Bikie gang 'hooking rural youth on ice'
By Charlotte King, ABC Updated November 1, 2012, 11:35 am
Police in a rural Victorian town say an outlaw motorcycle gang is recruiting young people to distribute the drug ice through the nightclub scene.
Ice, also known as crystal methylamphetamine, has long been a problem in Australia's capital cities and is now causing concern in rural areas.
One of those areas is Mildura, where police say there has been a sharp increase in the drug's use.
Mildura resident Daniella, 20, has recently recovered from an 18-month ice habit but says most of her friends remain hooked.
"I never even knew one person who did it until 2010, and then all of sudden it was just like this big group of people that started doing it, and now 95 per cent of young kids that I know do it," she told AM.
"[The] majority of them have stopped working and don't go to school anymore."
Daniella says the problem is tied to an outlaw motorcycle gang which opened a chapter in town.
She says the gang recruits young locals to distribute drug samples through the nightclub scene.
"They're the younger boys that the older men of the chapter hire to sort of do that work for [them] - [they] will go out and promote the drug," she said.
The region's police chief, Simon Clemence, says that reflects information gathered by officers.
"We have some fairly specific information that an outlaw motorcycle group, who I can't name at this point in time, is working within the Mildura community to try and get young people hooked on the drug ice," he said.
"It's been given away by a group of people to try and get these young Mildurans hooked on it.
"They usually target people that are relatively low income.
"Once they're hooked they obviously start charging them for it.
"They run up a drug debt and once they have a drug debt then they are obligated and then they turn them into dealers.
"It locks in a financial base for them."
Mental health risks
Darren Cutts, a nurse at a youth-specific drug rehabilitation unit in Ballarat, says Mildura is not the only rural Victorian town affected by ice.
"It has been around for a long time, but particularly we've found the numbers, particularly in the last six months have really exploded," he said.
"We're a state-wide service, so whether it's Mildura, Echuca, Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong, all along the Murray, we are seeing a significant rise in methamphetamine or ice use."
He says rehab services, which traditionally target alcohol and cannabis use in rural parts of the state, need to catch up with the ice trend.
"It's basically infiltrating all levels of society at the moment, and if it's not controlled very, very soon we're going to be seeing a generation or a lot of young people developing some significant mental health issues," he said.
"Particularly paranoia, anxiety and there is a higher risk, particularly in a high dose and frequent use, for clients to develop acute psychotic episodes.
"So when they start hearing voices, they may act out, violent thoughts, so it can be quite a highly volatile, dangerous drug."