health

"Rotted teeth. Scabby face. What my ice addiction was really like."

The Cabin
Thanks to our brand partner, The Cabin

Sleepless nights and scabbed, ravaged skin: this is what ice addiction really looks like.

It started as an easy way to avoid the pain of a relationship breakdown — but soon escalated to a full-blown habit that left Rachel* jobless, sleepless and forking out $500 a day.

Rachel was having relationship problems when she began dabbling in methamphetamines, also known as crystal meth or ice, three years ago. She was in a toxic relationship, and seeking an escape from the constant fights.

“[At first] I’d just do it and my worries would go away,” 26-year-old Rachel told Mamamia. “Then I’d just do it to have fun because I had already crossed that line.”

Perth mine worker Rachel was first given the drug by a colleague, and found it was commonly used in her circle of well-paid colleagues — whose week-on, week-off work structure gave them plenty of time to use.

“I quickly got to know a lot of people that were on it,” she said. “Having lots of money just made it a lot more prevalent. It’s just everywhere.”

beating ice addiction
“I quickly got to know a lot of people that were on it,” she said. “Having lots of money just made it a lot more prevalent. It’s just everywhere.” Image via iStock.

Ice’s effect on Rachel’s work performance was immediate. After keeping her awake for days, the drug sometimes caused Rachel to crash out at random hours. She began sleeping at work, as well as lashing out at those around her.

“I was just really short-tempered,” she recalls. “People had to walk on eggshells around me. I was in a real rush to get out because I wanted to keep using.”

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Eventually, her growing addiction cost her the job – and the drug’s frightening physical effects soon transformed her previously wholesome appearance, too.

“You don’t eat at all,” she says of life on ice, adding that her teeth became chipped and weak. “At one point my ribs were sticking out, I was so skinny. I just looked sick. I had scabs on my face and scabs on my back from picking at it and stuff.”

At this stage, Rachel estimates her habit was costing her $500 a day, paid for through loans from her parents that were intended to cover utilities bills.

Just when Rachel felt her life couldn’t shatter further, she hit absolute “rock bottom”: a three-day bender leaving her feeling she “didn’t care about anything anymore”. It was then that she did something she swore she’d never do: she allowed herself to be injected with ice not once, but four times.

Terrified by the way the addiction had taken over her life, an anxious Rachel finally opened up to her parents.

“My dad was in denial but my mum knew,” Rachel says. “She didn’t know to what extent… she said she’d been waiting every day for a phone call saying I was dead.”

Her dad started looking for a rehabilitation clinic, but most of the ones he contacted in Australia had waiting lists. Others used programs involving substitute medications.

beating ice addiction
“She allowed herself to be injected with ice not once, but four times.” Image via iStock.
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Eventually, he located a clinic in Thailand called The Cabin with experience of treating Australian patients – and that’s where Rachel ultimately sought treatment.

According to The Cabin’s programme director Alastair Mordey, “Methamphetamine addiction in general is treated by stabilising clients over the first week by providing a restful, quiet and non-stimulating environment. Plenty of sleep and regular eating patterns are sufficient for most people [especially younger clients] to regain a level of functioning. Some people may require medications such as antidepressants over the short term. Thereafter, the normal types of psychological counselling support are provided for one to three months as would be the case with any other addiction,” he says.

Six months after returning from the stay, she admits that return to normal life has been challenging. In these early days of recovery, everywhere Rachel turns she sees places she has used — and the haunting memories flood back.

But the strong young woman now sees a positive way forward. “It’s just a matter of making new memories,” she insists.

“The most important thing I have to remember is that if I pick up ice again, it’s going to go straight back to that [dangerous addiction] again. It won’t be like when I started, it will go straight to where it left off and it’s going to get worse.”

Rachel now sees how senseless her ice use really was. “I feel like drugs gave me my personality, then took it away. To begin with, confidence, and it gave me [the feeling] that I could do anything and it made me funny,” she says. “But before I knew it, it completely took it all away. I wasn’t funny anymore. I had no personality.”

Rachel is now attending two counselling meetings a day and living with her parents in Western Australia. She’s sharing her story in the hope other young women will realise there is hope of recovery — and she has no doubts where she’d be now, had she not asked for help.

“I probably would have ended up in psychosis, jail, an institution or dead,” she says.

“There’s no good outcome from this. It always ends badly.”

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction please reach out to a mental health provider. 

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