Inside New Zealand’s meth crisis

NZ Herald has a 40 minute documentary on the ongoing meth (P) epidemic:


Fighting the Demon

Inside New Zealand’s Meth Crisis

After failing to fix its 20-year methamphetamine crisis, New Zealand is gripped by the second wave of a devastating epidemic. The Herald spent six months with users, recovering addicts and those trying to save them.

In June 12, 2016 police seized almost 500kg of methamphetamine at a remote beach in Northland.

That single find, with a street value of $450 million, was bigger than the total seizures of the previous two years combined.

It signalled the beginning of a new wave of New Zealand’s meth epidemic.

For 20 years, law enforcement had fought to eradicate the drug and lost. Now meth is purer and more available than ever before.

Fighting the Demon is an unflinching investigation from deep within the crisis, created by a team of investigative reporters who spent six months in communities ravaged by meth.

In towns across the country, the journalists met users desperate for help, former addicts still struggling years after giving up and families forever ripped apart by the impact of the drug.

They followed law enforcement hunting traffickers, frontline police working to stop dealers and health professionals picking up the pieces left behind.

They found a country targeted by the world’s most sophisticated organised crime groups.

The meth they traffic is stronger than ever and shipments are growing larger. Ten years ago, 100kg was a record bust for law enforcement. Now, it’s almost routine.

And while smugglers once sent cold medicine to be “cooked” into meth, they now send the finished product. It’s easy to distribute, and easy to sell.

In many places meth is easier to buy than marijuana. Most users can score within an hour. Deals are brazen. The latest Illicit Drug Monitoring System report, from 2016, reported addicts more frequently buying on street corners, in parks, even at work.

The price of a point, around $100 for 0.1g, is unchanged from a decade ago. But where “P” was once a party drug for the middle classes, in this second wave, its victims are most likely to be the poor.

The documentary Fighting The Demon takes you inside their world.


In yesterday’s news (TVNZ): Four people charged as 22 kilos of meth and cocaine seized at Auckland Airport

Disgraceful lack of action from David Clark and Labour on drug crisis

The drug abuse crisis continues to hit the headlines,with ongoing and growing problems, more and more deaths, and the Labour-led Government continues to do bugger all if that.

The wellbeing and lives of many people are at risk, this should be getting urgent attention, but the Labour-led government looks as bad as National was in being to gutless to address the problems.

Yesterday from Stuff:  Warning issued over synthetic cannabis use after eight people hospitalised

At least three people have been admitted to intensive care and others treated within 24 hours in Christchurch after using synthetic cannabis.

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) issued a warning about the illegal drug after a rush of people suffering from potentially severe synthetic cannabis toxicity ended up in Christchurch Hospital.

Emergency medicine specialist Paul Gee said there had been a noticeable increase in people needing emergency help due to the side effects of synthetic cannabis use.

Eight people have been treated in Christchurch over the last 24 hours, with three having to be admitted to the intensive care unit.

Also Synthetic cannabis users gambling with their lives after a ‘bad batch’

Synthetic cannabis users are gambling with their lives, a health official warns following a spate of hospitalisations in Christchurch.

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) issued a warning on Thursday evening about the illegal drug after a rush of people suffering from potentially severe synthetic cannabis toxicity ended up in Christchurch Hospital.

As a Minister in the National-led Government Peter Dunne copped a lot of flak for dysfunctional drug laws and growing drug abuse problems, especially the growing use of new drugs often inaccurately referred to as synthetic cannabis.

It suited National to allow the blame to fall on Dunne while they did virtually nothing to deal with obvious drug law problems and growing use of dangerous drugs. And there has been many ignorant attacks on Dunne.

On 1 News yesterday Dunne suggested a rethink on how we deal with natural cannabis: Legalising recreational cannabis could stem NZ’s epidemic of ‘zombie drug’ deaths, Peter Dunne says

Synthetic cannabis has killed more than 40 people in New Zealand since June last year, a massive jump from the previous five years, the coroner recently reported.

