Practical advice for managing patients affected by ice, and a keynote address by former Greens leader Dr Bob Brown were among highlights of the 34th annual CRANAplus conference in Hobart today.
Rosemary Cadden writes:
Health professionals in remote areas need to be informed about best practices for dealing with the impacts of methamphetamine use, according to clinical psychologist Amanda Akers.
Akers, who is part of the team of psychologists used by CRANAplus Bush Support Services, is interested in supporting partners and families of ice users, and supporting individuals to achieve self-respect and develop self-care strategies.
“While the use of heroin and powder-based amphetamines is on the decline, ice use is on the increase,” she said.
“It’s readily available and it’s cheap.
“It is a nationwide issue. Seven per cent of Australians over 14 have used amphetamines at least once in their life.
“It is the fourth most common drug involved in ambulance attendances, after alcohol, benzodiazepines and non-opoid analgesics, and it is so important to know how to detect use and to deal with it.”
Akers urged remote area health professionals to ensure they were well educated about ice and in ensuring safety for users and their families.
“We see a lot of aggression out there in the community, in the hospitals and clinics, and it’s vital that we keep ourselves safe as well as the users safe, and the community safe.”
She said: “We have to know what is going on, what stage of ice use they may be at, whether they are safe, their families are safe, whether children or domestic violence is involved. Are they paranoid or moving towards a psychotic episode?”
Akers advises remote area health workers to take a holistic approach when dealing with patients using ice.
“Sometimes it is important not to get into a debate, as this can fuel the fire,” she said.
“Keep calm, and discuss the concerns they are bringing up. Take them aside, away from other clients.”
Accessing support, residential services and other services such as Chrystal Meth Anonymous is an issue in rural and remote areas, she said.
Another service that is developing around the nation is the Smart Recovery programme, and the Be Smart programme aimed at families and friends of users.
“People will present for support but don’t necessarily want to stop using,” said Akers. “People need to be ready to make changes.”
“In the meantime, health professionals need to be aware of the effects and visible signs of methamphetamine abuse – to manage situations appropriately, and to keep themselves safe.”
Akers has written a book, to be released in December, called Frozen Families, providing seven essential tips for survival when there is an ice user in the family.
She also recommended Breaking the Ice, written by Matthew Noffs, which provides information on the use of ice in Australia.
• See also this ABC report on increasing use of ice in remote and regional Aboriginal communities.
Bob Brown: get active on climate
A national strategy dealing with climate change and health is paramount, according to former Greens leader Bob Brown.
Speaking after his keynote address at the CRANAplus conference in Hobart, he said the Federal Government’s approach to climate change was short-sighted.
“Climate change isn’t going to happen, it is happening right now,” he said. “And it is going to escalate. We need to be prepared.
“The health issues are numerous. Apart from temperature rises, and we know that the heatwaves in Melbourne in recent years have cost hundreds of lives, there is the impact of the spread of new diseases, such as dengue fever and other diseases spread by mosquitoes.
“Then there are the storms, the bushfires, the cyclones – these are all health emergencies. There should be a prohibition put in place now on building within three metres of high tide.
“Predictions are sea levels will rise between one to three metres by the end of the century – and those predictions are always conservative.”
Brown said it was “culpable” that the Queensland government this week had fast-tracked the Adani Carmichael coalmine project in western Queensland.
“Globally, it would cost us two per cent of our wealth to turn climate change around, to go to renewable energies and move away from fossil fuels,” he said.
Brown remains optimistic about the future, however.
“Youngsters I run into ask me why I’m not depressed,” he said. “I say to them: ‘Don’t get depressed – get active’.”
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