New ice treatment results six times better than rehab
Australia’s first trial of an ice treatment program has seen significant reductions in methamphetamine use and relapse, placing almost half of its users into remission.
The initial results from the trial of the $1.15 million Matrix Model have found that the intensive community-based treatment yields results up to six times better than traditional programs like rehabilitation or detox.
To date, 184 ice users in South Australia have completed or are continuing the treatment program which runs for 16 to 20 weeks.
One of them is Nicole Bowering.
For 28 years, she had a drug addiction that completely took over her life.
After years of cycling week to week between an addiction to prescription pills and ice, she lost her fingers on one hand after injecting a tainted batch of methamphetamine into her arm.
After leaving the hospital, she spent the next week high on drugs, but decided it was time to seek help.
She started the Matrix program in March last year.
“Within a month of doing the program, I decided to be abstinent from all drugs, alcohol and gambling,” she said.
“I’m better than better — my whole life has changed.”
“I’ve repaired relationships, I’m working now and my passion is to be part of the solution, not the problem.”
Ms Bowering works at PsychMed as a mentor for those going through Matrix, having graduated from the program in August.
For the past 16 months, she has been clean, but it’s a daily process where she wakes up each day with the simple aim of notching up another day free from drugs.
“You don’t choose to be an addict, but you definitely can choose recovery,” she said.
Trial offering ‘new hope’ for families
Over 75 per cent of the trial participants used drugs five or less days during the program, with 48 per cent not using drugs at all.
It includes group and individual sessions three days a week, including social support, relapse prevention and family education, in conjunction with meditation or Narcotics Anonymous sessions.
Program participants undertake weekly random urine tests that are used as “points of discussion” rather than punishment.
One of the program’s leaders, Quentin Black, said it was providing new hope for drug users, families and the Australian community.
“Ice is worse than heroin with only 10 per cent of people engaging with treatment — people just give up,” he said.
“I think it means a lot for people to be able to find some sort of program where they can regain hope.
“It helps rebuild individuals’ lives and their families and our communities as well.
Matt Mabarrack, 29, is proof of Dr Black’s view that people experiencing ice addiction can come from many walks of life.
He is just six weeks into the ice treatment program, where he turned after unsuccessfully trying to stop using drugs without professional support.
For Mr Mabarrack, his wish is simply to return to the life he once had.
“I’m wanting to sort of be the person I was before I delineated I guess,” he said.
Matrix versus traditional programs
Dr Black said there was increasing recognition that traditional drug treatment programs had limited success.
Traditional approaches, such as inpatient detox, drug substitution and residential rehabilitation programs, were effective about 12 per cent of the time, he said.
Dr Black said despite this, 99 per cent of funding was directed to traditional programs, with less than 1 per cent provided to intensive structured community-based services like Matrix.
Dr Black said this was partly due to concerns programs such as Matrix were “more expensive and intensive”.
The success of the program reflects the outcomes from Matrix’s parent program in the US, which was pioneered in 1986 to help with cocaine addiction.
Since the initial 16-week pilot program was launched in Adelaide, the State Government has pledged to run a rural pilot in the Riverland, with the potential to expand to three other regional trial sites.
A program has started in Perth, with another one planned for Brisbane, while discussions are underway to roll out Matrix in the NSW central coast, the Blue Mountains, Sydney’s western suburbs, south-east Melbourne and north Queensland.
Our national problem
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows that in Australia, 6.3 per cent of people aged over 14 have used methamphetamines in their lifetime, with 1.4 per cent having used it in the past 12 months.
Of those using the highly addictive drug, 57.3 per cent use crystal meth or ice, a more pure form of methamphetamine, a significant rise from 26.7 per cent in 2007.
And the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s wastewater analysis shows Adelaide, where the Matrix trial is based, is the ice capital of Australia.
Federal Rural Health Minister Bridget McKenzie said the Coalition was investing $561 million over four years from July 1, 2016 into drug and alcohol treatment, including the $241.5 million set aside under the National Ice Action Strategy.
“The Department of Health will continue to work with Adelaide PHN [Primary Health Network] to monitor the outcomes of the trial, which is in its early stages,” she said.
“All Primary Health Networks are able to consider utilising the Matrix Model as part of the commissioning processes to address local needs and priorities.”