One way to serve a blow to the market for the so called zombie-drug in New Zealand would be to legalise recreational cannabis, former MP and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said today on TVNZ1’s Breakfast.

But the suggestion came with a caveat.

“It would certainly remove some of the incentive for people to try some of these substances,” he said. “But…some of these (synthetic drugs) are so potent and so powerful that people may well feel they’ll get a better high from these rather than the real product.

“While on the face of it the answer would be yes (to marijuana legalisation), I don’t think it’s necessarily that simple.”

“I don’t think we ever anticipated we’d get new synthetic drugs that would lead to so much harm,” NZ Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell told 1 NEWS yesterday.

So what is the current Government doing about it? very little as far as I’m aware. Health Minister David Clark seems as reluctant as National was to address the problem, and most of the Labour-led Government seem to be gutless – the exception is Green MP Chloe Swarbrick who is working hard to try to progress long overdue drug law reforms.

The only official press release from David Clark since becoming Minister was this last December: Medicinal cannabis to ease suffering. Labour have been very disappointing in their handling even of medicinal cannabis.

Nothing from Clark mentioning ‘synthetic’. What the hell is he doing apart from nothing?

NZ Herald (31 July 2018): Health Minister David Clark in favour of liberalising drug laws

Health Minister David Clark is personally in favour of more liberal drug laws because prohibition has not worked in the past.

But Clark would not commit to abiding by the result of any referendum on loosening laws around cannabis use, saying he preferred to wait for advice from his colleagues.

“I think it’s highly likely that that’s the course we would take … all I’ve said is I want to wait for advice.

“I haven’t had a conversation with colleagues about how that referendum’s going to be framed and what question we’re going to be asking the public.

“Broadly, I favour at a more personal level, more liberal drug laws because I think in the world when prohibition has been tried, it hasn’t worked.”

We have multiple drug crises, with both synthetics and P (methamphetamine). Natural cannabis is far less dangerous, but it is getting more expensive and harder to obtain because drug pushers make more money out of getting people addicted to P and synthetic drugs. They have no trouble finding more victims to replace those who die.

National’s lack of action on drug abuse and drug laws was extremely disappointing.

Clark and Labour are acting just as poorly. This is disgraceful.

Prohibition has driven synthetic drugs

Prohibition of drugs, especially the relatively low-harm natural cannabis, has driven the creation of a huge number of ‘legal highs’ or ‘novel psychoactive substances’ (NPS) – the European Drug Monitoring Center has identified more than 602 different NPS, with 101 new NPS emerging during 2014.

Transform: Prohibiting drugs has ironically only created more drugs: the world against the NPS problem

The ‘legal’ NPS market has largely emerged in response to demand for the effect the drugs provide in the context of historic prohibitions on such products. When legal products arrive that compare favourably to their illegal counterparts in terms of effect, risk, quality and price—it is unsurprising that they become popular, and can, to some extent, displace some illegal drugs.

This phenomenon, and the specific challenges created by the rapid emergence of multiple NPS with unknown risk profiles occurs largely because of the lack of legal availability of more familiar and well understood drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy/MDMA and even cocaine.

Drug prohibition has pushed the creation of legal alternatives, which are a safer way to make money but generally a less safe way to use drugs.

There would have been, for example, no demand in Western markets for the synthetic NPS cannabis mimics if their(much safer and less potent) natural cousin had been legally available.

If the last 50 years teach us anything it is that whilst demand remains for a particular drug (or drug effect), the profit opportunity created means that the market will always find a way to meet it—whether legal or illegal.

Most countries have been slow to recognise this and deal with it more effectively.

Just as the emergence of NPS is an unintended consequence of historic prohibitions, so prohibiting a particular NPS can then have significant unintended consequences. Especially when demand for a given substance has been established, a ban is likely to have one or more of the following impacts;

  • Creating a void in the legal NPS market into which one or more new substance will move (the net health impacts of which are impossible to predict);
  • Diverting users back to the illegal substances the NPS are likely to have been a substitute for (exposing users to the risk of the illegal market and criminalisation over and above the risks of the drug use);
  • or leading to the emergence of criminal market for the formerly legal NPS—in which it is likely that the quality (in terms of purity and reliability) of the product decreases and the cost increases.

