Flagship current affairs program Four Corners covers “The Ice Age” next week:
A shocking close-up study of the new drug of choice — “ice” — and its trail of human wreckage.
Crystal methamphetamine is indeed more common that a decade ago. I’m glad someone with the respect and authority of Four Corners is taking a look. But I hope this lurid tabloid screeching is only the marketing department.
Ice is filling emergency wards with psychotic, dangerous patients, to the alarm of doctors who thought theyâ€™d seen everything. “Theyâ€™re the most out of control, violent human beings I have ever seen in my life…” says one. “It makes heroin seem like the really good old days.”
Four Corners goes to the heart of this… netherworld inhabited by hardcore ice addicts…
This tribe of junkies roams the inner city, scoring and shooting up. They stay manically high for up to a week, without food or sleep. Finally, they crash and eat, before the welfare cheque arrives and the cycle starts all over again.
There’s no doubt meth is screwing up lives. I could name names. But we’ve been here before, with other drugs, and Society As We Know It failed to crumble.
While Four Corners says “authorities appear to be ill-prepared to stop the ice wave that is sweeping the country”, isn’t this just the natural cycle of such “epidemics” (ahem! loaded language!) unfolding as usual?
If Sydney’s gay scene is our fashion leader (and they keep saying they are, so it must be true), then meth is already passÃ©. In late-night online chats, the number of “wired” men looking for sex has passed its peak. The AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) is running gay community forums on crystal use and is working on the next steps.
In other words, the communities which make up our cities, our nation, are seeing the new problem and responding. First at the local level, as individuals notice what’s going on. Then community groups start lobbying, and the issue works its way up the societal nervous system until decision-makers start making decisions.
Yes, meth use has increased. Yes, it’s a seriously addictive drug. Yes, it has serious health effects, physical and mental. It’s something which our society needs to look at.
But this can all be done without the shock-horror tabloid “moral panic” language. The people to be parade by Four Corners will be real. It will be a freak show. But this “tribe of junkies” is the far end of a spectrum.
If we base our understanding only on the extreme outcomes, we’re working on the basis of a hallucination — a paranoid fantasy. That’s not how we should run our response to an important issue.
I’ll be watching this episode with interest.
“The Ice Age” is on Four Corners this Monday 20 March at 8.30pm on ABC TV. Repeated around 11pm Wednesday 22 March, and on ABC2 digital TV at 7pm and 9.30pm Wednesday.