His record was 18 days. Two-and-a-half weeks without sleep and fuelled by methamphetamine, ''Dean'' descended into a madness that threatened to rip apart his entire family.
Dean is in his early 20s and lives on a farm in the far west of Victoria. He did not seek out methamphetamine, more commonly known as ice, but it found him last year at a turbulent time in his life.
"The first time it makes you feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof,'' he says. ''But after a couple of months I was coming down that hard that I needed more to feel normal in myself. Even when I had more, it didn't do anything. I wasn't sleeping, wasn't eating and I didn't trust anyone.''
His mother ''Melissa'' recalls the many days and nights where she just held Dean as tightly as she could, feeling his heart racing while his head raged inside. "We had got back from a holiday and found our son exploding," she says.
Good rains have made the crops on Dean's family property and those surrounding it thick and green. Hopes may be high for a bountiful season, but all is not well in Victoria's wheat belt.
Here, and in other parts of country Victoria, there are fears about methamphetamine and the damage the highly addictive drug is doing to communities that have traditionally been among the state's most conservative.
Methamphetamine is not a new drug, but all the evidence points to the fact that its use across Victoria is rising sharply and the producers and pushers are making serious money.
According to the recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians are spending more than $1.7 billion a year on amphetamines.
For the past 12 months newspapers in Geelong, Bendigo, Horsham, Mildura, Morwell and Warrnambool have featured reports of court appearances by ice users who cannot remember doing 150km/h in a 60km/h zone, holding a knife to their mother's throat or stealing from work colleagues.
"Country Victoria has never seen anything like this," says Daryl Clifton, the police commander in central Victoria.
Over the past year, armed robberies in Clifton's region have quadrupled, with most found to be ice-related. A four-month drug operation in the area resulted in the arrests of several young people who had never before been in trouble with police.
Brendan Scale, a co-ordinator with the Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce, says a member of one of the most conservative farming communities in Victoria's west recently told him that "you would be gobsmacked by how far ice is reaching into the remotest communities''.
Why is country Victoria in the grip of this ice epidemic? Long-time residents of small country towns believe cheap housing and a negligible police presence is attracting manufacturers and dealers.
In the Mallee township of Yaapeet, police uncovered a meth lab in the old post office in March. The identities of those running the lab remain unknown, since the person paying the rates used a false name, suggesting the involvement of organised crime.
Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant that alters the chemical composition of a user's brain, triggering sleeplessness, euphoria, paranoia and hostility. Costing about $100 for a point, or one tenth, of a gram, ice can be smoked, snorted, injected or ingested, and has become socially acceptable across a variety of socio-economic and age groups.
Here's how a contributor to an Australian online forum last week described how ice made him feel: "Smoking meth feels like having my head blown off then have metamorphic shift into an invincible god. The stimulation and euphoric feelings are very strong; it can be frightening. Meth doesn't make you want to cuddle everyone, it's more likely you'd want to f--- every woman in sight.''
It is reactions like this that have left some of Victoria's top police officers extremely worried about methamphetamine use and its effects on the community. Ice has been linked to a host of murders, rapes, assaults and robberies. It is getting people with no criminal history into serious strife.
"It's probably one of the most harmful substances we've come across in recent years in terms of impact on community and it's really challenging us,'' says police assistant commissioner Steve Fontana. ''It's not just the police, it's emergency services, the hospital system. People are off their heads on this stuff, they're violent, aggressive and really hard to control.''
Last year, Dean was trying to deal with breaking up with his girlfriend when a friend introduced him to ice. A highly addictive drug, he was soon hooked and would go days, sometimes weeks, without sleeping or eating. He was angry, anxious and would sometimes drive for hours while high as a kite.
"I lost all care and hope and everything. You feel like everyone's against you even when they're not," he says.
Dean was a heavy user of ice for several months in 2012. His family did not know what to do. Was there any way out of this?
Melissa was driving her car to nowhere in particular one day when she just burst into tears. It was a turning point.
She ended up driving to a health service in a regional city some distance from her farm. There she spoke to a drug counsellor she had never met and the months of anguish flooded out.
"From then on it got a bit easier,'' Melissa says. ''You can't talk to anyone here. Not even family, no one gets it.
"You think of drugs and druggies, but this is my son, not some bloke on the street shooting up in an alley, and it was really hard to find someone for us just to bounce off."
Since then, with counselling and the support of his family, Dean has been able to get off, and stay off, methamphetamine. Even so, he still has bad days and is nagged by an underlying depression.
"I still find it hard,'' he says. ''I have my days where I think what the f--- am I doing? I've still got problems to deal with. But I think if you haven't got a good family you've got no chance of getting out of this."
