Counsellor visiting Batemans Bay: Drug addicts on rough road

HARD ROAD: Drugs counsellor Brian Francis says the psychological impact of ice use should not be underestimated in treatment programs.

HARD ROAD: Drugs counsellor Brian Francis says the psychological impact of ice use should not be underestimated in treatment programs.

A drugs counsellor has spoken candidly about the rough roads addicts and their families face.

Former St Vincent’s Hospital methamphetamine program director Brian Francis visited Batemans Bay on Monday, with the Times Are Changing health road show.

“When you have a loved one who is affected by a substance that affects perception, the ability to engage, insight - all those things that make us connect with people – it is really disconcerting,” Mr Francis said.

“We know the majority of people who use substances do not continue to use, but for some it is very problematic.”

He said, even for episodic users the periods between use were “fraught”.

“People have told us of the come-down period,” Mr Francis said.

“They fall into depression, anxiety.

 “Their inner resources are not there.

"They function with a level of depression and negative self-image.”

Treating the physical effects of addiction, without understanding the psychological black hole people faced, was futile, he said.

“It is very much about cravings and distorted thoughts,” Mr Francis said.

“It affects the dopamine receptors in the brain.

“You are not getting the normal endorphins going to the brain, saying ‘it will be okay’.

“When those messages are distorted, your beliefs are distorted. 

“Your belief become attached to: ‘I am hopeless, I am not worth anything’.”

Aggravating those effects were the physical depletion of not sleeping or eating and other pressures.

Mr Francis said ice was more addictive than other stimulants.

“It is a much bigger bang for your buck; it crosses the blood-brain barrier extremely well; you get a high impact and high rush of endorphins,” he said.

“Your brain gets attached to having this flush of endorphins and does not want to let go. 

“People become attached very quickly to the idea that ‘I am powerful, strong, better’. You lose negative perceptions of self, until you are coming down.

“You get enjoyment for a short period, but it transfers into anxiety and dissatisfaction, which can lead to aggression and violence.

"It is an easy transfer and you don’t notice the markers. 

“That is the real danger.

"The most vital organ it affects is the brain.

"You think you are okay and you can find your way out easily, but you can't, because your brain is affected by meth use.

"At worst, your brain tells you, that your closest allies are not helping.

"That is the hardest thing, because they are.

"Most of the families I speak to love, care and support."

Related content: Indigenous ice problem growing

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