EDITORIAL: Old facts won't win drugs fight
Hawke's Bay Today
No doubt the research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal and which concluded that drug users are finding it harder to get methamphetamines and that the use of P and other Class A drugs is plateauing, was done with painstaking thoroughness.
The Medical Council stands firmly by the findings which have been rejected with equal vigour by Police and Customs. The latter insist they are not winning the war on drugs. It is likely both are correct and one must wonder at the point of such research which is so out of date (unless done for its own sake).
The conclusions were based on research in 1998, 2001 and 2003, with a total of 4500 people interviewed.
[FONT=Arial,Helvetica][SIZE=-2][/SIZE][/FONT]methamphetamine users aged 15-45 increased from 1998 to 2001 from 7.6 percent to 11 percent, there was a slight decrease in the number of users from 2001 to 2003 (11 percent to 9 percent). It is interesting, but the lag makes it of more academic interest than of practical use.
The Police Drug Intelligence Bureau said seizure statistics since 2003 showed the amount of methamphetamine imported and made in New Zealand was increasing. Customs Investigations manager Bill Perry said methamphetamines were the most common drug found at the borders and that international drug organisations were targeting New Zealand "using highly innovative methods". So far this year Customs has seized $195 million worth of drugs bound for the New Zealand domestic market.
The journal said there was greater public awareness of the health risks associated with P use, and increased enforcement may have helped stabilise the drug problem. That's a fair point, but whether the conclusions still apply is a moot point. Police are now better resourced and the guards at the gates more alert to the ambitions and wiles of drug importers. Nevertheless it is not only probable (but experience tells us, certain) that such efforts are matched by those determined to introduce and feed the habit when they can capitalise on the drug's high premium - methamphetamine fetches more than $1 million a kilogram.
The medical journal studies underscore the harmful effects of the drug. Clearly, the conclusions are not intended to mitigate the seriousness of the problem. However, they could have that effect in the absence of more immediate, equally exhaustive data. While they might not share full agreement on the means, Police, Customs and doctors have a common goal in ending drug abuse. It is important they work in tandem so that we can more clearly understand the bane and the effectiveness of the antidote.
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