"Try it and say goodbye to everything you hold dear."
The 'it' is crystal methamphetamine (or ice) and the 'everything' for former addict Michelle* was her children, family and friends, her job and - for many years - her sanity.
The Wollongong mother-of-three was just 13 when she first used, and by her mid-twenties had hit rock bottom.
Yet after her third stint in rehab, she says she's finally "dealt with the devil", and is getting her life back on track. But it's been a miserable journey.
"It's the most euphoric feeling ... but it quickly becomes the most horrendous feeling," she said.
"You love something that's killing you, that's taking away everything that you truly love, but you just can't stop.
"And while it feels good at first, that doesn't last long ... and you end up doing it just to numb the pain."
The highly addictive drug - the more potent form of amphetamine - has had a devastating impact on communities across Australia over the past decade, particularly in regional areas like the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.
That's why the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug 'Ice' will travel to the South Coast next week, to hear firsthand how the drug is affecting communities.
The region's first responders and health workers, as well as those with lived experience of the drug, will give evidence at the hearings, to be held on May 30 and 31 at Nowra Local Court.
"During the hearings in Nowra the commission will hear from witnesses about the extent and nature of crystal methamphetamine use in the region and the local responses to the issue," a commission spokesperson said.
"At the first of its regional sittings, held recently in Lismore, the commission heard evidence from police and other first responders, health workers, agency staff and local treatment providers.
"It is expected that the special commission will hear from similar witnesses in Nowra."
Crime figures show that the ice epidemic has contributed to a 450 per cent increase in amphetamine possession in the Wollongong local government area since 2009.
There's been a 350 per cent rise in possession in the Shellharbour LGA in the 10 years; and a 570 per cent increase in the Shoalhaven LGA.
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR) figures show that in 2018, around 115 people out of every 100,000 were identified as ice users or in possession of the drug in Wollongong.
In Shellharbour it was 103 out of every 100,000, and in the Shoalhaven around 130 out of every 100,000.
The average across NSW is 92 out of every 100,000 people.
"Cocaine seems to be the drug of choice in Sydney, whereas amphetamine use is more common in regional communities," BOSCAR acting executive director Jackie Fitzgerald said.
"Wollongong is not dissimilar to other regional areas, with amphetamine use steadily increasing over the last decade and the Wollongong figures remain higher than the state average.
"However, like other regional areas, there was a peak in use in 2016 and 2017, with figures dropping slightly in 2018, although they're rising again now."
Ms Fitzgerald said all up, there were 242 recorded incidents of amphetamine use in Wollongong last year, and 134 in the Shoalhaven - however the real number would be far higher.
"These incidents are where people are apprehended by police for drug use/ possession," she said. "Whether this is people with the most harmful use, or the most frequent use, or those potentially engaging in activity that brings them to police attention - it's just a subset of users."
It did however reveal an upward trend in ice use, which was backed up by figures from HealthStats NSW.
These showed that ice was involved in more than 140 out of every 100,000 hospitalisations in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District in 2016-17 - higher than the state average of 136.3.
In real figures, that was 377 hospitalisations - considerably higher than the 36 hospitalisations recorded across the district back in 2009-10.
Michelle credits Watershed - a drug and alcohol recovery and education centre at Berkeley - for freeing her from the clutches of crystal meth.
"I went into rehab a few times - I wouldn't say the first attempts were a waste as I learnt something every time," she said. "It's the hardest thing to kick but in May 2018, I finally got off it and continue to get support from Watershed. I'm finally getting my life back on track."
Wollongong TAFE student Harley Thomson has also received support from Watershed, after becoming hooked on ice. At one stage the 25-year-old was spending around $1000 a week on the drug - and started dealing to support his habit.
"I started taking recreational drugs when I was 18 and ended up at someone's house where I was introduced to ice," he said.
"For a while I was just using on the weekends, but I ended up using every day. I'd be awake for up to a week, and then have to sleep for days. It's hard to come down off it - it's hard to shake it.
I'd be awake for up to a week, and then have to sleep for days. It's hard to come down off it - it's hard to shake it.
"I had stints in rehab - even a stint in jail due to a drug-related crime - but it took me some time to break away."
The inquiry was commissioned by the Berejiklian government to look at the nature, prevalence and impact of ice in NSW.
It will also look at the adequacy of existing measures to target the drug, and options to strengthen NSWs response.
Public hearings have been held in Sydney and Lismore, and after Nowra the inquiry will travel to Dubbo, Broken Hill and the Hunter region.
In Sydney, Commissioner Dan Howard heard that 1500 users had died from methamphetamine use over the past decade.
Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre Professor Michael Farrell told the inquiry that the majority of deaths were linked to toxicity, although others could be attributed to strokes, heart attacks, suicides and accidents.
The average profile of the 1500 people who died was 37; a third were employed and eight per cent were in treatment. Half of them had a history of injecting drug use.
In Sydney, Commissioner Howard gave special thanks to those who recounted their personal stories of ice addiction before the public inquiry - commending their courage. The inquiry's final report will be delivered by the end of October.
It all comes down to supply and demand
It's simple economics, says Will Temple - reduce demand for ice and a reduction in supply will follow.
The chief executive of Watershed drug and alcohol recovery and education centre has seen it happen before.
When he first took over the reigns at the Berkeley centre 15 years ago, heroin was still the drug of choice. Now - thanks to investment in community education, prevention and treatment programs - demand for that drug has decreased.
"Watershed was set up in 1974 to deal with the scourge of heroin, and for a couple of decades the majority of presentations were for heroin," he said.
"However there's been a lot of time and effort put into early intervention and treatment, and now we'd not even get half a dozen presentations for heroin a year.
"The majority of our presentations now are for meth, and we cater for around 250 people each year in our residential program, and 500 more in our day program.
"Unfortunately we're forced to turn away just as many as there's not enough beds, and not enough funding to run the beds. That's why we need to change some of the focus from policing to prevention."
Mr Temple said the National Drug Strategy had three pillars - harm minimisation, demand reduction and, supply reduction.
"The vast majority of money in the budget goes to supply reduction - some of that needs to be redirected into early intervention and prevention programs - into treatment and services," he said
"If you invest in those things you take care of demand. You cannot change supply if the demand is still there."
Watershed provides "wrap-around services" for those in the grip of addiction - from detox and withdrawal management and residential rehabilitation to ongoing support programs.
Mr Temple said one of the problems with meth, or ice, was that it did a "lot more damage in a much shorter time frame" than other drugs.
"This stuff just really impacts on people's mental health - it affects their emotional, social and physical well-being and it's just a vicious cycle," he said.
He welcomed the special commission of inquiry into ice, and hoped it would also help reduce some of the stigma surrounding addiction.
"People just don't wake up in the morning and say 'I'm going to become an addict today'," he said.
"There's a wide range of reasons why people use drugs in the first place - the vast majority of users come from low socio-economic backgrounds, many have suffered trauma, the majority also have mental health issues.
"So I think it's important to look at ways to reduce the stigma as it's not just a drug and alcohol issue."
*Name withheld by request.