New Zealand should avoid buying into "out of control hype" about methamphetamine, a Wellington conference on fighting the drug has been told.
Local gangs were only bit players in the meth trade, and the focus should be on harm reduction, rather than punishment, Detective Superintendent Virginia Le Bas told the Drug Foundation meeting on Friday. "It's not a war against methamphetamine. It's a very complex problem." She said only a few people in New Zealand profited from meth, much of which came from China, Hong Kong, Mexico, and now Canada and Thailand. Some gang members or associates were themselves part of a "vulnerable community" getting exploited in the meth trade, said Le Bas, national manager of the organised crime unit. "It's about reducing the harm. It's not about removing gangs out of our society," she told an audience of gang members, police, social workers and healthcare professionals in Wellington.
Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said there were two "competing narratives" dominating the national debate over P. Most data, and the "government narrative", showed meth use was markedly down in recent years, from 2.2 per cent 2009 to about 0.9 per cent the population now. However, some meth decontamination businesses and drug educators had advanced the view that a second meth "epidemic" was under way, he said.
The Insurance Council said last month that there was a degree of "paranoia" about the safety of meth-contaminated property. Standards New Zealand started working last month with public and private sector groups to create the first national standard for meth testing and decontamination in houses.
Bell said the recent record-breaking Northland meth seizures also intensified focus on the drug. Nearly half a billion dollars of meth was found in an abandoned boat on Ninety Mile Beach Meth last month. The meeting in Wellington was told that the Government's Methamphetamine Action Plan, despite some successes, was due for a "refresh", with calls for a huge increase in health and treatment funding. Bell said treatment budgets for meth addiction should be doubled or tripled, and the country needed to be "ambitious" about throwing resources at the problem.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet said it was looking at what more could be done to tackle the meth issue and "build on the gains already made" through the Meth Action Plan.
METHAMPHETAMINE IN NZ
* Purity has largely stabilised at high levels (about 73 per cent) since 2012.
* Border seizures of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine peaked in 2009 before falling.
* Is one of the amphetamine family of central nervous system stimulants. The pharmaceutical name for amphetamine is Dexamphetamine, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
METH ACTION PLAN
* Established in 2009 by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
* Aims to "crack down on precursors, break supply chains, improve routes into treatment and support communities".
* Sends progress reports to the prime minister, and ministers of Corrections, Customs, Health, Justice, Maori Affairs, and police.
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