18 Oct 2016

Drug clinics reject govt claims P use is dropping

12:46 pm on 18 October 2016

Drug rehab clinics are rejecting government claims that P use is dropping and say they're treating more meth addicts.

meth pipe

Photo: Wikipedia

Prime Minister John Key yesterday announced the government had allocated almost $15 million to fight drug abuse.

It would fund 15 different initiatives ranging from treatment facilities, prison pilot programmes, and specific customs and police operations.

Mr Key said in the announcement that the number of people using meth in New Zealand was dropping and the initiatives were to help a hard-core group of users struggling to kick the habit.

Claire Aitken has been with Moana House - a rehabilitation facility in Dunedin for adult male offenders - since it started 29 years ago.

It has never had any money from the government before, and had now been given $900,000.

She said the announcement blew her away.

"We've never had money like this so I'm over the moon. We've always scraped, and spent every cent we get," she said.

The facility was now incredibly busy, with two-thirds of their referrals related to methamphetamine, Ms Aitken said.

"We have a waiting list currently of 120, we have 20 people in 17 beds, and we've never seen such unprecedented demand for our services."

Methamphetamine addiction had become more widespread and increased over the last few years, Ms Aitken said.

Salvation Army's Lynette Hutson operates the Hauora Programme in the central North Island, which has also been given a $800,000 boost.

The P problem was worse, she said.

"There is an increasing use in methamphetamine. It's becoming more normalised."

"Often it's in the package of how they use alcohol and [other] drugs, but the use of methamphetamine is now far more common in the people we see come to us," she said.

Methamphetamine caused people to act in unpredictable ways, Ms Hutson said.

"The high levels of being awake, and alert, and then the drop down from that is of significant harm to people, and particularly to those around them.

"The way that methamphetamine influences people's perception of reality, and issues such as violence and criminal offending are very much impacted by methamphetamine use."

Police Commissioner Mike Bush told Morning Report part of the money would also go towards police efforts to cut off the supply of the drug.

He said there were nine police officers working overseas, including in China, to target people who sent drugs to New Zealand.

"There's a lot of supply coming into New Zealand, and Australia, I can say - so, you know, part of the funding is about our continuation of having people offshore," he said.

"The best thing we can do is keep the drug off the shores of New Zealand."

Mr Bush said prevention was key.

Labour leader Andrew Little said methamphetamine was still prevalent in New Zealand and there were still many cases coming through the courts.

"It's interesting, for a government that thinks we're winning the war on meth, they need to put another $15m into it.

"The reality is that this is a scourge, it's continuing, and we need to continue to invest in those measures that are going to eliminate it," he said.

"I think when you talk to the police what they'll say is that they're playing constant catch-up, the fact that there's a 22 percent increase in proceedings related to meth use tells you this is a growing scourge - police are doing the best they can with the resources they've got."

"In the end you've got to stop supply."

Northland Police have made a record seizure of methamphetamine - with an estimated street value of $438 million on the street

Police in Northland made a record seizure of methamphetamine earlier this year. Photo: SUPPLIED/New Zealand Police

Northland focus needed - Police Association

The government is to spend $3m on a joint Police and Health initiative to reduce the P demand in Northland.

In June a record 500kg of meth was intercepted, most of it on a washed-up boat on 90 Mile Beach, near Kaitaia.

Police Association president Chris Cahill said the focus on Northland was much needed.

"It's everywhere, and the worse thing is it's been responsible for a hell of a lot of violent crime.

"They've had a number of gang-related and drug-related murders up there in the last year and resources are really stretched," he said.

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