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Unbelievable: Ice addiction is a reality for 13 year-old Australian kids.

Users suffer psychological and physiological side effects.

By JONATHAN GUL

Children in Canberra as young as 13-years-old are among the growing number of young people abusing the drug known as ice, according to a drug treatment service.

The Ted Noffs Foundation has warned ice is becoming more prevalent amongst young people, particularly those from a disadvantaged background.

Ronan O’Connor from the foundation said the organisation had treated young people aged between 13 and 18 for substance abuse.

“Two years ago, the presentation of ice doubled for young people, and last year it doubled again,” he said.

It comes as a report reveals the percentage of people presenting to the Salvation Army Recovery Services in Canberra with amphetamine addictions has more than doubled since 2010.

Mr O’Connor said more young people had sought treatment for ice addiction than for alcohol or cannabis abuse.

“That means that last year the primary presentation for young people coming into this program was ice, at 50 per cent,” he said.

“As a substance, the process of addiction is quick, the rate of use becomes extreme very quickly, [and] the detox period tends to be longer.”Mr O’Connor said the take up rate of ice in the community had presented huge challenges for health authorities.

“One of the things that comes with ice is injecting, and we know that with injecting, within 12 months you’ve got a 50 per cent chance of getting Hep C,” he said.

‘A week without sleeping, you go crazy’

The ABC spoke to two young people who have undergone treatment at Noffs for their addiction.

Sally first tried ice when she was 15, and within months she was addicted.

Alex was forced into a life of crime as a 16-year-old to feed his habit. (ABC News)

“There wasn’t anyone going around telling us it was bad, and it just got out of control really quickly,” she said.

“I was spending $500 a week, which was my whole pay, every week.”

She suffered severe psychological and physical problems as a result of her drug use.

“You’re going days, sometimes weeks without sleeping. I mean, a week without sleeping, you go crazy, you really do,” she said.

Alex, 16, has been at Noffs for the past few weeks, receiving treatment for ice addiction.

“Now I’ve got permanent effects. I hear things all the time, see people who aren’t there, I just started to lose my mind,” he said.

“It comes to the point where every night I was either breaking into houses or robbing people just so I could get my own hit.”

Despite their addictions, both Alex and Sally were confident of bright futures in the workforce.

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They urged other young people to avoid the drug, and to seek help if they were struggling with addiction.

‘Heroin was the ice of its day, 15 or 20 years ago’

On Monday a report revealed the percentage of people accessing the Salvation Army Recovery Services with amphetamine issues, including ice users, had more than doubled since 2010. The figure was up from 11 per cent of people using the service in 2010, to 28 per cent in 2014 as at November 17.

Over the same period, the percentage of people using the service with alcohol problems decreased from 66 per cent to 50 per cent.

Clinical Director of the Salvation Army’s Recovery Services Gerard Byrne said the increase in ice users requiring help from the service was alarming.

“We’ve done such a good job educating people about alcohol. That is great. However, there is this clear shift towards very dangerous drugs that are highly addictive,” he said.

Accommodation at the Ted Noffs Foundation’s ten-bed treatment facility in Canberra. (ABC News)

Matt Noffs, the chief executive of the Noffs Foundation, has called on health authorities to work on treatments for ice users, similar to those developed for heroin addicts in the 1990s.

“Heroin was the ice of its day, 15 or 20 years ago,” he said.

The Ted Noffs Foundation has a ten bed treatment facility in Canberra’s north.

“What we’ve actually seen since then is a huge decrease in not only heroin use, but overdoses and deaths.”

Mr Noffs called on the New South Wales Government to hold a drugs summit, to discuss how to deal with ice.

“The kind of interventions that we should be using are akin to the ones that we used for heroin 15 years ago,” he said.

“For heroin it was methadone programs, it was needle exchange, and it was injecting centres. There’s no reason you couldn’t use similar treatments for ice.”

The foundation also called for health authorities to address the abuse of alcohol by young people.

Mr O’Connor warned that most substance abuse problems begin with alcohol addiction.

“That’s the first introduction for young people to a mind altering substance. It’s also the substance they see most readily,” Mr O’Connor said.

The Ted Noffs Foundation has been asked to consider lowering the age it offers treatment to young people from 13 to 11.

This post originally appeared on ABC News and has been republished with permission.

You may also be interested in reading: This is the TV show that should be screened in every school in Australia.

If you or your family need help, contact Family Drug Support Australia on 1300 368 186.

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