First Nations people 'frowned upon', unable to access medical help for ice addiction

Laurence Riley and Trent Adams
Image: Laurence Riley and Trent Adams speak at the forum hosted by the NACCHO
(ABC News: Ruby Cornish)

Ruby Cornish ABC 15 October 2015

Two Indigenous Australians who suffered through ice addictions have told a Parliament House forum they did not get any professional help on their journey to sobriety.

The former methylamphetamine addicts spoke at the event, hosted by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

Laurence Riley, a Nunga man from southern South Australia, said his addiction came as the result of searching for an escape from depression at work.

He said ice had been "readily available" to him in Perth.

"My light in my bedroom shone through the hours of the night, hidden by a towel placed at the bottom of my door so nobody could see I was on the gear," he said.

"I had to go through all hell to hide my addiction from work, my friends and family.

"I didn't need the rest of my house, just my room. I never left it. Just to get more ice or to get a feed."

I was frowned upon and lectured by a doctor and other medical staff, who refused to provide me with any medication to help me.
Laurence Riley

Fellow former addict, Toowoomba man Trent Adams, said he regularly smoked ice with his siblings as part of drug-fuelled benders that would start on a Wednesday and end on a Sunday night.

He had made a pact with them to "get clean", but before they managed to, his younger brother died in a car accident the day after a long stretch of partying.

"Drugs contributed to his death, and I'm the one that gave them to him," Mr Adams said.

"That's a lot of guilt that I've been carrying for a long time."

Lack of treatment services means addicts must get clean alone

Mr Adams said he was not made aware of any services available to him.

Mr Riley said he tried to access treatment, but was not able to get help.

"I was frowned upon and lectured by a doctor and other medical staff, who refused to provide me with any medication to help me through the withdrawals and physical torment I was going through", he said.

"I wanted to put myself in a rehab centre but wasn't able to because the waiting list was phenomenal.

"So I did it all alone with no support from any service, family or friend.

"It was the hardest thing I've had to do in my life."

Since going sober, both Mr Riley and Mr Adams have been advocating for the improvement of treatment services, particularly for Indigenous Australians.

"Sending [addicts] to jail is not a solution," Mr Riley said.

He works as a director on the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia.

"We need to provide the services that weren't there for me when I needed help, including adequately resourcing the services I went to that could not help me," Mr Riley said.

Despite their experiences, both men are optimistic about the future.

"We can do this," were Mr Riley's concluding words.

"It may take a while, but we can get our mob back."