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Luke Williams was a freelance journalist and former drug addict researching addiction to crystallised methamphetamine (commonly known as crystal meth or ice) when the worst possible thing happened — he became addicted to it himself. Over the next three months, he was seduced by the drug and descended into psychosis. This confronting and illuminating story charts Luke's reco Luke Williams was a freelance journalist and former drug addict researching addiction to crystallised methamphetamine (commonly known as crystal meth or ice) when the worst possible thing happened — he became addicted to it himself. Over the next three months, he was seduced by the drug and descended into psychosis. This confronting and illuminating story charts Luke's recovery from the drug, and his investigation into its usage and prevalence in Australia and the western world. In examining what led to his addiction, Luke also explores the social problems that surround ice, scrutinising whether its abuse is in fact an epidemic, with what we're experiencing now merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg, or yet another moral panic about the underclass. Luke traces the history of methamphetamine from its legal usage in the early 20th century to its contemporary relevance as one of the most foreboding and talked-about illicit drugs in the world. His search for answers sees him exploring meth labs, interviewing addicts and law-enforcement officials, and witnessing firsthand the effects of the drug on individuals, families, and the healthcare system. Combining memoir with reportage, The Ice Age is a vital, compelling first-person account, and an investigation into a drug that is fast becoming the subject of national discussion throughout the western world.


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Luke Williams was a freelance journalist and former drug addict researching addiction to crystallised methamphetamine (commonly known as crystal meth or ice) when the worst possible thing happened — he became addicted to it himself. Over the next three months, he was seduced by the drug and descended into psychosis. This confronting and illuminating story charts Luke's reco Luke Williams was a freelance journalist and former drug addict researching addiction to crystallised methamphetamine (commonly known as crystal meth or ice) when the worst possible thing happened — he became addicted to it himself. Over the next three months, he was seduced by the drug and descended into psychosis. This confronting and illuminating story charts Luke's recovery from the drug, and his investigation into its usage and prevalence in Australia and the western world. In examining what led to his addiction, Luke also explores the social problems that surround ice, scrutinising whether its abuse is in fact an epidemic, with what we're experiencing now merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg, or yet another moral panic about the underclass. Luke traces the history of methamphetamine from its legal usage in the early 20th century to its contemporary relevance as one of the most foreboding and talked-about illicit drugs in the world. His search for answers sees him exploring meth labs, interviewing addicts and law-enforcement officials, and witnessing firsthand the effects of the drug on individuals, families, and the healthcare system. Combining memoir with reportage, The Ice Age is a vital, compelling first-person account, and an investigation into a drug that is fast becoming the subject of national discussion throughout the western world.

30 review for The Ice Age: a journey into crystal-meth addiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andrew McMillen

