Stigma, aggression and fear: ‘Ice Wars’ a lost opportunity

At AOD Media Watch we had several AOD experts, including Associate Professor Nicole Lee and Gino Vumbaca & Tony Trimingham, provide commentary on the various issues regarding the ABC series Ice Wars. But what do people who have lived experience with methamphetamine think about the series? Here is a piece from Jay Morris, who has recovered from methamphetamine dependence.

Believe it or not ice is affecting all of our communities. For me, as a recovered user I believe the biggest impact to my day-to-day life is stigma, aggression and fear. The ABC formulated a strong fear based “campaign” and smothered it in emotional music, frightening scenes and struggling police officers just trying to do their job, I have a couple of problems with this.

Firstly let’s address the role of the police in our community as told by the show Ice Wars in comparison to what I and many others have experienced.

“Culpam Poena Premit Comes” (Punishment follows closely upon crime), in other words do the crime pay the time. Believe me, I have no issue with this sentiment. Throughout the program the police were shown to be ‘fighting’ a ‘war’ on drugs and drug addicts, thus creating an overwhelming fear for people using drugs and citizens in the community. Watching this program it was easy to feel that if you EVER make one wrong move, judgement, decision or breathe you will be persecuted to the full extent of the law.

In a psychotic episode I stood at a phone box in Sydney’s Hyde Park, desperately deciding whether I throw myself in front of a bus or call the police to let them know where I was, because in my mind they were after me. The latter prevailed and my experiences with the police begun. I was told to come down to the station where I could get HELP. There wasn’t a cop like the one showcased on the ABC program there waiting for me, there was a police officer. The juxtaposition I am referring to is the police officer that sat there with me and listened to every horrible thing that had happen to me in the 12 months that had passed while I cried harder than I had ever before with his hand on my shoulder blade listening to my pleas for help.

I told him I was frightened and he assured me I wasn’t in trouble – the fact that I used drugs hurt him on a human level. He took me to the hospital, sat with me and talked to me like a human. I bet if Senior Seargent Simon Madwick were with me in that room (or the perceived identity of him) he would have been pressuring me to give up everything I knew about dealers and users alike, and that is a frightening concept, NO WONDER THESE PEOPLE ARE HIDING IN THESE TOWNS.

Unfortunately the program failed to address the issue of drug addiction as a community issue and presented us with an idea of “dob in a dealer” and we will sort it out (police). Where do we go after watching this show? Sit in our houses peering out our windows calling the police anytime anyone that is too skinny and lost a couple of teeth walk down the street, because we all know that’s what a “junky” looks like right? Wrong, we know that people in need of help are NORMAL people, they can be your mum, your brother, your neighbour, your local constable or even your doctor. Again another television program has taken an opportunity which should have brought us together as a community to form some kind of solution-based result and moved us to more confusion, stigma and fear.

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