Meth has 'society in its grip'

BY MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2010

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A former Hamilton detective has accused the Government of a "head in the sand mentality" when it comes to New Zealand's growing drug culture.

Dale Kirk said the Government was sidestepping the issue of raising awareness around the social and financial affects of methamphetamine or P use where New Zealand now rates as the third highest P user per capita.

"You see advertisements around cigarette use, alcohol, gambling and even Push Play – but what about methamphetamine use which is being linked to rising crime rates particularly around violent crime," Mr Kirk said.

After nine years with the Hamilton drug squad Mr Kirk left the police force and started Aperio, a private investigation business.

Mr Kirk now contracts out his services to specialist drug education company MethCon which this week conducted two workshops in Hamilton aimed at health professionals and emergency services.

The workshop, funded by Waikato Primary Health, aimed to increase awareness for health professionals who are often at the coalface dealing with P users.

They outlined the extent of P use for health professionals who were told that New Zealand's P problem had "grabbed hold of our society".

"The police are in no doubt that 90 per cent of the P trade is controlled by gangs and that isn't just the `patch' gangs we know of – it includes gangs dressed in suits and ties," he said.

Mr Kirk said the country's P problem was now bigger than the heroin and cocaine trades combined and had taken up a particularly Kiwi niche.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores provided all the tools needed in P manufacturing.

"Those businesses combined with internet based `do-it-yourself' information appeals to the New Zealand way of doing things – it really is the No8 wire drug."

Hamilton police busted another suspected P lab this week, finding chemicals and other equipment linked with making the drug, in a Frankton house on Tuesday.

At the workshops a DVD outlining personal accounts of drug use were shown to the health professionals who heard from `John' a corporate lawyer who spent $600,000 over two years feeding his P addiction.

"That's just the financial cost – it doesn't even begin to consider the psychological and social effects," he said.

`Richard' had a $2000-a-day habit where he regularly walked around his work holding a pump bottle containing soluble P.

"Nobody knew – it was so easy but is was also incredibly destructive," he said.

Mr Kirk said that `Yaba pills' had recently hit the Auckland drug scene.

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The colourful pills with a low street value appeal to the youth market and contain a mix of P and caffeine.

"They originate from Thailand and while I have no hard proof, anecdotal evidence gathered from juvenile centres suggest it has arrived – it could have a major impact in this country, it really is frightening," he said.

Mr Kirk would like to see a hard hitting advertising campaign to raise awareness which he said could stop potential drug users in their tracks.

"We know of an extremely successful campaign in the States known as the Montana Meth Project which has been directly attributed to a massive reduction in drug use," Mr Kirk said.

The Meth Project is a large-scale prevention programme aimed at reducing first-time methamphetamine use through hard-hitting public service messaging, public policy, and community outreach.

Two years after launching the Meth Project in Montana, adult meth use declined by 72 per cent and Meth-related crime decreased by 62 per cent.

But Mr Kirk said MethCon research and proposals shown to the Government had so far fallen on deaf ears.

"We have to do something to reverse the effects of P in our society as it has the potential to spiral out of control," he said.

See methcon.co.nz, montanameth.org

- Waikato Times

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