Dean is not alone. Methamphetamine is being pushed heavily into some of Victoria's most vulnerable communities where many users do not have the resources or family support that have helped people like him.
In Mildura, a six-month campaign has just been launched to reach out to the region's youth to educate them about ice. Of particular concern is targeting of the local Koori community by dealers. Anecdotal reports have linked recent youth suicides to ice.
The Murray River city campaign is being led by the local council, police, health services and Aboriginal support agencies. Such groups are also being brought together in cities and towns across the state, with Bendigo police, health services and other agencies holding a forum next month to address ice use in their community.
Raelene Stephens, nurse unit manager of the Mildura District Aboriginal Service's alcohol and other drugs program says ice use has reached epidemic proportions over the past two years, with children as young as 12 being exposed to the drug.
She says dealers have been targeting Aboriginal youths who have an income through jobs in food or hospitality. They are sold large amounts of ice in the knowledge they will rack up large debts. "Then they come after the families for payment," Stephens says.
Victoria's new Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Youth, Andrew Jackomos, warned in July that ice use was reaching a crisis point. He says various Koori groups comprising senior indigenous community leaders want the Napthine government to convene a forum.
"People are frustrated that they can't do anything … They don't know where to turn to. Ice is a huge problem in our community," Jackomos told Fairfax Media in July.
It is not just Koori groups looking for leadership from Spring Street: communities right across Victoria want a whole-of-government approach to dealing with the ice problem. Victoria's amphetamine strategy expired last year and a new one has yet to be announced.
Crios O'Mahony has a keen sense of humour enhanced by a gentle Irish lilt. Sleeve tattoos and years of experience treating crack addicts in London add street credibility.
During the past 12 months, his services have been in great demand from drug and alcohol workers seeking an insight into why more of their clients are being trapped by ice.
O'Mahony is a project leader at Anex, a not-for-profit group based in Carlton that is at the forefront of drug education and harm reduction programs.
Anex's presenters have conducted almost 50 forums across Victoria since late last year to provide information on methamphetamine to more than 2000 drug and alcohol workers, police, ambulance crews and child protection workers.
O'Mahony and his colleagues say that despite there being widespread concern about ice there is little understanding of how the drug affects the brain, even among many health workers trained to help affected people.
At one of these forums O'Mahony explained why dopamine is the key to understanding why ice is so addictive. Put simply, the first hits trigger huge releases of dopamine, a chemical the brain releases when it recognises pleasure. It feels good.
But the brain can produce only so much dopamine. So within a short time, a user will need greater amounts of ice to try to match those first euphoric feelings. Eventually, dopamine in the brain depletes, the chemistry in the brain is altered and the user's ability to feel pleasure is reduced. It takes months to replenish, hence the depression felt by some ice users when they stop using the drug.
O'Mahony and his Anex colleagues say every early warning system in the state, from police statistics to reports of increasing demand from mental health services, points to a rise in methamphetamine use.
He says one of the biggest problems in treating ice users is the lack of a pharmacological substitute such as methadone which is used to treat heroin addicts.
"Meth is completely different to treat,'' O'Mahony says. ''Seven-day detox which is what is currently available can help but it's not very effective for someone trying to get off ice. An ice user will come in wrecked, sleep for days and when the cravings hit or the days are up then they leave.
''You need a month but that's hugely expensive, and even then it can take months for a person to feel results with additional treatment and support."
So in the absence of a pharmacological response, how should Victoria treat its methamphetamine addicts?
Sherri Bruinhout, director of justice and homelessness at the Melbourne City Mission, says Victoria needs to introduce rapid response services to help ice users in order to protect others and themselves from harm.
When Fairfax Media visited the mission's King Street office in Melbourne's CBD, Bruinhout pointed to a smashed front window.
''This was done by a young, petite woman affected by ice on the weekend,'' she says.
''She went away and was back 30 minutes later. She didn't remember what had happened.''
While rapid response services and detoxification facilities are a first step, Bruinhout says addicts need education and a dedicated support worker to get their lives back together.
''It's expensive and not very sexy. But from our experience it is what works,'' she says.
For police, stopping the supply of methamphetamine is but one part of a wider battle. Fontana says Victoria's methamphetamine supply comes from several sources, from international criminal syndicates and local organised crime groups to low-level manufacturers who can make ice from the boot of a car.
"Enforcement is only one part, it's really coming back to a change in attitudes about drug use and education about drug use,'' Fontana says.
Back on the farm in the far west of Victoria, Dean is relieved he is no longer addicted to ice.
''If you don't get off you've got a good chance ending up in jail or dead,'' he says.
For his parents, the most pleasing thing about Dean's revival is the joy it has brought his younger siblings.
''They are just so happy that he talks to them again now,'' says Melissa.
''It's like the brother is back on his pedestal.''