All of these phenomena have been witnessed with attempts to ban successive waves of NPS in Western markets.

Attempts to ban new variants as they appeared was tried unsuccessfully in New Zealand.

The NPS phenomenon therefore presents a huge challenge for policy makers. The unregulated legal markets for NPS are clearly not acceptable, but at the same time it seems clear that prohibitions will, as so often before, only make things worse.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to explore regulated market options that occupy the middle ground between total prohibition and unregulated free markets.

We tried to do this in New Zealand with a new approach that was observed with interest by other countries.

This is the road taken by New Zealand which in 2013 passed the ‘Psychoactive Substances Act’, which allows certain “lower- risk” NPS to be legally produced and sold within a strict regulatory framework.

The new law puts the onus on producers to establish the risks of the products they wish to sell, as well as mandating a minimum purchase age of 18; a ban on advertising, except at point of sale; restrictions on which outlets can sell NPS products; and labelling and packaging requirements.

But after passing legislation the Government buckled under public and media pressure.

The New Zealand government stated: “We are doing this because the current situation is untenable. Current legislation is ineffective in dealing with the rapid growth in synthetic psychoactive substances which can be tweaked to be one step ahead of controls. Products are being sold without any controls over their ingredients, without testing requirements, or controls over where they can be sold”.

The new law remains in place, but has run into a number of technical challenges – crucially, how to establish ‘“low-risk” harm thresholds without using animal testing – as well as political opposition. As yet no NPS are regulated under the system – but it has at least demonstrated that another way is possible.

After the legislation came into effect, leaving some NPS legally available media publicity about the perceptions created by concentrating availability in much fewer outlets led to political pressure and the Government wimped out.

But this only came about because successive governments and just about every political party (with the exception of the Cannabis Party (ALCP) have kept wimping out over addressing the bigger problem – that continuing prohibition on far less risky drugs, especially cannabis is driving the use of NPS.

And prohibition of cannabis is likely to be a factor in the increased use of harder and far more addictive drugs like methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive, powerful stimulant. It produces wakefulness, hyperactivity and a euphoric effect. Methamphetamine is also known as speed, pure, P, burn, goey, crank, meth, crystal, ice and yaba.

Importers, producers and distributors of illegal drugs are taking a risk, so it figures that they will try to make as much money as they can to make the risk worth it.

And drug users are also taking a risk. With cannabis being illegal it will make it easier to push susceptible people onto harder drugs like P – profit margins are far higher, with the bonus of it being easy to addict customers to the products, so casual users become regular self abusers.

Hard drug addicts often resort to crime to finance their habits. Pushers don’t care about this, just as they don’t care about ruining people’s lives so they can make money.

Even cannabis is a problem when illegal, because in an uncontrolled illegal market suppliers push for maximum use for maximum profit.

If relatively safe drugs like cannabis were not illegal and could be obtained in a controlled market, or self produced, then more people attracted to psychoactive substances could use them with far lower risks.

It wouldn’t be a simple solution, because those accustomed to making money off other people’s misery would try to expand their hard drug markets if their soft drug markets were stripped away. But it would provide a less bad (and legal) option for those who want to use drugs other than alcohol.

It’s not just cannabis that is a safer alternative.

More dangerous addictive drugs have become prevalent after earlier safer hallucinogens were replaced.

Remember LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide). It had adverse side effects, but compared to other drugs it was relatively benign – it isn’t addictive, and:

Of the 20 drugs ranked according to individual and societal harm by David Nutt, LSD was third to last, approximately 10 times less harmful than alcohol. The most significant adverse effect was impairment of mental functioning while intoxicated.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysergic_acid_diethylamide#Adverse_effects

We have ended up with LSD and cannabis illegal, a scourge of far more dangerous and addictive drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine being pushed for profit, and huge societal and health problems with the promotion and overuse of our one legal recreational drug, alcohol.