    When reading books for review, I have a habit of folding a small triangle in the corner of each page that contains a particularly memorable, funny or insightful moment. I also draw an ­asterisk beside the section in question, so that I can easily locate it when typing notes afterwards. By the time I got to the end of 'The Ice Age', the bottom right corner of the book was swollen with dog-eared page markers and the margins lined with scrawled asterisks. It had been a while since I had defaced a bo When reading books for review, I have a habit of folding a small triangle in the corner of each page that contains a particularly memorable, funny or insightful moment. I also draw an ­asterisk beside the section in question, so that I can easily locate it when typing notes afterwards. By the time I got to the end of 'The Ice Age', the bottom right corner of the book was swollen with dog-eared page markers and the margins lined with scrawled asterisks. It had been a while since I had defaced a book in such a manner; most titles are lucky to contain more than a handful of noteworthy ­moments. In sum, I folded 32 of its 367 pages. 'The Ice Age' offers something never before ­attempted by an Australian author: it investigates the allure and popularity of the illicit drug crystal methamphetamine, while simultaneously charting the writer’s spiral into addiction and “full-blown psychosis” at age 34. It began a couple of years ago, when Luke Williams came up with the idea of moving in with a “junkie and jailbird” friend in Pakenham, an outer suburb of Melbourne. Williams knew his friend dealt drugs from the house, which meant “meth use and meth users were near-­constant companions”. In classic gonzo journalism style, he sought to embed himself in a subculture to report on it accurately and fully. But after he began injecting the drug along with the revolving door of questionable characters who visited the house at all hours, the ­assignment slipped his mind. “I cooked my brain so badly on meth that, after a few months, I genuinely lost track of the fact I was writing a story,” Williams writes in the first chapter. “I stopped taking notes, and became fixated on a series of non-existent events with myself at the centre. So, yes — as you may have gathered — I got a story, a very good story. Only it wasn’t the one I was expecting; I didn’t bank on becoming a psychotic meth addict myself.” Williams is a fine writer, and this is the primary appeal of 'The Ice Age': never before have I read such a vivid, detailed and balanced account of methamphetamine use. Many users lack the ability to articulate the effects of the drug and are unable to interrogate their own behaviour by considering how it affects others. Williams does both, and in this sense his is a landmark book. It should be studied closely by those who work in fields where meth use is prominent as well as by those who draft the policy that ­determines how society treats users. It is a flawed book, however. Williams too often submerges himself in law enforcement statistics and lengthy policy reports. There are only so many times one can read about trends in police clandestine laboratory detections ­before eyes glaze over. These wonky discussions are rendered in dry, inert language and jar against the vibrant details that the author ­summons when writing about his own experiences with the drug. This seesawing between the distant-­historical and present-contemporary is my principal complaint, as it tends to arrest the narrative momentum that Williams skilfully builds. In this sense, 'The Ice Age' can’t quite decide if it wants to be a first-person ­account of addiction or a worthy examination of the social, political, scientific and economic factors that led to the crystallised form of the drug becoming so popular this century. Still, its strengths are many: the author makes careful distinctions between powdered amphetamine (speed), powdered methamphetamine (meth) and crystal methamphetamine (ice), and describes the probable factors that saw the latter version taking precedence in recent years. Another narrative thread is the author’s analysis of the factors in his childhood and adolescence that contributed to his drug use in later years. Chief among them is the social isolation he felt after he discovered his sexuality, as this excerpt illustrates: "This was the dawn of a new era in my life — I would know now what it was like to be the lowest-ranking male. To use the metaphor of a diseased tree, the problem was that I was blossoming into an adult that some considered to be threatening to the population; an adult that needed to be cut down, turned into sawdust, and buried in a hole to ensure it didn’t spread weakness, perversion, and infection. I am, in fact, talking here about the life of a gay teenager in post-AIDS 1990s country Australia." This led to anxiety and depression, and then the regular use of stimulants such as ecstasy and what he thought was speed but turned out to be meth. From this came the author’s first psychotic breakdown, at the age of 20 or so. It was an unpleasant outcome that prompted him to quit drugs for five years, but psychosis ­revisited him when he moved into the Pakenham house to begin living out this tale. A former Triple J radio reporter and an ­accomplished freelance journalist — his front-page story for The Saturday Paper on his crystal meth addiction was a finalist for a Walkley Award in feature writing in 2014 — Williams has a fine eye for the details that make stories lodge themselves in the brains of readers. These details are rendered in such stark, ­unflinching terms that it is almost impossible to look away. While the book could have benefited from a firmer edit, it sounds as if the publishers had their hands full with what the author delivered. “The drafts of the final chapters to this book were sent back from Scribe with the message: ‘I have never seen anything like this in all my years of editing,’ ” Williams writes 12 pages from the end. Yet the fact remains 'The Ice Age' is a ­remarkable, original and compelling journey. To quote the king of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson: buy the ticket, take the ride. Review originally published in The Weekend Australian, 21 May 2016: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/...

  2. 4 out of 5

    B.P.

    Extremely compelling, but structurally could do with some improvement. There was too much repetition and the juxtaposition of statistics with personal memoir seemed jarring at times. The personal anecdotes were fascinating. Overall, an authentic story by a brave author who shared a lot of himself.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Georgia H

    A good read if someone you love is struggling with this drug - gives a bit if insight into why it has such appeal. A little heavy on the statistics - some of them are very illuminating, but it gets a bit bogged down. The vignettes of Williams' own experiences feel a little disjointed because of the swaths of facts, but they do give a flavour of the ice lifestyle. My biggest complaint is that this book was in desperate need of an editor - to give the narrative more flow, but mostly to correct the A good read if someone you love is struggling with this drug - gives a bit if insight into why it has such appeal. A little heavy on the statistics - some of them are very illuminating, but it gets a bit bogged down. The vignettes of Williams' own experiences feel a little disjointed because of the swaths of facts, but they do give a flavour of the ice lifestyle. My biggest complaint is that this book was in desperate need of an editor - to give the narrative more flow, but mostly to correct the many spelling mistakes, repetition of phrases etc that really should not be part of any published book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brittney Carey

