THE dehumanising effect of the illicit drug ice can only be measured by those who have fallen down the "meth hole", according to former addict Tammi Siwes.
"Everything you hear about meth is true, it gets you straight away," she said.
"You can't describe the high in words because it's the most intense feeling.
"From the first time I took it I was forever trying to chase that high and before I knew it I was addicted."
Years of systematic abuse at the hands of family members and partners were the catalyst for Tammi's drug use, using narcotics as a means of escaping from the traumatic experiences of her past.
"I couldn't handle being normal because then I'd have to face reality," she said.
"I'd get high to try to escape who I thought I was."
The Millicent resident was 25 when she began using speed, getting her first taste from her partner at the time.
Tammi would purchase 0.1 grams of the powered stimulant, often referred to as "points", for $50.
"It started off as once a fortnight thing and I'd go into work all grumpy, have a line and by the end of the night I'd be full of energy," she said.
"I constantly felt the need to do something.
"I don't think my house was ever as clean as it was then because I was always cleaning."
It was two years later when Tammi made the transition from eating the powdered form of speed to snorting the refined, crystalline methamphetamine, or ice.
"It's manufactured differently than normal speed and it's a different kind of feeling," she said.
"You feel like you're on top of the world and that you can accomplish anything.
"That's really the lure of the stuff."
A volatile combination of substances are mixed in clandestine laboratories to create Australia's home grown drug epidemic, methamphetamine.
While speed and ice are derivatives of the amphetamine compound, ice undergoes additional refinement to remove impurities, resulting in a higher charge.
"You used to have to know the right people to get it and hunt around to find it, but you'd never know what the dealers or the cooks were putting in it," Tammi said.
"The dealers would get the neat and cut it down to reduce the potency so you'd be buying more gear at a weaker strength.
"By that stage you don't care about how strong it is, just as long as you have it."
Amphetamine-type stimulants release high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, causing an intense rush of pleasure or prolonged euphoria.
While short term effects of ice can last from six to 24 hours, chronic abuse results in the dopamine receptors being destroyed, making it impossible to feel pleasure.
Within two years, the potency of the drug had trapped the 27-year-old, whose habit exceeded $500 a week and led to her often foregoing work and rent payments in favour of getting high.
"I stopped paying my electricity and rent so I could afford gear," she said.
"It got to the stage where I owed $2000 in rent.
"My house was gutted because anything that was worth something was sold for drugs."
Tammi recalled one of her most horrifying experiences as being awake for eight days following a meth binge.
"You're so physically tired but your brain is wired and there's nothing you can do that can put you to sleep, so you have more and more gear to keep yourself awake," she said.
"That's where the psychosis comes in and you begin to see things that aren't there and make up things in your head.
"I had this thing where I thought people walking their dogs were narcs so I'd be out the front of my house running around with a knife in my pocket just in case.
"One of the worst hits I had was when I thought my father was still alive."
With the extent of her substance abuse relatively unknown to family members, the desperate and destitute Tammi was forced to sleep on floors after being evicted from her apartment.
"I'd spend everything I had on neat but then I'd have to try and scab $3 for a packet of chips because I was so hungry," she said.
"You get to the point that the only thing you care about is meth.
"I didn't want to contact my family because I didn't want to talk to anyone.
"I pushed everyone around me away."
In another tragic turn of events, Tammi's cousin also fell victim to drugs and rapidly robbed him of potential, vitality and ultimately his life.
"He called his dad wanting help but my uncle refused to speak to him because he'd had enough," she said.
"Later that day, my cousin killed himself.
"The guilt of not picking up that phone got to my uncle and two years later he suicided as well."
Four more years of addiction saw Tammi lose friends, family, her house and all her belongings but the strong-willed 31-year-old fought her way back from dependence when she fell pregnant.
"Getting pregnant was really the wake up call I needed because I didn't want my kids to follow the same path I was on," she said.
"It was hard but because of my intuition and intelligence and losing everything, I was determined to give it up.
"Going through something like that teaches you a lot about life and when my kids ask me questions about drugs, I'm going to have all the answers."
The 10th birthday of her daughter marked two important milestones for Tammi, including over a decade since she has used meth.
"It's been a long road but the benefit of being on the losing side is it gets to show you how strong you really are," she said.
"I've learnt since then I'm not the bad person I thought I was."
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