THE drug ice has spread to every level of society in country Victoria, according to a drug agency that is about to report on the problem to the state government.
''Every part of the population [is being affected], from white-collar professionals to amateur football team members, to blue-collar workers and manual labourers. It's really across the board,'' said John Ryan, chief executive of the Penington Institute, which is about to present its findings to the Victorian government on the prevalence of methamphetamine, known as ice.
''That's why it's affecting small towns so much; it's not affecting one small part of the population, it's widespread,'' Mr Ryan said.
Last week, more than 700 people went to an ice forum in Kerang, while the week before about half of the population of nearby Cohuna turned out to its forum.
Mr Ryan said this ''exposes what hunger there is'' for better information for country Victorian families that are crying out for help.
''To be honest, the only decent bit of information gets out via the media. There's been very little information campaigns from the government,'' he said.
It comes as Fairfax Media was given an unusual and exclusive insight into the problem, some of which came to light in graphic detail in the Melbourne County Court this week during plea hearings for members of the most sinister ice syndicate police had seen in the region.
Two young people who bought ice from the syndicate spoke to Fairfax Media anonymously, fearing for their own and their families' safety.
They said despite the arrests of nine syndicate members in 2009, the drug was still rife in the north-east. ''It will take a genius to get rid of it,'' one said.