But this situation looks unlikely to change markedly. On drugs our governments, our politicians and our political parties are wimps.

‘War on drugs’ funding boost

The Government has announced a $15 million boost for anti-drug initiatives.

Stuff: PM John Key announces $15m of initiatives for war on P and other drugs

The Government has announced the funding for 15 anti-drug initiatives, coming from money and assets seized from criminals, as part of its Tackling Methamphetamine Action Plan.

User pays initiatives.

The funding includes $3m for a joint initiative by police and health officials to reduce demand for P in Northland, as well as a $2.1m programme to better identify P use among new prisoners and trial a treatment programme. 

The Government is also spending $2m to tackle the flow of P into New Zealand from the Americas and Asia, along with $732,000 to get more intelligence on overseas gangs importing the drug.

Key said official advice from surveys suggested the number of people using P was declining.

However, extra resources for police and Customs had led to more high-profile seizures, while those “at the hardened end” were using more of the drug.

“Certainly, meth has become I think a drug of choice of some of these more hardened users.”

Key said New Zealand’s status as one of the most expensive places to buy P was a “huge incentive” for those who wanted to import or manufacture the drug.

Limiting supply pushes up prices which makes it more lucrative to supply. A vicious supply circle?

NZ DRUG FOUNDATION: BETTER BALANCE

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the Government appeared to have a better balance between law enforcement and health-based interventions than in previous announcements.

“It’s not just all about law enforcement, it’s not all about getting tough on gangs, it’s not all about stopping drugs at the border – you have to provide help to people who need it.”

However, Bell said drug and alcohol treatment services had been underfunded for many years, and “a much more significant injection” of cash was needed to tackle the demand for drugs.

“As long as there are people who are demanding drugs, people will find a way of supplying those drugs,” he said.

Keeping people off drugs and getting addicts off drugs must be the most important focus.

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http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201820336/police-commissioner-welcomes-new-phase-in-meth-battle

Mike Sabin and methamphetamine

MP Mike Sabin is being investigated by the police for assault, and it appears that National are looking at possible replacements for him in his Northland electorate.

Sabin has a history of involvement in drug enforcement and education.

Before becoming an MP in 2011 Sabin was a police officer for ten years (including drugs detective) and then in 2006 founded a business called Methcon that somehow made money out of addressing the P problem. They described themselves as:

New Zealand’s only specialist methamphetamine education provider

Sabin’s website profile goes into more detail.

Mike took leave without pay from the police in 2006 having founded a world-first company,MethCon Group Ltd, the aim of which was to provide employers, government agencies, community organisations and members of the public with better education, policy and strategies to respond to New Zealand’s growing P problem. Mike delivered hundreds of seminars and presentations in businesses, schools and communities from Te Kao in the North to Wellsford in the South, gaining a respected public profile and connectivity with communities and organisations around the North.

Mike quickly rose to national prominence as managing director of Methcon Group with frequent media appearances and commentaries. The business quickly expanded from Northland right across the country with Methcon Group gaining recognition with a number of business awards, while Mike himself was recognised with national leadership awards for his commitment in this area.

While researching solutions to New Zealand’s methamphetamine crisis Mike traveled extensively into the United States and Europe and provided research and recommendations to the previous government and the new National lead government, which have given this issue considerable priority.

Mike’s is now considered one of the country’s foremost authorities on matters related to methamphetamine and drug policy which is also reflected internationally in his roles on several international drug prevention policy organisations, including being one of two representatives for Oceania on the World Federation Against Drugs. Mike also attended and gave an address at the United Nations in Vienna at the 10 year anniversary of global drug policy in 2009.

On Youtube: New Zealand’s first methamphetamine education DVD.

Coincidentally I watched a documentary last night on methamphetamine in Fresno, California. The widespread inter-generational addiction problems are awful. And the prospects for kicking the habit don’t look great.

