Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Rehab struggles with influx of P addicts

Methamphetamine addicts are flooding New Zealand's rehab services, with some reporting an 80 per cent surge in demand for services in the last six months.

Addiction to P is such a problem it has overtaken alcohol as the drug help is most sought for, said Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell.

Ministry of Health figures showed that there were about 26,000 meth users in New Zealand, with hospitalisations where methamphetamine was the primary issue nearly tripling from 55 in 2010 to 199 in 2015.

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A ministry spokeswoman was unable to quantify how much of the need for services was met, but said "about 200" meth addicts worked with its residential treatment providers each year, with most seeking outpatient care.

Bell said research showed that only about a third of addicts in New Zealand were able to get help with existing government-funded services, and that anecdotal reports suggested the problem was worsening.

In Auckland, chief executive of The Retreat rehabilitation centre, Rosemary Reece Morgan, said the clinic was struggling to meet demand , with an 80 per cent increase in inquiries.

"In the last six months our inquiry base has gone up 80 per cent. We are at epidemic proportions," she said.

Morgan believed more of the drug was available in communities, with more people cooking their own.

There was also more people injecting the drug, she said.

Bell said evidence suggested the recent surge was from users who started seven-to-10 years ago and had now reached crisis point.

"There has always been more demand for treatment thanwe are able to meet, but what we are seeing at the moment is that there is an increase in demand for treatment as a result of people who have been using meth for a long time and now it has caught up to them."

Bell said new Australian research showed it took about seven years from the time someone started using to the time they asked for help.

"If you accept that research and if it was applied to New Zealand then it was about seven years ago that meth use was at its peak in New Zealand and we were known as one of the highest using countries in the world."

The Ministry of Health said $147.3 million was spent on alcohol and drug addiction treatments in the year to June 30.

A decade of drug use

When she was 18-years-old Anna* started using P. For a decade she lived each day to seek her next hit.

Her life went from that of a university student from a loving family to one filled with police raids, arrests and court.

She lived in houses with other drug dealers and users, sometimes she would not sleep for days.

"I used meth and GHB for 10 years. As soon as I found meth I thought I had found my solution to life. Ever since I was little, I always had friends but I always felt alone, and meth took away all of insecurities, it changed my life.

"I wasn't shy, I wasn't nervous. I was confident and it just took away all the things I didn't like about myself and I felt like I had this really exciting life."

The people she socialised with changed in an instant, she said.

"I would just sit all day every day in rooms smoking meth with other people doing the same thing."

To fund her habit, she began dealing.

"All good things come to an end and it took a couple of years, but then I started getting arrested and being involved in police operations.

"There was a lot of raids, being arrested, spending time in the cells. I was put on curfew."

Anna has about 10 convictions on her criminal record, and it wasn't until a judge told her jail was almost certain that she changed her ways.

"I started using when I was 18, and stopped when I was 28. I have been clean for about 13 months.

"Pretty much everyone I know from when I was using is either in jail or going through the courts."

Anna now works at The Retreat helping others overcome their addictions.

*Not her real name

- NZ Herald

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