Strategy struggles to keep the lid on P

BY JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 11/05/2010

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Obtaining methamphetamine may be getting easier despite a Government crack down on the drug, a report says.

The first in a new six-monthly series of government reports issued yesterday on progress against the drug methamphetamine came as the Government announced that $5.9 million would be spent improving Customs security to control the importation of illicit drugs.

"If you look at price, availability and purity – the three main indicators of successful strategy – none of that has shifted an iota," Mike Sabin, group director of policy consultant MethCon, said.

The report says the availability of methamphetamine, also known as P, "may have become slightly easier" in the middle of last year compared to the year before.

An availability score of one indicated it was very easy to get P and a score of four would be very difficult. The score in 2008 was 1.7, the same as last year.

More than 70 per cent of P users last year said the drug was either the same or even easier to get hold of compared to the year before. Only 20 per cent said it was more difficult to obtain.

The mean price paid for a "point" measure of methamphetamine was slightly up, from $96 to $100. The mean price per gram was up from $698 to $738. There was no significant change in purity.

However, Prime Minister John Key said he did not think it was easier to get methamphetamine.

"In reality, by next year over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine will almost certainly be banned and new technology will mean the illegal importation of that material, particularly from China, will hopefully be reduced," Mr Key said.

Pseudoephedrine is a crucial ingredient used to make P.

P-related convictions were up from 2089 in 2008 to 2436 last year, Mr Key said.

The waiting times for residential treatment of P addicts had fallen dramatically and more people were phoning addiction helplines.

Customs Minister Maurice Williamson said there would an extra $5.9m for Customs in this month's Budget. The money would provide new and more advanced tools to detect drug criminals.

Mr Sabin said that, although convictions were up, the arrests would have been made in 2007 and 2008, and had "absolutely nothing to do with the new strategy".

Large P seizures at the border only indicated there was a lot more manufacturing domestically, he said.

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