Family impact of drug addiction

Synthetic cannabis. Photo: ADF

By Margaret Maccoll

As they watch their 40-year-old son waste his life away on drug addiction a Noosa couple are at their wit’s end trying to find rehabilitation to help him kick his habit, return to work and support his young family. And they are not alone in their search for answers with police reporting drug abuse on the increase and calls from anguished parents commonplace.

In their desperation the parents, who don’t want to be named, have contacted police, politicians, multiple health services and veteran’s affairs in order to assist the returned serviceman.

“He’s got to the point where he doesn’t care anymore,“ his mother said.

His father said after serving time in East Timor he “never came back the same boy“. “That scarred him for life.“ Seventy-five per cent of his platoon left the army on their return and two died by suicide, he said.

Drugs and alcohol have become his sanctuary ever since. His father said the defence force taught him he was “10 foot tall and bulletproof“ and while he recognised he had a problem and wanted to fix it, telling his parents, “what am I going to do, I’m going nowhere,“ the drugs are easy to come by and a quick escape.

A phone call and $130 paid by credit card and an ordered bag of synthetic marijuana is delivered next day in the mail, described on its packaging as herbal tea.

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) Synthetic cannabis is a New Psychoactive Substance (NPS) originally designed to mimic or produce similar effects to cannabis and has been sold online since 2004. These powdered chemicals are mixed with solvents and added to herbs and sold in colourful, branded packets. The chemicals usually vary from batch to batch as manufacturers try to stay ahead of the law, so different packets can produce different effects.ADF says there is no safe level of drug and harmful effects reported include fast and irregular heartbeat, racing thoughts, agitation, anxiety and paranoia, psychosis, aggressive and violent behaviour, chest pain, vomiting, acute kidney injury, seizures, stroke and death.

The man’s father said there was no way of knowing what toxic cocktail was contained in the drugs his son smoked but it regularly left him shaking, unable to speak, his feet swell up and he has no memory of the episode the next day.

His parents and friends have called ambulances to take him to hospital on more than one occasion.

The man spent three weeks in Greenslopes Hospital mental health unit recently, completing a number of courses on PTSD, anger management and returning to life after the defence forces.

But he returned to alcohol and drugs on his release.

“He can see it’s a problem. He can’t get off it,“ his mother said.

His father said before COVID19 their son was employed and working hard.

“When he’s not on the s**t he’s switched on,“ he said.

But the pandemic shut down his work and sitting idle “he overthinks things“ and turns to drink and drugs.

The parents have tried all avenues to access help but just find themselves bogged down in paperwork and hitting brick walls.

“He’s no angel. We haven’t got our heads in the sand,“ his father said. “But we want help.“