerous high.
Sydney mum Sam, a recovering ice addict, told news.com.au her dependence was at its peak when she was in a violent relationship that saw her hospitalized a number of times, leaving her permanently mentally scarred.
She started using ice at age 21, but it was a few years later when she was in a “horrible” violent relationship that things really escalated.
“I just wanted to block it all out. I’d just wipe myself out because I didn’t want to think,” the 28-year-old says.
“My life was destroyed and I didn’t want to deal with it. I’d just take drugs and everything would disappear and it wouldn’t matter.”
It wasn’t only the escapism that smoking and injecting ice offered — she had a more practical use too.
“I didn’t want to sleep, ever … because of what he might do to me … I thought I wouldn’t wake up one day and I probably would’ve been right.”
Sadly, cases like Sam’s aren’t unique. In his role as assessment and intake manager at Melbourne rehab program Dayhab, Jack Nagle says it’s common for him to see women present with ice addiction after experiencing family violence.
“It’s actually quite scary the amount of different reasons that people are giving me for taking the drug,” the former addict turned activist says.
“I would say that a lot of the women that come into the treatment centre have been involved in domestically violent relationships and at some stage their usage, as a result of that, has increased.
“I see women who have had an abusive partner and they’ve used the drug to emotionally cope with the pain.”
Family violence support services, like WRISC in Ballarat, are increasingly encountering drug use in their work with women and children affected by family violence.
“To survive in an abusive relationship, women may turn to substance use,” executive officer Libby Jewson told news.com.au.
“Once the violence has stopped substance use will often reduce.”
Although little research has been done in the area, evidence of a causal link between ice use and violence is emerging.
Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash has been working with the Prime Minister’s National Ice Taskforce told news.com.au the drug was destroying families.
“Ice is a destructive drug which destroys families and cripples communities,” she said.
“People are clearly using ice for many different reasons.”
The National Ice Task Force, chaired by former Victoria Police commissioner Ken Lay, has heard from families who have experienced violence and aggression from a loved one using ice.
Mr Lay is also working closely with Australian of the Year Rosie Batty on the Family Violence Advisory Council to “ensure both issues are given the clear focus and commitment they deserve from the highest levels of government” Ms Nash said.