Alcohol and tobacco 'kill more than P'

Last updated 01:44 29/05/2008

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The Government is bracing for a war on alcohol and tobacco despite dire warnings that it is a methamphetamine epidemic that is destroying families and communities.

A report on the drug P, presented to Parliament's law and order select committee, warns that New Zealand must overhaul its national drug policy and introduce random drug testing of workers and pupils.

It calls for sweeping law changes, tougher police powers and "drug courts" to help counter a methamphetamine epidemic.

The Government says it is pouring millions of dollars into the fight against illicit drugs, but tobacco and alcohol cause far more mayhem and death each year.

"And, guess what - it's sold at the corner dairy or the supermarket," Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said.

Presenting his findings to MPs yesterday, former Auckland detective Mike Sabin said current measures had failed, recreational drug use had exploded, and P addiction was rife.

Mr Sabin, who runs a drug education and research company, made 21 recommendations on how to help turn the tide on what he called our losing battle against methamphetamine.

P is highly addictive and has been linked to some of the worst violent crimes. It is estimated to cost society $550 million each year.

New Zealand has one of the highest methamphetamine prevalence rates in the world, the report says. It recommends:

A national drug control policy office to report directly to the prime minister.

Better education, treatment and intervention programmes to tackle demand and undermine the economic viability of drug supply.

A bigger focus on organised crime and stronger enforcement of drug offences.

Tighter restrictions on the sale of precursor substances used to make P.

Mr Sabin said drug courts could force offenders to get treatment, and he recommends random drug testing of workers and school pupils to provide a deterrent and enable early intervention for young abusers.

"New Zealand is swamped with drug abuse. The police alone will never fix this problem. There are frameworks in place and there have been interventions.

" It's just they have been totally unsuccessful in reducing the prevalence of methamphetamine and other drugs."

A police national headquarters spokesman would not comment, but said police uncovered 200 clandestine P labs a year and worked closely with Customs to make drug seizures.

Mr Anderton said the Government's coordinated national drug policy already targeted the "scourge" of methamphetamine.

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P had been reclassified as a class A controlled drug, giving police new search and seizure powers. P makers and suppliers could now face life in prison, "the same sentence as for murder".

But he said alcohol abuse was behind most violence and crime "by a country mile" and tobacco-related illnesses killed 4700 New Zealanders each year.

Though Mr Sabin's research would be considered, compulsory drug testing of all workers and pupils was unworkable and unnecessary.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell disputed claims that interventions had failed in the fight against P.

Drug survey results showed methamphetamine use had "levelled off" and the number of new users had fallen.

 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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