    Whilst at times extremely self-indulgent and chaotic, there is some good information in this book, and I'm just glad a real-life, unpoliticised account of ice use is available to educate people. Whilst at times extremely self-indulgent and chaotic, there is some good information in this book, and I'm just glad a real-life, unpoliticised account of ice use is available to educate people.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    I don't know what made me want to read this book when ages ago I put on my Goodreads bookshelf. curiosity. Luke has really captured my attention in The Ice Age purely from what his done as an author/ journalist and his grasping the inside world of ICE, a story so formidable and his own wellbeing was compromised. It shows an insight into the body and addiction, proving addiction is far stronger then moral consequences and further into depth about Australian community, lifestyle, upbringing. Luke I don't know what made me want to read this book when ages ago I put on my Goodreads bookshelf. curiosity. Luke has really captured my attention in The Ice Age purely from what his done as an author/ journalist and his grasping the inside world of ICE, a story so formidable and his own wellbeing was compromised. It shows an insight into the body and addiction, proving addiction is far stronger then moral consequences and further into depth about Australian community, lifestyle, upbringing. Luke explores drug history all over the world, pharmaceutical issues, social issues and of course his own personal issues involving people around him. I really enjoyed all aspects of the book and how he intwines facts, realisations, testimonies, politics, abuse, and real life ‘in the moment’ moments. I was not expecting the spiritual turn at the end, and I’m so happy he got his awakening moment in life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mia Rochelle

    Luke Williams was a freelance journalist and former drug addict researching addiction to crystallised methamphetamine (commonly known as crystal meth or ice) when the worst possible thing happened — he became addicted to it himself. Over the next three months, he was seduced by the drug and descended into psychosis. This confronting and illuminating story charts Luke's recovery from the drug, and his investigation into its usage and prevalence in Australia and the western world. In examining what Luke Williams was a freelance journalist and former drug addict researching addiction to crystallised methamphetamine (commonly known as crystal meth or ice) when the worst possible thing happened — he became addicted to it himself. Over the next three months, he was seduced by the drug and descended into psychosis. This confronting and illuminating story charts Luke's recovery from the drug, and his investigation into its usage and prevalence in Australia and the western world. In examining what led to his addiction, Luke also explores the social problems that surround ice, scrutinising whether its abuse is in fact an epidemic, with what we're experiencing now merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg, or yet another moral panic about the underclass. Luke traces the history of methamphetamine from its legal usage in the early 20th century to its contemporary relevance as one of the most foreboding and talked-about illicit drugs in the world. His search for answers sees him exploring meth labs, interviewing addicts and law-enforcement officials, and witnessing firsthand the effects of the drug on individuals, families, and the healthcare system. Combining memoir with reportage, The Ice Age is a vital, compelling first-person account, and an investigation into a drug that is fast becoming the subject of national discussion throughout the western world. So my reading preferences are - NA and True Crime. Weird combo huh....when I read the blurb for this book I was so excited because what an in...and what I mean by that is, here we had someone (Luke Williams) who was a journalist, who got a first hand look into addiction because unfortunately, he became addicted himself. I was excited to see how a journalist would go about presenting the world of drugs. What I got, was half medical diagnosis crap. Which I'm probably being a bit harsh.....so let me explain. I wanted to read about Luke's personal stories, his struggles in this world. I did not want to spend so long learning about the statistics of the drug world. I know I'm not everybody, and some may have really enjoyed that aspect. And in saying that, I think that it had a place in this book.....In my humble opinion, the book would have been better to read if it was sectioned in two. One section for first person experiences, and a separate section for the stats on drugs....Because the book was so disjointed, I stopped reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    The blurb on the back says that Williams begins an investigative journalism piece into ice and then becomes an ice addict himself. What it doesn't say is that Williams is a former drug addict, and that the house he moves into are the drug-using friends he knew from a former lifetime. So without sounding harsh, it's not all too surprising that Williams succumbs. Williams interweaves cold hard facts about ice use in Australia with investigative journalism as well as his own memoir of his downward s The blurb on the back says that Williams begins an investigative journalism piece into ice and then becomes an ice addict himself. What it doesn't say is that Williams is a former drug addict, and that the house he moves into are the drug-using friends he knew from a former lifetime. So without sounding harsh, it's not all too surprising that Williams succumbs. Williams interweaves cold hard facts about ice use in Australia with investigative journalism as well as his own memoir of his downward spiral into drug use. I don't know that it works successfully. Whilst Williams can clearly describe why ice is so appealing at first, you get the sense that he does maintain a certain amount of protective veneer about his own addiction. I didn't get a real sense of his raw emotion and innermost feelings - a result of his journalistic training? I'm not sure. An interesting read nevertheless, but not as (voyeuristically?) satisfying as I thought it would be.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tayne

