Former addicts at a community hui on methamphetamine in Waipukurau have challenged political parties to invest in prevention and education to deal with the scourge.
About 100 people attended the public meeting yesterday that was organised by Central Health mental health support worker Nicky Prisk, who enlisted the help of support group New Zealand 'P' Pull to host the event.
New Zealand 'P' Pull was started in Porirua by senior Mongrel Mob member Dennis Makalio who, with former meth addicts, is calling for the Government to put more money and resources into rehabilitation and education, rather than prisons.
"Meth has been around since the early 1990s and the Government started its meth programme in 2006 - that's a long time, and all the money is being spent on prisons and none on prevention.
"We need money for this evil drug in a separate pot, putting it into the health system isn't enough."
Hawke's Bay Regional Prison principal corrections officer Lance Jefferys has run the drug treatment unit there for the past 10 years, and had 1500 men go through in that time, he said.
"Sadly for many it's when they get released that the support is most needed and it's not there - we're sending them out to the wolves."
He said more halfway houses, where people could feel safe on their continued journey to recovery, and more education on recognising the signs of addiction were areas where gaps needed to be filled.
The hui also heard from former addicts including Maarametua Williams, who was introduced to meth at 18.
Prison time followed.
"I have a 13-year-old daughter - most of her life I was in prison but today she is proud of me because I have given it up."
Ms Williams said she was now 29 weeks clean following a 16-year-habit, and credited a walk-in centre operated by New Zealand 'P' Pull for helping pull her out of the abyss.
New Zealand 'P' Pull co-founder Andrew Hopgood, another former addict who is now a Wellington and Porirua drug counsellor, said he was often asked why meth was so addictive.
"With alcohol the dopamine levels in the brain increase by 200 units, with meth the levels increase by 1200 units.
"It makes you sociable, alert and able to work longer hours - for women it helps them lose weight."
For the average meth user, it usually took about five years for significant damage to be done, often leading to crime and loss of connection with families, he said.
"We need more rehabilitation and detox centres and we need to show addicts love, give them boundaries with definitive consequences and help them rebuild connections."
In January this year it was announced that senior gang leader Rex Timu had lodged a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal arguing "racist" government policy is the reason so many Maori are addicted to P.
Mr Timu is the president of the Hastings chapter of the Mongrel Mob and banned P among his members.
No government department, agency or programme has achieved the same success, according to the 50-year-old, who said the nationwide strategy to combat the "P epidemic plaguing Maori communities" was failing.
"This claim is about the racism (which is rife in New Zealand) including institutional and interpersonal racism, that actively prevents the Hastings Mob and Maori from receiving the resources and funding that they need to achieve the type of results that Rex Timu has achieved, on a national scale," the Waitangi Tribunal claim says.
Meanwhile a group of local Bay grandmothers made headlines in March after taking a stand against the drug. Maori health trust Nga Kairauhii trustee Lovey Edwards and fellow trustee Anne Hakiwai launched the "Nannies against P" movement.
Their goal is to support families, especially the elderly, who were dealing with the fallout of the P epidemic.
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