NZ's P problem like a balloon, says expert
New Zealand’s methamphetamine (or P) problem is like a balloon – stretch it one way and it will bulge in the other, according to specialist group, Methcon.
Banning cold remedy ingredient pseudoephedrine, one suggestion for fighting the problem, was achievable, staging it with prescription-only regulation first, but the “massive” global trade had to be recognised, Methcon Group director and former drug lab detective Mike Sabin said.
“There has to be a marriage between supply and demand reductions.”
Speaking at an online briefing organised by the Science Media Centre, Mr Sabin said data from US states including Oregon and Kentucky showed trends toward sophisticated monitoring increased the amount of people shopping for the product.
The US was moving towards prescription-only pseudoephedrine products, he said.
Environmental Science and Research (ESR) general manager of forensics Keith Bedford said pseudoephedrine was the main precursor for the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine.
Significant amounts were being seized and smugglers were going to lengths to conceal the drug, including hiding it inside batteries, books, on the body or in sofas.
Customs have seized 700kg this year.
A 1g or 100mg bag of methamphetamine was mostly 75% pure, he said. “There’s insignificant difference in purity between crystal meth, or ice, and the main product that’s being distributed in the New Zealand illicit drug market.”
He said a distinguishing feature of the New Zealand manufacture of the clandestine lab scene was the improvisation and ingenuity of methods used.
Chief science advisor Professor Peter Gluckman was tasked to suggest ways to fight the country’s methamphetamine problem and will present those findings to the Prime Minister. Suggestions are expected to be made public this month.
Clinical pharmacology professor at the University of Auckland Peter Black said there were alternatives for people suffering cold and flu to products containing pseudoephedrine, including xylometazoline.
Chris Wilkins, team leader of drugs research at Massey University’s Centre for Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation (SHORE) said the P scene in New Zealand was entering a maturation phase.
The year 2001 was the “high water mark” in the trend, which had dropped off since then.
He said most users were not getting treatment and there was an opportunity to intervene with P users in the criminal justice system, as they were more likely to be criminally active.
Andrea Deuchrass | Wednesday October 7 2009 - 11:18am