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It’s exactly a few minutes past 4:00 pm in Burnie, Tasmania’s North West. A darkish sedan pulls over to a small group of people gathered by some shops.
The rear window is down as money is exchanged for portions of the drug ice. “It’s like the ice-cream truck for druggies,” one of them says.
Data reports show that the percentage of Tasmanian drug addicts taking ice over a less concentrated form of methamphetamine has radically and dramatically risen, with investigation reports raising alarm on technology which is making drugs available to users than ever before.
Most of the individuals in the coverage have been changed for privacy reasons,
Maria walks sluggishly along the suburban street in Burnie while chatting on her cell phone. She knocks on a door of a stripped pale painted house and walks in. Minutes later she walks out with hundreds of dollars in cash money bills.
She has been a user and a dealer of several drugs for almost a decade. She sells what customers want and overwhelmingly, the drug at this moment is ice.
The activities she does are a mix of face to face contact with some of the customers she thinks she can trust and communication through encrypted massager apps such as Wickr for new and suspicions customers.
“People have always been using drugs, and I am sure that if I don’t do it someone else somewhere will. Most people I deal with are in pain and have a lot of problems. These drugs bring them an escape…”
On the question of where she gets her supply from, Maria says that giving out such information would put her in danger. But she admitted that one of the bikie gang in Tasmania was a key factor in the dealings.
“We get our supplies all over, but most especially up here it’s from the mainland,” she continued.
It is clear that drug activities at the port facilities in Burnie have been on the rise in recent years. However, key entry points for controlled substances such as Burnie and Devonport have been suspended.
34-year-old Mark, a father of four, is in severe pain. He has not seen his children for six years now. He started using drugs at the age of 14 to deal with personal emotional trauma and what he referred to as a difficult childhood. However, he is optimistic and determined to turn his life around after he lost his teeth to the ravages of ice and after discovering the body of one of his friends who had died overdosing in his home.
“It was on a Monday that he was supposed to leave, I woke up only to find him dead on the couch. I don’t want to die,” he says, “I want to live, I want to see my children again.”
Sally, yet another victim, was physically and sexually abused by a close member of her family in her teenage years. Substance and drug abuse followed. “I hope by sharing my story we can demonstrate and show people from all dimensions of life that we can actually fall into this trap,” she says. “Drugs are evil, but addiction is human. Care and understanding save lives … rehabilitation is what saved my own life.”
“Predominantly ice is being supplied by mainland dealers, but in the mail we are detecting things also coming from overseas,” Detective Inspector Colins Riley, the head of Tasmania’s South Drug Investigation Service said. “There are a lot of pharmaceutical grade products being shipped from China. Over 70 percent of the methamphetamine shipped into Australia, and over the past five years all originated from China. It is a pharmaceutical industry problem that is huge.”
According to inspector Riley, the increased number of outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) is a major concern in Tasmania. “There is no question about it, the OMCGs are on the inside of the dark web, and they are either supplying or receiving,” he said.
The northern bikie gang claims to only meeting the demands of the people and that technology is playing a major role for drug dealings within the world of organized crime. “Of course we use things that cannot be traced, it’s common business sense. It’s better to have an organized crime base than the unorganized one which is sloppy and deadly,” he concluded.
The Tasmanian Drug Trend annual report showed that the proportion of drug users using ice as their primary drug of choice have increased rapidly with 88 percent now using the crystal form of ice. The proportion of addicts for whom methamphetamine was their drug chose increased from 18 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2017.
Sarah Charlton, the chief executive officer at Holyoake, a counseling service center for those affected by drug addiction notes that the rate at which ice is being preferred is worrying. “Ice is now prolific, and we have heard from our clients that one can have it delivered to the doorsteps a few hours after placing an order on the dark web,” Ms. Charlton said. “We have also encountered the use of a hardcore crystal form of the drug. This is what we would call a crisis.”
Gerhard Willemse, a clinical service manager of the Bridge program at the Salvation Army says that addicts are people too and should not be discriminated in any way as we are all venerable at different times. “100 percent of the 79 addicts who have accessed the bridge program services in the past two years have shown positive recovery results after abstaining from the drugs for over six months,” says Willemse.