Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Methamphetamine use on the rise

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Percentage of positive drug tests with traces of methamphetamine

Bay of Plenty/Lakes regions

• 2014 10.57% • 2015 12.78% • 2016 14.84%

National

• 2014 7.5% • 2015 10.84% • 2016 12.82% - Supplied by TDDA. Figures for the first six months of each year.
Methamphetamine use appears to be on the rise in the Bay of Plenty. Photo/File
Methamphetamine use appears to be on the rise in the Bay of Plenty. Photo/File

Methamphetamine use appears to be on the rise in the Bay of Plenty, with more people testing positive in the workplace and more people seeking addiction treatment.

Figures supplied to the Bay of Plenty Times by The Drug Detection Agency show workplace drug tests containing traces of methamphetamine have increased in three years.

In the first half of 2014, 10.6 per cent of all tests the agency carried out found traces of methamphetamine, rising to 14.8 per cent in the first half of this year.

This comes as a suspected methamphetamine lab was uncovered by police on Walker Rd East, between Tauranga and Katikati yesterday.

ESR scientists and the clan lab team were processing the address yesterday and police were continuing to make inquiries.

A man thought to have links to the address was dropped off at Tauranga Hospital in a serious condition in. Police are wanting to speak to the man in hospital and the person who dropped him off there.

The Drug Detection Agency chief executive Kirk Hardy said the higher detection rate of methamphetamine in the workplace was a concern. The last 24 months had seen a significant increase in positive tests.

"It's not too dissimilar to what we saw in 2006 and 7 when we did see that increase in the workplace, then it died off."

Mr Hardy said there was a mixture of both existing drug users needing higher amounts of meth to experience a high, and new users entering the market.

It was not uncommon for a high-user in a workplace to start dealing to colleagues to fund their own addiction.

Mr Hardy said rather than sacking a user, workplaces should implement solid rehabilitation plans and look at supporting their employees.

Salvation Army national director of addiction services Lieutenant Colonel Lynette Hutson said in the most recent financial year, 80 people had sought help in the region, compared to the 2014/15 financial year when 66 people sought help.

These figures were for residential treatment and did not include services such as the outpatient and day counselling programmes.

"The word on the ground is it's definitely more prevalent out there at present."

Mrs Hutson said the Salvation Army had about a 50 per cent strike rate of getting people into treatment.

"It is very hard to get people with a methamphetamine problem through the door. Methamphetamine goes out of the body really quickly, but the cravings are very intense . . . We've got to work hard to get them into a service as quickly as we can because they back off. They will look for more drugs and put off going to treatment."

In the first three to four weeks coming off the drug, users suffered severe mood swings, often to the point of suicide. Then at other times, they swung in the opposite direction and felt great about life, only for it to change again the next day.

"But even with that, it's absolutely possible to come off methamphetamine, and very successfully."

National Council for Addiction Treatment chairwoman Vanessa Caldwell said two things were being seen nationally - a slow rise in the number of users and a rise in people experiencing problems with methamphetamine.

"It takes a while to develop an addiction, I think what people are responding to is the number of people that have developed addiction issues. It's the problematic use of it that has a bit more visibility in the community I think."

Bay of Plenty District Health Board clinical director mental health Sue Mackersey said she believed methamphetamine use was on the rise because it was becoming more available.

Dr Mackersey said it was hard to quantify how much of a problem the drug was in the community.

"There are many variables involved such as how much methamphetamine a person uses and any physical and psychological co-morbidities that they experience. It commonly precipitates physical, psychological and social problems and can precipitate serious mental illness."

Police Detective Superintendent Virginia Le Bas, national manager of organised crime, said methamphetamine was used by people from all walks of life and as methamphetamine was an illegal drug, people did not discuss their usage freely and it was difficult to measure accurately.

Ms Le Bas said Police and Customs were making considerably larger seizures each year. In 2015 334.3kg was seized, which was over nine times the amount seized in 2013. This year has seen record-breaking seizures of the precursor ephedrine, a single seizure of about 200kg, and methamphetamine, a single seizure of 494kg.

She said the police were generally detecting fewer clan labs, but some of the clan labs detected were able to make larger than usual amounts of methamphetamine.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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