When a person is or in early stages of from ice, they may not be able to follow directions easily. Aggression is common, and this can increase the risk of harm to themselves and those around them. If this is happening to someone you know, it is important to protect yourself and others. If possible, also try to limit the physical harm the person can do to themselves.
If someone you suspect is using ice becomes violent and aggressive, here are some steps to take:
Try to remain calm, and speak in a calm, clear, and slow voice to the person. Try to avoid emotional or hostile language, which may prompt or exacerbate aggression. Say the person’s name and reassure them that you are there to help. An example might be “I can see how upset and angry you are right now, [person’s name]. I don’t mean to upset you, I care about you, and I just want to help you.” Other options include “how can I help you feel safe?”, “your behaviour is frightening me at the moment, and I’d really like to help.”
Use an ‘open' body stance, arms open, palms up, head lowered.
Give the person some physical space to minimise their feelings of confinement. If possible, remove furniture or fittings that might be thrown from the person’s immediate path. Turn down the lights as people using ice are generally overstimulated, and this may help prevent further stimulation. Explain what you are doing, e.g., “I am just moving some things out of your way, so that you don’t hurt yourself.”
Give the person time to think and respond. Slow things down as much as possible. When they speak, listen to what they say, agree with them or validate their feelings (e.g., “that must be really upsetting” or “if that happened to me, I’d feel the same way”). You don’t have to agree with the content of what they are saying, but you can focus on the obvious emotions that the person is displaying and respond to those.
If the behaviour intensifies, give the person a choice to help them feel like they are still in control. For example, “if you continue like this, I’ll have to leave and call the police. But if you calm down, maybe we can find another way to help.”
If at any stage you feel like you need to leave, do so. Call the police (000) for help and remove yourself from the situation. This is especially the case if your exit is blocked, if the person is already too hostile, unstable, fearful, or to respond to you, is threatening you or others, or has a weapon.
Remember that, following a violent or aggressive incident, you will be feeling a range of emotions that will likely include anger, resentment, shock, extreme sadness, and worry. You may also feel like you have to appease the person from now on, or avoid them altogether, so as to minimise the chance of a future violent/aggressive incident. Don’t forget that these are legitimate reactions to such a situation, and that you might also need some support to help you in the aftermath. For more information on support services and who to get help, visit What type of help is available? and When and where to get help?
You may want to talk to someone about the issue of violence when the effects of intoxication or have diminished. Here are some brief tips to keep in mind:
Learn more about how to start a conversation with someone about their ice use.