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"Ice" is the buzzword for crystalline methylamphetamine, "crystal meth".

"Speed" has been with us for decades, also known as "whizzer" or "go-ey" or just as "meth".  It is the same as "ice" but what is different is the level of purity.  Speed is less than 30% pure and is a yellowish powder.  Ice is nearly 100% pure and looks like tiny ice crystals, almost like salt or sugar crystals.  But it is much more deadly.  And cheap.  And very, very readily available.

People use ice mostly by inhalation or injection.  And the people using it change.  They speed up, they talk faster, and less logically, often unable to finish a sentence or to hold a train of thought to a logical conclusion.  They dont eat, they dont sleep (often for days on end) and they do things that are totally irrational.  Most importantly, they keep using it again and again, and it takes over their lives.  They hallucinate, develop paraoid thought disroders and suspect everyone who thought they knew the person who has changed so much.

What is most troubling for health professionals is that there is no quick fix.  There is no simple tablet that we can give that just stops the addiction behaviour.  Whatever we do, ice users just keep giong back again and again, even when they and everyone around them can see how it is destroying their lives.  And it destroys the lives of those who are near and dear to them.

The really bad news - if you suspect that somebody close to you is using ice, there is a high probability that you are right.  You can take the ice user to professional help but the ice user just does not want to be fixed, and there are few doctors who have the first idea how to manage the problem.  Even doctors who specialize in addiction medicine struggle to make any headway in getting the ice user to turn their lives around.

But dont ever give up hope.  If you can get an amphetamine addict to attend a doctor in the first place, at least you have opened the door just a little to stop this most dreadful of addictions.  But be prepared for a long, long haul.  Addictions are a life-long illness and ice addiction is the most difficult challenge so far encountered by addiction specialists.


Winter is the time for staying indoors and keeping warm.

It is also the time for increased medical hazards.  It should not be a time for increased danger as long as people are ready and aware of the risks.

We are heading towards the flu season, but most coughs and colds that people commonly get through winter are either less serious viral infections, or sometimes just a reaction to the cold dry air.

Cold air is dry air, and it gets even drier as we warm it up, either in the rooms of our houses and workplaces or in the more confined spaces inside our warm jackets.  Dry air means dry skin, especially for older patients.  Dry skin means we should be using less soap, possibly bathing less often, and definitely using more moisturizer creams.  Moisturizers come in all shapes and sizes - and price tags.  Generally, the less complicated a moisturizer is, the less trouble it can cause to your skin.  This is often a case that more expensive does not mean better.  The simplest moisturizers, those with fewest additives, are generally the most effective, the least likely to cause side effects, and usually the cheapest.


In Australia right now, there's a good chance you're right if you think you have to lose weight.  But before you get too hung up on your weight or your shape, ask a professional.  A lot of people have a distorted body image and think that they are overweight when they are not.

The upcoming generation is the most overweight that the world has ever seen.  There are lots of reasons - abundance of food, high-calorie foods, low-energy entertainments and labour-saving technology, more leisure hours than ever before.  Dr Herdy is particularly fond of pointing an accusing finger at computer games and electronic entertainment.  He comes from an era when kids would walk down to the local park to throw a ball around, never sit in front of a video screen and call it "sport".

The result is really worrying - unprecedented childhood obesity and a virtual epidemic of diabetes and its complications.  The sad fact is that the latest generation is going to be the first generation in history that can look forward to a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

The theory of losing weight is easy - burn more calories than you consume.  The practice of losing weight is nowhere near that easy.  But the principal remains the same for everyone - eat less and work more.

Eating less is, for most people, not as hard as it sounds.  A small reduction in food consumption, and especially if you can trim some of the fats and carbohydrates from the diet, adds up to a lot at the end of the year.

Working more is also not as hard as it sounds.  Find an exercise that suits you, and just do it.  The key point is to find something that you actually enjoy doing (or at least can tolerate doing) for a short time very day.  Most people enjoy walking, and it doesnt have to be much.  Half an hour a day additional walking is enough (and that can be broken into six 5-minute sessionsl, it doesn't have to be one sustained session).  Everyone has heard of the little tricks - parking the car a hundred metres further from the destination, taking the stair and not the escalator.  Treadmills at home are boring, boring and boring - unless you put them in front of the TV, and then a half hour can disappear pretty quickly.

Fad diets?  Maybe a way to get the first few kg off just to encourage yourself, but whatever you do to control the weight has to be something that you can maintain for the rest of your life, not just long enough to look good in your daughter's wedding photos.

Diet tablets?  Sorry, the evidence is that they produce only a little more weight loss than most people can achieve without drugs.  And they are expensive.

Surgery?  It's only for the extreme cases.  The average results are that patients can lose about half of the excess weight.  But it does have a place, and can be life-saving.

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