    Brutally honest account of what goes on in methland, although somewhat irritatingly written as a mix between John Birmingham's He Died With A Felafel In His Hand, a gay memoir, and a university thesis, and they don't blend particularly smoothly. I found myself skipping chunks of statistics and figures again and again to get back to the juicy story. Brutally honest account of what goes on in methland, although somewhat irritatingly written as a mix between John Birmingham's He Died With A Felafel In His Hand, a gay memoir, and a university thesis, and they don't blend particularly smoothly. I found myself skipping chunks of statistics and figures again and again to get back to the juicy story.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This was an interesting read. Luke Williams is a talented writer who provides not only first hand experience and commentary as an "Ice" addict, but also, historical, geographical, scientific and political information regarding this drug. Along with many personal scenarios and many other peoples' encounters and behaviour relating to crystal meth. I enjoyed the many perspectives he shared. This was an interesting read. Luke Williams is a talented writer who provides not only first hand experience and commentary as an "Ice" addict, but also, historical, geographical, scientific and political information regarding this drug. Along with many personal scenarios and many other peoples' encounters and behaviour relating to crystal meth. I enjoyed the many perspectives he shared.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Louise Walsh

    It’s rare that I don’t finish a book, but I had to put this one down. There’s absolutely no structure; rendering it difficult to follow. One minute you’re in the mind of the author while high, and the next you’re bogged down in incredibly dense statistics. Neither of these can really be understood because the details are so dense in parts; and badly structured into chapters.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ruby

    AWESOME book. Luke is such an engaging writer. He combines deeply personal (and often unflattering) stories of his own meth madness with research about the broader social, cultural and political impacts of meth. This is one of the best books about drug addiction that I have ever read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Mcintyre

    As others have pointed out. Interesting subject matter but the book jumps from drug statistics to stories of people using the drug...not very well edited. I didn't finish the book as it was too difficult to follow. If he'd just stuck to his personal account of the drug rather than trying to prove through statistics if it's usage is affecting the Australian population etc then we wouldn't feel like we were reading an essay written by a school kid! Statistics are always boring so why dwell on them As others have pointed out. Interesting subject matter but the book jumps from drug statistics to stories of people using the drug...not very well edited. I didn't finish the book as it was too difficult to follow. If he'd just stuck to his personal account of the drug rather than trying to prove through statistics if it's usage is affecting the Australian population etc then we wouldn't feel like we were reading an essay written by a school kid! Statistics are always boring so why dwell on them in so much detail?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Trina Hibberd

    Poorly written by an ex junkie who professes to know the ins and outs of the seedy world of the notorious drug 'ice'. Hard to comprehend/believe all that is written particularly as his recollections of weeks of being 'high' are so vivid....maybe distorted recollections.?!?! Was not at all enamoured with the fact that it seems the author plays on his sexuality (he claims to be gay - who cares after all this is the year 2017 when most don't discriminate against anyone due to their sexual preferenc Poorly written by an ex junkie who professes to know the ins and outs of the seedy world of the notorious drug 'ice'. Hard to comprehend/believe all that is written particularly as his recollections of weeks of being 'high' are so vivid....maybe distorted recollections.?!?! Was not at all enamoured with the fact that it seems the author plays on his sexuality (he claims to be gay - who cares after all this is the year 2017 when most don't discriminate against anyone due to their sexual preferences) seemingly in order to 'entice' the reader to continue reading. Not a book I'd recommend

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aleksandra KW

    “In a world where choice is apparently so prevalent, but finding a genuine counter-culture is rare (...)”, an addiction is born. I am torn between three and four stars: found the book very interesting, yet was bored with the amount of the various statistics relating to meth. The context is pretty depressing: we live in an era of commercialised human values and accessible means of dangerous fun; however, the message somewhat fills with confidence - having broader perspective and support structure “In a world where choice is apparently so prevalent, but finding a genuine counter-culture is rare (...)”, an addiction is born. I am torn between three and four stars: found the book very interesting, yet was bored with the amount of the various statistics relating to meth. The context is pretty depressing: we live in an era of commercialised human values and accessible means of dangerous fun; however, the message somewhat fills with confidence - having broader perspective and support structure can come to one’s rescue.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ryan McArthur

    Wow, what a book. I used to live with a small-time drug dealer (only ever weed) and had the interesting experience of meeting some p-heads. They told me stories of people clawing their arms up due to seeing bugs on their arms, and other horrible things. Its super addictive and I'd say in certain environments very hard to avoid. This was a great book, with some scary starts and personal stories. Wow, what a book. I used to live with a small-time drug dealer (only ever weed) and had the interesting experience of meeting some p-heads. They told me stories of people clawing their arms up due to seeing bugs on their arms, and other horrible things. Its super addictive and I'd say in certain environments very hard to avoid. This was a great book, with some scary starts and personal stories.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Hadfield

