Is it time to stop judging ice addicts?

Last week I wrote a piece for about the fact some Victorian ice users (like James pictured above) have to wait six months for a bed in a public or charity- funded rehab centre or fork out up to $30,000 for a spot in a private rehab centre. Ice is notoriously addictive and many families are forced to mortgage their homes or sell possessions to try get their loved ones a bed and a chance at getting clean.

I know that stories about drugs get the community fired up but what surprised me most was the disdain that many of the commenters at the end of the article showed towards the addicts.

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Working in Windsor on the Melbourne fringe, I’m no stranger to the violence and psychosis that can be associated with drug addiction. Just yesterday an aggressive man who was clearly out of it was kicking the walls of a bus shelter as I rode my bike home. It was confronting and intimidating and I pedalled faster to ensure he didn’t turn his rage towards me.

I hate that I felt uncomfortable but that doesn’t mean I hate the guy. I don’t know his life history or how he ended up in this situation – and I’ll bet that if he could wave a magic wand and free himself from the thrall of addiction, he gladly would.

Drug addiction is sad, messy and dangerous but the more help we can give these people, the better off we’ll all be. We’ll be keeping them out of jail (a huge expense to the taxpayer), we’ll feel safer on our streets and their families will be saved not only from potential financial hardship but from the heartbreak that goes hand-in-hand with ice and heroin.

Judging people for using is a waste of time and energy for everybody. I’m not suggesting we sympathise with bad behaviour but surely we can take a big picture look at the fact that yes, it wasn’t the  greatest idea to experiment with highly addictive substances, but let’s get on with helping them get clean – because that’s in all of our best interests, and it’s the decent thing to do.