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Monday, 25 March 2019 07:48 pm

Speed, crank, ice, uppers, meth – Salvos issue warning


The basic chemical compound for methamphetamine, a strong central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. While it may be prescribed, it is most commonly used as an illegal recreational drug.


“I would do anything to give up meth,” says Emmy through a mouthful of creamed donut.

 “But come back tonight and I’ll also do anything to get it.

 “That’s why I have this,” she gestures at the home detention monitor attached to her ankle. It looks heavy, uncomfortable and out of place around her delicate ankle.

 She’s having another creamed donut, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

 She grins and shrugs.

 Emmy, not her real name, will turn 20 in six weeks. Legally Newswire can’t tell you her real name because she is currently before the court on other charges.

 She says she’s been on a waiting list for a meth treatment programme for five months.

 Emmy is knows stealing is wrong, but she did what she had to feed her habit.

 Yes she still has a habit but she doesn’t want to talk about how she’s handling her addiction now because she’s ashamed, and her Mum might read this.

Emmy is one of those statistics making up the 78% increase of meth related offences that the Salvation Army announced in their State of the Nation report on Wednesday. It is the most concerning illicit drug on the Salvation Army’s radar.

“This is us” The 2018 State of the Nation Salvation Army Report.

 The Sallies have been part of New Zealand for 135 years; they know what’s going on at a grassroots level.

Ten years ago they started releasing an annual report highlighting important social and economic issues that they felt needed to be addressed. This year the rise of methamphetamine use is one of their biggest concerns.

Dire is an apt word to describe their warning about New Zealand’s growing meth problem.

 Conversely, while meth offenses grow, possession/use of cannabis offences are dropping significantly, they halved from 32% to 16% between 2009 and 20017. While a change in police focus may in part be responsible for less cannabis convictions, there is other evidence to support that meth is becoming more readily available and more of a social problem.

 The most recent Arrestees Drug Use Monitoring report shows that in the last six years, respondents admitting to having used meth within the last 30 days has jumped from 14% to 22%. That same report also found that the mean number of days a year respondents were using meth has risen from 68 to 85. That rise in use has seen the price of meth drop 17% in six years, down from $723 per gram to $620 per gram in 2016.

 Meanwhile cannabis prices have risen with access becoming increasingly difficult. That recent Arrestees Drug Use Report found 27 % of respondents thought it was more difficult to get cannabis than it was methamphetamines.

 Six years ago that number was 13%.

 The fact the Salvation Army has singled out meth is no real surprise to those on the coalface of drug education and treatment.

Cleaning up the Meth

There are 11 non clinical walk-in centres across the North Island run by New Zealand ‘P’ Pull.

 Liz Makalio is one of those people.

 She spends a lot of her time explaining to worried whanau that their meth addicted loved ones aren’t the people they once were.

 “When they’re addicted they’re gone. They’re the drug. The need. That pull is everything.”

 Founder of New Zealand ‘P’ Pull, Ms Makalio has set up 11 community led walk in centres around the North Island in the last 18 months.

 The centres are designed to help anyone dealing with any kind of addiction issue and are there for both the addicts and their whanau.

 “Behind every addict there are 10 to 15 people at least,” she says. “Meth is destroying families, communities. It’s everywhere.”

 All the walk-in centres are non-funded (they get by on the support of the local community) and are run by ex-addicts and whanau experienced with dealing with addicts.

 “Sometimes you just need to talk to someone who understands.”

 New Zealand ‘P’ Pull run a virtual walk in centre via Facebook for those that don’t have access to a centre where they live.

 It’s so busy it needs nine moderators covering it every night.

 For more information about New Zealand ‘P’ Pull and the work they do, visit their main online group here. Apply to join and the moderators will contact you.

 Online support forums like the New Zealand ‘P’ Pull Facebook group help overcome the stigma that can often accompany addiction.

  *Lillian experienced that stigma first hand.

 She lives in a small South Island city. Her youngest son *Nick, moved to Wellington in the late 90s.

 “Here young people stay and farm; or leave, study and make new lives somewhere else,” she says.

 Nick thrived in Wellington, quickly becoming part of the music scene.

 “It took us a few years to realise he had a drug problem. I don’t think I wanted to see it really,” she pauses, clears her throat.

 “And then you couldn’t miss it.”

 Nick had started on heroin but tried to get clean and ended up on meth.

 The family tried everything to help him get clean. He came home and went cold turkey several times, went to 12-step meetings, saw the family doctor and a psychiatrist, a psychologist. He went through two free rehab programmes, but they didn’t have specific meth programmes. He kept relapsing.

 The family tried interventions. Negotiating. Begging. Bribery. Tough love.

 “We did the full Dr Phil. Nothing worked,” Lillian says. “I was sure he was going to die, and eventually he began to think he might die too.”

 When Lillian told her extended family about Nick’s struggle, she was told poor parenting was the problem:

 “My sister said I must have be a bad mother because only brown people are meth addicts.”

 She’s angry. Furious.

 Her voice is ice but you can feel the pain beneath it, burning hot coals like the spots of colour high in her cheeks.

 “We got lucky; someone died and left us money. So we used that to send Nick to Australia.”

 Nick agreed to a residential treatment programme for at least a year, then to stay on in the city for at least 18 months after.

 He completed the programme, found a job, and 12 years later is married with two little boys, still living in the same city as his rehab centre.

 Lillian says Nick is reluctant to move too far from his support, and that he’s dedicated to helping other addicts go through the programme.

 He’s also terrified of relapsing.

 “His wife has never done a drug in her life; in fact she’s super anti-drugs.  She says she loves and supports ‘Recovery Nick’. But ‘Addict Nick’?  She doesn’t know him.”

