"Every school kid will be offered P at some point."

"Meth is everywhere."

"It is easier to score than cannabis."

"Suppliers will actively target people . . . it is sophisticated pyramid selling."

These warnings on the country's methamphetamine epidemic are real and should be listened to.


They come from those who know: a former addict, a former supplier, and a police officer who counsels more than 30 families who have a P addict.

Our recent series of stories on the Bay's P problem that I have written has touched a nerve in the community and many people I know say they are talking to their children as young as primary school age about methamphetamine.

It is horrific we have to do this but it is a good thing. Former drug squad cop Dale Kirk would like to roll out a programme talking about methamphetamine to kids in all high schools. AC/DC rocker Phil Rudd has offered to pitch in to help him.

Bay mother Erin O'Neill started up support group Brave Hearts to support families of addicts. More than 60 people attended her first meeting and Erin has had queries from across the country.

When she said in the Bay of Plenty Times that sometimes she wished her P addict son would die to free him from the scourge, she was inundated with comments of support on social media, from other people, like her, in the know about the evils that this drug can carve through families.

Meth is not a gutter drug, taken on the street in dark corners. It is, say police, and our own Cabinet minister Simon Bridges, increasingly being taken by middle-class users. Business men and women. By kids in posh schools. At dinner parties, passed around with the canapes.

Haydee Richards at home in Auckland. Richards is a former P addict and wants to raise awareness about the dangers of the drug. Photograph by Doug Sherring
Haydee Richards at home in Auckland. Richards is a former P addict and wants to raise awareness about the dangers of the drug. Photograph by Doug Sherring

We met Haydee Richards, brave enough to put a face to meth addiction that challenges perceptions and stereotypes. Her children, Zara and Troy, spoke out about painful times in their childhood when their mother was a slave to the drug.

We met Shane, from a "good family" who fell so far into the grip of the drug that he began supplying it. When his flatmate pinched a smoke Shane bashed him with a wheelbrace. At one point, Shane had a pus-filled abscess on his head that leaked blood and the only thing he cared about was getting more P. When his supply was cut off he punched a concrete wall and broke every bone in his hand.

As Shane warns, this is no glamour world of Breaking Bad, but a murky world of crime and violence, that "'dark places you couldn't even dream existed in your worst nightmares".

It is easy to judge but these are everyday people like you and me. Meet them and I think you would like them. If they had had cancer and recovered, society would hail them heroes. But they did have a terrible illness. Drug addiction is a sickness, and to me they are heroes for being brave enough to speak out about it, because their stories have brought conversations about methamphetamine back into the public eye.

Meth is not a game, this is not Breaking Bad ... this is not a drug you can mess around in thinking it is just fun. It will get you. It will take you down dark places you couldn't even dream existed in your worst nightmares.

Our problem with P in New Zealand is nothing new, but despite crackdowns on its raw ingredients that have reduced domestic manufacture in clan labs, it seems that meth is still flooding into the country.

While police have made some big busts at the borders - in the first half of 2016, police and Customs seized 640kg of meth - nearly double the amount seized for 2015 (334.3kg) - import activity seems to be rising. Consider the $448m of meth that just washed up on a Northland beach this year.

This week police told NZME that New Zealand is facing a "second wave" of a dangerous methamphetamine problem as the illicit drug becomes cheaper and more readily available.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor says despite several big drug busts in recent months, anecdotal evidence from front line officers suggested the country now had a greater problem with the drug than ever before.

"I've done a tour throughout the country speaking to police officers from North Cape to Bluff and to sum it up, it's all about P."

It is good we have our eyes open, but what do we do?

Prime Minister John Key has indicated he is revising the Meth Action Plan initiated in 2008. It would be good to hear what he has planned on this soon.

It seems clear to me from researching and writing these stories that police and customs staff are dedicated to the task but there needs to be more of them. More front-line officers and detectives dedicated to tackling the problem.

Yes this is more government money but money well spent when one considers the cost of P to our communities - the social and health costs, and increase in related crimes such as burglaries and violence.

For those in the grip of addiction, there is help out there, but in regions outside the main cities, such as the Bay, it seems hard to access.

Almost unanimously people in our stories are calling for more addiction services, including a residential rehab centre in the Bay. With our growing population, a Higher Ground-type recovery service seems essential, as does more support for families.

As well as tackling the supply end of the chain, we must also better tackle the demand with more drug education. We need to get to the kids before they are offered it. Parents need to have their eyes wide open and be ready to be tough with their children.

We need to keep talking about it.

For those people "dabbling" in weekend drug use, this is not going to end well. Simon Bridges suggests if you know people like that, dob them in.

Some people may be laughing while enjoying their pipe and Chardonnay, but there are people in our community, like Haydee, Zara, Troy, Shane who know the hell of meth.

Te Puke parents Dave and Fiona Crawford, whose son Darrell became addicted to P, know this hell only too well.

Te Puke couple Dave Crawford and Fiona Crawford, parents of Darrell Crawford who was addicted to methamphetamine and murdered. His body has never been found. Photo/ Andrew Warner
Te Puke couple Dave Crawford and Fiona Crawford, parents of Darrell Crawford who was addicted to methamphetamine and murdered. His body has never been found. Photo/ Andrew Warner

The extent that meth ravages a person is shown graphically by two photos Fiona Crawford keeps of Darrell in her wallet.

One shows him smiling, tanned, attractive and in the prime of his life at 32.

The other, taken just two years later, depicts a gaunt face, thin skin stretched over his skull, sunken cheeks, and a hunted, desperate look in his eyes.

Darrell isn't here to tell us about his addiction, or his recovery.

He was murdered. The Crawfords live in agony not knowing where his body is.

No one has ever been brought to justice for his death. His parents believe he was slain by others in the meth world after he started cooking his own P.

His father, Dave, told us that he believes at least a dozen people in our community know what happened to his son, and where his body is. He knows that people may not want to come forward because of fear, that people in this drug scene "are not the sort of people you want to cross".

Of all the stories, one scene I will always remember is sitting in Dave and Fiona's front room on a cool spring evening. The TV murmurs in the background, the heat on and it is cosy and warm inside. A typical family. People like you and me.

But Fiona is softly crying holding all she has of their son - a photo. Could anything more starkly illustrate how meth tears people apart.

The Crawfords want to find their son's body, to bring him home. Fiona's words about Darrell are true of any addict.

"When you are involved in methamphetamine, there are no good outcomes. Darrell was a good person, who became an addict and got involved in a terrible scene.''