Preferred Name: John
John works part time in the health sector and lives with his partner. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’: he was born in Australia, as were his parents.
John first tried ice when he was in his twenties. Over the years his consumption gradually increased and he currently takes ice a couple of times a week. He’s tried several kinds of drug treatment, including counselling and psychiatric treatment, and at the time of the interview he was participating in a group therapy program aimed at people who want to change their ice consumption. John has been diagnosed with depression and is on antidepressants but finds ice more effective in alleviating his depression.
When John was in his twenties, he started taking ice with casual and regular sexual partners to enhance the experience of sex. In addition to its aphrodisiac effects, he says ice makes him feel ‘confident, clear-headed and focussed’ and improves his productivity. Over the years, his consumption has increased and he now consumes ice about twice a week, sometimes alone and sometimes with his partner.
John says he experiences many benefits of ice consumption but if he consumes too much, his thoughts become clouded and he feels paranoid. As he puts it, ‘There is a fine line I think between feeling clear headed and then feeling not so clear headed […] Sometimes you use too much and then the reverse starts to happen […] my thoughts become clouded’. At the time of the interview, he was ‘winding back’ his consumption to minimise these effects while still enjoying the benefits. He’s discussed his efforts to reduce his consumption with his partner, who supports him.
John has experienced a couple of psychotic episodes, which he believes were partly due to the amount and potency of the ice he was consuming at the time. In his early thirties, when he experienced his second psychotic episode, his partner called the Crisis Assessment and Treatment (CAT) team, a 24-hour outreach service for people in crisis experiencing mental health issues. They assessed John and admitted him to hospital, where he spent a few days. During this time, he received psychiatric treatment and drug counselling. John says he found the experience of drug counselling helpful, particularly the strategy of keeping a diary of his drug consumption, which ‘gave [him] a bit of an insight’ into his consumption. It was after being hospitalised that he decided to reduce his ice consumption.
John has been diagnosed with depression and is on antidepressant medication. However, he finds ice more effective in alleviating his depression than antidepressants and says he takes it now as his ‘primary antidepressant’. One of the challenges in reducing his consumption is doing so in a way that allows him to still experience what he sees as the antidepressant effects of ice, while minimising the harms he associates with frequent consumption.
To support his efforts to reduce his ice use, John participates in a drug therapy program. He finds the program beneficial, particularly the group discussions as they give him the opportunity to talk about his experiences, and have helped him realise he’s ‘not alone, [that] there are other people out there who are going through similar things’. He also values the program’s emphasis on harm reduction as it aligns with his goal of reducing his ice consumption, rather than stopping entirely. In the future, John hopes to ‘get a grip […] on that fine balance’ between maximising the benefits of ice and avoiding its ‘negative effects’.
After being hospitalised for psychosis, John (M, 34, works in the health sector, ice) cut down on ice. He now aims to ‘find […] that fine balance’ between enjoying ice while minimising the unpleasant effects he associates with heavy consumption.
There have been a couple of occasions where I’ve […] been in a psychosis and on one of those occasions I needed to be hospitalised for about five days. I think that […] sort of rang bells and […] made me decide that something had to happen, something had to give. So, yeah, I think since then, I’ve kind of wound back my [ice use…] I think I was using quite a lot at the time. I’m not sure how much but it was a lot. And that’s what led to me developing psychosis and feeling paranoid and all those things.
[…My experience] didn’t stop my dependence but it did make me sit back and realise that […] I’d gone too far. I’d been using too much for an extended period of time and I need to cut back and take it a bit easy […] There have been times since then where I’ve […] binged again. And there’s been times since where I’ve been paranoid and anxious but […] not to the extent that I was back then […] I’m looking just to minimise my use. Yeah, harm reduction I guess is the key for me, cutting back, bit by bit.
John says that seeing a counsellor gave him ‘insight’ into his patterns of consumption.
[I was] feeling nervous and anxious all the time. So I decided to get some help. I went to a psychiatrist who I saw fairly regularly. I think it was every three to four weeks but in between those visits I would see a drug counsellor at the same place […] One suggestion that my drug counsellor made was to keep a diary of my use and then to go back over that diary [and] do some revision at the end of the month, for instance. And just see how much [I was…] using and when […] and perhaps why [I was] using. Yeah, things like that. And that sort of gave me a bit of an insight into my own use.
For John, taking ice alongside prescribed antidepressants helps him to cope with depression.
I guess still use drugs fairly often. Like I said, I use them as an antidepressant. On a day-to-day basis, I can feel depressed, that’s not to say that I use drugs every day because I don’t, but I probably use on average twice a week, yeah […] I take an antidepressant daily and like I said, I use crystal maybe twice a week. So, you know, I can generally go a couple of days of feeling a bit low, a bit blue, but then I start to feel desperate and want to use again to make me feel better […] Generally if the drugs are good, I feel less depressed straight away. I feel good, it’s a good feeling. I feel confident.
John was involuntarily admitted to hospital when experiencing psychosis, which led him to reduce his ice consumption.
There have been a couple of occasions [when] I’ve […] been in psychosis, and one of those occasions I needed to be hospitalised for about five days […I had been taking ice quite a lot, and] I found myself being very paranoid, [thinking] that people were trying to hurt me. Yeah, and that kind of led to me freaking out and doing things that I wouldn’t normally do, I guess, and making threats that I wouldn’t normally make, and that led to my hospitalisation […] The five days that I was in hospital I was quite anxious, and very nervous and frightened. I don’t know what I was frightened of exactly, but, you know, I guess I was coming down off [ice] as well, so that didn’t help.
[…Going to hospital] didn’t stop my dependence but it did make me sit back and realise that, you know, I’d gone too far, I’d been using [ice] too much, for an extended period of time, and I need[ed] to cut back and take it a bit easy.
John attends group therapy for gay men looking to change their ice consumption. He says it makes him feel less alone.
It’s a group of people, probably about eight or nine of us, specifically gay men who are drug dependent and […] either want to minimise their use or stop all together […] So we meet each week for about six weeks [with a professional counsellor] and talk about different issues regarding the drug itself [ice] and the drug addiction […] It’s been good to be able to talk about my own experiences each week, but not only that, to be able to listen to others and realise that […] you’re not alone. There are other people out there who are going through the same, similar, things. [It’s helpful] knowing that I’m not the only one feeling this way, or having these feelings or experiences, there are other people out there going through the same thing.