 Coming clean – rehab

 These days, for those with the means to go private, there are options here in New Zealand.

 Red Door Recovery in Upper Hutt is a privately-run facility with a specialised methamphetamine programme.

 With a two-to-one ratio of staff to clients, the two-year programme is a combination of in and outpatient care and tackles mind, body and perspective.

Founder David Collinge, explains the programme as the what, the why and the potential.

“Our programme was created specifically for meth users and the way their bodies withdraw as well as the way their minds re-establish a connection with both their bodies and everyday life.” He says there are no typical meth addicts: from gang colours to white collars it’s a drug infiltrating all areas of society, and it worries him immensely.

 “I don’t know what the government can do about it now.

 “If they were bold they would do what Switzerland did with heroin and introduce a legalised treatment programme.”

 It’s a persuasive argument.

 When Switzerland started legally prescribing heroin for addicts the percentage of overdoses dropped. (It’s now down to less than 1% of users per year) Addicts are no longer considered marginalised members of society and money formally in the hands of criminal elements is no longer.

 While Red Door may be a private facility, they operate with a business plan that allows them to treat people on a sponsorship basis: they treat a certain number of people free of charge every year.

 Mr Collinge said it was a non-negotiable goal of Red Door from the start, and they are lucky to have two patrons who help with funding, along with their Give a Little page, and of course their private clients (some of whom are ACC assisted.)

 Red Door Recovery runs an online support group. It’s open to the public, and explains a little about their programme and philosophy. You can find it here

 Ross Bell, executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation knows all about Red Door Recovery.

 And New Zealand ‘P’ Pull and their community led walk ins.

 And the 12 step programmes like Narcotics Anonymous.

 And all of the other free and private rehab programmes available throughout New Zealand.

And yet every year about 50,000 people request help for their addiction, and don’t receive it.

One of the resource books available free from the NZ Drug Foundation.

The NZ Drug Foundation have a wide range of resources available to help people with addiction – be it their own or someone else’s.

 He’s frustrated,  he’s tired, and he’s glad the Salvation Army has singled out meth but wishes they had mentioned synthetics too.

 He says what really gets him is knowing that 80% of the money set aside by government for drug spending goes to the Police, Prisons and Courts with the remaining 20% going to treatment and education. (But don’t get too excited, he’s certain that education would be lucky to hit the 1% mark.)

 “On one hand the Courts and Corrections are working hard to provide services for people within their systems, and they have great services in there. But I have to ask if it wouldn’t be a better decision to educate and treat people before they end up in court or prison in the first place?” Mr Ross said.

 “There are so many people in need of treatment and there’s just not enough money.”

 The New Zealand Drug Foundation has two websites. 

The main (name sake ) site contains policy, political analysis, scientific and social data on drugs and addiction. is a portal to advice on dealing with addiction in New Zealand to help with difficult discussions as well as factual, non judgemental, non biased information to help make informed decisions.

God loves a tryer

 Like Emmy, I  “met” *Mark via social media and arranged to meet him in a popular public park near the sea.

 He said he was 37 but he looked much older, huddled against the wind.

 He told me he got there early to suss the spot out and “make sure I wasn’t a pig”.

 He was nervous about what I might have hidden in my handbag and asked me to lock it in my car.

 Over the coffee,  energy drink and a creamed buns I bought for breakfast (sugar cravings are common in meth addicts) Mark tells me about his first time.

 “I was 15 the first time I smoked, with my old man at headquarters.”

 “Gang headquarters?” I asked.

 Mark nods but doesn’t say which one and I don’t ask.

 “I felt like I was 10 … feet tall, I was invincible.

 “I handled it real good too, better than my brothers had.”

 There’s real pride in his voice.

 “That day was the first day I made my dad proud.”

 Unlike his brothers, Mark never received a patch, something that obviously bothers him.

 He doesn’t have contact with his family, though he did briefly see his father when they appeared in court on the same day.

 They didn’t speak.

 Mark says he’s on a rehab waiting list too. Sometimes he goes to Narcotics Anonymous but they don’t like him turning up when he’s high, so not often. He’s heard there’s this place in Thailand where you go and live on a beach, take special medication, eat fruit and they cure all of your addictions. He wants to go there to relax and get clean. Like that film with the Titanic guy.

 I’m pretty sure he’s talking about The Beach. I don’t have the heart to tell him that ended with drug dealers killing foreigners.

 As we’re talking I can’t help but notice Mark’s becoming more and more distracted. Fidgety, agitated. I feel likes something’s building.

 “Have you ever smoked?” he asked. “Or done it at all?”

 Ah. There it is. “No,” I replied. “I haven’t.”

 He reminds me of my cat when it’s spotted a mouse from the deck, watching, trying to figure the best way to pounce. “Don’t you think you should if you’re gonna write about it? I know you’re just a ‘student journalist’, but if you wanna be a real writer…” his words drift off, but his gaze is sharp.

  “No, it’s not for me, thanks for the offer though.” I start to move towards the car. He knows he’s not going to sell to me, and he knows I know that he knows; and we both know the interview is over.

 I thank him for talking to me, he thanks me for breakfast, and I wish him luck.

 I’m just climbing into my car when he calls out to me.

 “If you ever need a hook up though, you call me, right? Call me.”

 “But just until I’m in rehab.”

 Yeah. Just until you’re in rehab.

*Not their real name. Newswire agreed to change their names to avoid identifying them or their whanau.

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is Christchurch born, has lived in Auckland and is loving Wellington. She believes fairness, honesty, David Bowie, and accountability are the foundations of society. Something to tell her? Hit that email button or call her (+64) 27 254 7930.
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