The scales have fallen from our eyes and there can be no doubt about the horror of our methamphetamine addiction and its impacts on our society.
The Herald documentary Fighting the Demon: Inside New Zealand's Meth Crisis presents stark figures such as the pace of this incubus - 3kg of meth seized by Police and Customs in 2003 exploded to 941kg in 2016.
But it is the lives laid to waste and the communities cratered as if a meteorite had slammed into them which is most sobering. New Zealand has abased itself to be among the highest users of meth in the world.
There have been well-intentioned but sporadic attempts for 20 years to curb our methamphetamine crisis. All have failed. Initially our authorities were slow to act. Then we focused on supply, when the real issue was demand. Repeatedly, we ramped up enforcement, clogging courts and jails, even as evidence showed it wasn't working. At the same time we stigmatised sickness and failed to fund enough treatment for those who needed help.
Now the country is swamped by the second wave of the epidemic. Huge hauls of the drug arrive on our shores every month. They still come from China, a longstanding base for major manufacturers. But increasingly, major shipments originate from Mexico, where cartels capitalise on our captive and highly lucrative market.
The product is getting purer and easier to find. Deals are done on street corners, in parks, even at work, with most addicts able to score in less than an hour. Inflation hasn't touched meth, the price of a point unchanged from a decade ago.
What started as a party drug for the rich is now more likely to be used by the poor. Its hooks are deepest within isolated, rural communities, where it poisons not just addicts, but their families, friends and children, costing the country a million dollars in social harm every single day.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Police estimate they identified 600 users in the Bay of Plenty community of Kawerau during one recent operation. That's 600 people living within a population of 6000.
Three-quarters of those in rehab centres are addicted to meth. Yet we persist in funnelling money into enforcement, even when the political rhetoric has shifted to talking about "health". Worse, recent moves to ramp up penalties for synthetic cannabis has experts worried we are repeating our mistakes.
"We haven't learned from our previous failures," says New Zealand Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell. "We are always chasing our tail. But we can't keep doing the same thing and getting it wrong, because meth is the number one drug and it is causing great harm."
As with many perils we face as a nation, community groups have sprung up around the grassroots realisation of the evil within. They do important work with little funding and often feel like they get minimal support from an institutional level. We are long overdue a national strategy to fight this as one. Just as the international cartels have so successfully set up shop, we need to link arms to shut them down.