    Fascinating insight into the drug issue that Australia needs to grapple with. This book is well written and researched, and gives an insight to meth addiction, particularly in Australia. It suffers only from a lack of proof reading, as there are the occasional missing or extra word which does hamper the flow of the book. But that aside was a gripping read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    An interesting and comprehensive book looking at drug addiction, hopelessness and a complete governmental failure to tackle the issues relating to crystal meth abuse in Australia. Kind of 'niche' reading, but factually astonishing and some desperately heart wrenching real life stories too. An interesting and comprehensive book looking at drug addiction, hopelessness and a complete governmental failure to tackle the issues relating to crystal meth abuse in Australia. Kind of 'niche' reading, but factually astonishing and some desperately heart wrenching real life stories too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lynette

    A very interesting and thought provoking read ...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Morris

    Shame you had to do this... people can change you know.. disgusting how you used, abused drugs and people to write a book!!! Shame on you.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kofi Latcham

    Found the writing to be very disjointed at times - switching between anecdote and statistics. Does however provide a definite insight into lives affected by crystal meth.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    Dismal on a downloaded chapter at a time through the library, note to read in future

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shirley

    super

  23. 5 out of 5

    Janet Robertshaw

    Williams is a talented boy. His style is incisive. He was to pinpoint and trace in slide into drug triggered psychosis. It was full of authenthic insights. Williams lived the meth life and recorded it beautifully. Bravo boy.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Heavy going, but like a train wreck, you can't look away. It was horrifying and harrowing to read, particularly the author's personal story and that of his acquaintances. While Williams makes a good case for funding for drug addiction prevention strategies (which I agree with), I still found it quite hard to feel compassion for the addicts in the book. There is something to be said for the blinding honesty with which Williams tells his story, it certainly is an ugly one. A well researched but re Heavy going, but like a train wreck, you can't look away. It was horrifying and harrowing to read, particularly the author's personal story and that of his acquaintances. While Williams makes a good case for funding for drug addiction prevention strategies (which I agree with), I still found it quite hard to feel compassion for the addicts in the book. There is something to be said for the blinding honesty with which Williams tells his story, it certainly is an ugly one. A well researched but really unsettling read. It left me with the age old question - how is it that some people who have suffered enormously in their childhoods or throughout their life fall victim to addiction and some don't? [As a side note - the book also needs a thorough edit as there were a number of errors to be cleaned up].

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cait Lennox

    Interesting to read as it is both statistically and anecdotally informative. However, it borders on self indulgence

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leanne De souza

    I have just finished this exhaustive, researched, balanced and personally insightful book into crystal meth addiction by Luke Williams. Treatment and education are more effective than policing. Funding for new treatment centres, upgrading of existing rehab facilities and school education programs are integral to the solution. The moral panic is not helpful. Huge appreciation for your work and skill Luke. I would encourage every parent, teacher, friend and colleague to get informed. With compassi I have just finished this exhaustive, researched, balanced and personally insightful book into crystal meth addiction by Luke Williams. Treatment and education are more effective than policing. Funding for new treatment centres, upgrading of existing rehab facilities and school education programs are integral to the solution. The moral panic is not helpful. Huge appreciation for your work and skill Luke. I would encourage every parent, teacher, friend and colleague to get informed. With compassion and some brave decision making from our policy and community leaders, lives can be changed. ***** I will lend whatever influence I can in my community to see these things happen - or better education and treatment.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kylie Lambert

    What an interesting read! A fascinating insight to the world of drug addiction and recovery. Williams' personal narration, interspersed with facts and statistics, made the story so powerful that it was difficult to put down. I applaud Williams' strength and bravery in writing this account, putting himself out there as neither a deterrant nor a shining beacon, simply as a tale of his journey. Well worth a read. What an interesting read! A fascinating insight to the world of drug addiction and recovery. Williams' personal narration, interspersed with facts and statistics, made the story so powerful that it was difficult to put down. I applaud Williams' strength and bravery in writing this account, putting himself out there as neither a deterrant nor a shining beacon, simply as a tale of his journey. Well worth a read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cecil

    The characters in this book are really messed up.

  29. 4 out of 5

    RitaSkeeter

    Memoir of a journalist who, in reporting on drug use, developed an addiction himself. Intersperses facts/data with the author's story. Memoir of a journalist who, in reporting on drug use, developed an addiction himself. Intersperses facts/data with the author's story.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    But too many facts and figures and research quotes for me. If you skim over that it's quite interesting But too many facts and figures and research quotes for me. If you skim over that it's quite interesting

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