A comment here yesterday from “Concerned Citizen”:

This Sabin idiot gave us the most ridiculous speech about drug addicts one day. He said it was proven that forcing them into rehab was the only way to get results. Hello!! Anyone who has had anything to do with an addict would know that forcing them to do anything won’t work. They have to want to get better. Ruling people with a big stick hasn’t got you anywhere much now, has it Mike?

In a Radio NZ interview in 2008:

Mike Sabin: There are programmes. The effectiveness of them, and the ability to actually have a mandated programme. So in words what we’re talking about is this notion of you only get off drugs if you want to is actually quite incorrect.

With some of the more powerful drugs if you force them into a corner and you give them a hard option or a really hard option they will take the hard option.

And some of the results we’re seeing in the United States with drug treatment courts. You know forty to sixty percent of people are getting clean within three months. Recidivism rates dropped from sixty percent down as low as five percent.

That may not be his current thinking on cessation methods.

Reported in Australia in June this year:

No known treatment for ice addiction, inquiry told

Australia urgently needs to step up research into treatments for ice addiction, health and drug experts say.

Unlike methadone for opioid users, a substitute for methamphetamines largely does not exist.

The Australian Medical Association has told a Victorian inquiry into the supply and use of ice that urgent research is needed to develop suitable treatment and management options for methamphetamine dependence.

Clinical drug experts have joined the call, saying Australia could be leading the way in looking for more effective long-term treatment for people using crystal methamphetamine.

The head of clinical services at Turning Point Drug and Alcohol Services, Dr Matthew Frei, said pharmaceutical treatments for ice were undeveloped and there were limited options for long term therapy.

And Sabin in Australia about the same time:

Prevention the cure for ice scourge, expert says

PREVENTION has to be the cornerstone of any strategy to arrest Victoria’s ice scourge, an international expert says.

Mike Sabin, a former New Zealand Police detective who has become an internationally recognised expert on methamphetamine, said prevention was often the “poor cousin” in drugs strategies, after treatment and enforcement.

“Don’t ever think you can arrest your way out of this problem,” Mr Sabin said.

Mr Sabin said strategies aimed at tackling health issues like heart disease, skin cancer and obesity focused on prevention and ice use should be treated in a similar way.

“It’s an entirely preventable health problem,” Mr Sabin said.

“The key to tackling this problem and every other drug problem in this state and every other place in the world is prevention.

The generation of tomorrow had to challenge the belief that drug use was a rite of passage into adulthood, he said.

Prevention is obviously best – if it works. Preventing the manufacture of meth, prevention pushers from getting people hooked and preventing addicts from obtaining supplies have all proven to be very difficult.

Working with drug addicts is very difficult. Meth addicts have a reputation for violence. Keeping them off highly drugs like methamphetamine has proven to be difficult.

Meth Help – “These pages will help you to make a change, find out about treatment and all the ways you can get support along the way.”

Whale Oil still in message control mode

NZ Herald reported this morning: Len Brown scandal journalist Stephen Cook on P charges

The journalist who broke the story of the Len Brown and Bevan Chuang sex scandal has appeared in court on methamphetamine charges.

Stephen John Cook, 46, came before Manukau District Court this morning on charges of possessing the class A drug and a glass pipe used to smoke it.

Cook gained publicity last year when he teamed up with WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater to publish details of the mayor’s high-profile affair.

The alleged offending which brought him before the court today stemmed from an incident in Auckland on Saturday.

Tonight there was a comment on Whale Oil’s Backchat that was presumably related to this. It asked that as Slater was so opposed to drunk driving what he thought of P.

Soon afterwards the comment disappeared.

If the journalist charged was someone like David Fisher it would be likely to feature in at least one prominent scathing post on Whale Oil.

Slater said recently:

I am very happy with where we are placed, and very happy with where we are going.

Big things are going to happen soon, and then you will see why it is that we have headed in this direction.

Going in the direction of suppression of discussion about unfavourable news is not a good lead in to a new media enterprise.