24 Apr 2017

Mother's meth warning: 'It took four years to find out what was happening to my son'

12:28 pm on 24 April 2017

Methamphetamine support groups are calling on the government to urgently fund public health advertising for P, as it does with tobacco and alcohol, to warn people of the drug's harmful effects.

no caption

Photo: wikipedia

The Tauranga-based Brave Heart New Zealand group held its second public hui a fortnight ago, with 250 people turning out to voice their concerns.

It said more and more methamphetamine support groups were being established nation-wide, largely by volunteers.

Erin O'Neill co-founded the group after her son's lengthy struggle to fight his P addiction.

"As a mother myself 15 years ago, I'd never even heard of P, let alone what a P pipe looked like," she told Nine to Noon.

"It took four years of doctors, counsellors, anger management to find out what was happening to my son.

"I just want to educate people, let them know the signs to look out for and support the whānau because without supported whānau, the addicts really don't have as good a chance to get into rehab or to recover."

She said one police officer she felt she could turn to was Western Bay of Plenty senior constable Lindsay Smith.

In his own time, Mr Smith had been working with families in the district affected by P for some time.

"I teach them ways of finding out and I give them a lot of tips on what to look for, where to find and how to go about that sort of thing.

"And just be generally aware, not naive anymore. And I also get them to stop enabling. They usually enable out of love and they want to help ... but I make sure they focus their help in the right way that's not enabling.

"And so they don't just end up just buying more drugs [for them]."

Supporting family members without anger was extremely important, he said.

"You can't let anything slide but you've got to be able to confront in a safe way because methamphetamine has an awful correlation of violence as well.

"So I teach them how to do this safely or safer."

Mr Smith said education for these families was hugely important.

A Hawke's Bay mental health support worker said people needed to know what methamphetamine pipes looked like and how addicts behaved.

Nicky Prisk organised a hui last week in Waipukurau, where P addicts, worried families and gang members were among the 100 people who attended.

She told Nine to Noon that had prompted her to start a weekly drop-in centre in the town, from today, for P addicts and families affected by the drug.

"I've never been a meth user myself but I lived in a [violent relationship] with my ex partner for 10 years, who was a meth user, and I knew the signs.

"And three years ago, when I found my son using it, it broke my heart and I just felt so helpless not knowing how to help him."

Ms Prisk said the government needed to admit there was a nation-wide P crisis and more rehabilitation centres were desperately needed.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs