"Most people won't yank out a pipe at a party, but it will be there somewhere - the pipe is passed, and if you take hold of it, you might never put it down."

Kelly Lyndon, 35, says New Zealand's methamphetamine usage is "worse than ever".

"I cannot go out now without seeing at least one person on P. I can look around and tell you who is using. These could be people at the gas station, in your office."

She has seen her friends fall into the "evil clutches" of the drug — "good people, with families, jobs, who had never done anything wrong and suddenly there's people turning up at the door, debts to pay, threats of being beaten up. They dabble in crime, maybe a bit of stealing, even start to deal and soon they will do anything...and I mean anything, to satisfy that craving".


At a Tauranga party when she was younger, one of Lyndon's acquaintances was offered a pipe for the first time in the basement.

"This wasn't a party of gang members ... it was in a respectable street, with business people."

Over the years she "watched helplessly" as her friend became consumed by the drug, losing their job, partner, kids, and turning from "a respectable, good person" to a life of crime. He is now in prison.

"He took that first pipe and he just never put it down. Back then we didn't really know much about P ... we thought he was going through some sort of crisis ... he was so abusive to his friends, partner, and the hardest to watch was the fact he had kids... it was as though he didn't care about anything but getting his fix ... he was falling into the depths of hell, but taking everyone he loved for the ride."

Over the years, Lyndon started to come across more people in the grip of methamphetamine.

"I have seen parents lose children and children lose parents to this drug. The worst I have seen is a person who let their child be abused so that they could get access."

She says there is still a misconception that it's "a poor person's drug" or that "you only take P if you hang out with gang members".

"Not so. It is absolutely everywhere. There are people I know using who go to work in an office with highly respectable jobs, no one would know, and they might never come to the attention of the police, and yet they use covertly for a long period of time. I have met plenty of middle class business people who use. Users are across the board."

Author Kelly Lyndon has witnessed the destruction of the drug methamphetamine. Photo / File
Author Kelly Lyndon has witnessed the destruction of the drug methamphetamine. Photo / File

A common thread she realised in all the people she knew who tried P, was the outcome.

"The story might start different — they might try it a bit and be okay, or try it for years and be okay ... but the outcome in my experiences has always been the same ... that although they think they are in control, it ends up destroying everything they have. They end up in the gutter, with nothing, or in jail, even dead."

Trying to help her friend, Lyndon searched for information about P in the library, but only found medical journals and books difficult to read. Unable to find what she needed, she ended up writing it herself.

The result is Crystal Reign, a fictional novel about the New Zealand methamphetamine scene which Lyndon spent three years researching. One of the main characters is from the Bay but it is set in Auckland and the protagonist who falls into the drug's grip is a woman.

"I wanted it to be a woman because women are just as likely as men to become P addicts, and especially, it seems, mothers. It is certainly not a male thing."

When the woman, an amazing wife with three beautiful kids and a great job, is introduced to methamphetamine at a friend's New Year's Eve party, her husband can only watch helplessly as she becomes enslaved by the drug. Her addiction costs them everything, including the family home, and when she disappears, in efforts to find her, her husband and kids are dragged into a dark world of meth users.

Lyndon brings the "carnage" of the drug in graphic scenes. To those who know nothing about methamphetamine's murky underworld, the world of swinger parties, or people having limbs cut off, tortured and killed in retribution may seem a far-fetched fictional fantasy. For Bay mother of two Erin Scarlett it was a "hard read, very graphic but at the same time real".

Crystal Reign is the book about P that Kelly Lyndon wanted to read, but couldn't find, so in the end was compelled to write it herself. Photo / File
Crystal Reign is the book about P that Kelly Lyndon wanted to read, but couldn't find, so in the end was compelled to write it herself. Photo / File

Scarlett is the founder of Brave Hearts, a charity she set up to support families of methamphetamine users after one of her own sons was addicted to meth for 10 years after trying the drug as a teenager.

Holding regular seminars in the Bay and extending to Auckland soon, Scarlett says she welcomes anything that raises awareness of the drug for people like her who did not even realise her son was using for several years.

"I found the novel disturbing but very real. Identified with the husband and his family. If it helps raise awareness of the impact and devastation not only on families, but the wider community, it would be good."

Scarlett was one of the people Lyndon met while researching the drug. She also consulted with NZ Police who assigned an officer to help authenticate scenes.

Lyndon also spoke to rehab services, as well as former users and their families, and people associated with gang members. As a result she is an expert at spotting a user.

"It is pretty hard to fool me. There are the obvious signs of users that people think of like sores and people being wild and incoherent but many people taking it are functioning but there are still signs, but you have to know what you are looking for. Every single time I go out I can spot at least one person ... I saw a guy just before at the gas station and thought, yep ... the yellow tinge to skin, talking rapidly, and an odd way of inhaling and exhaling ... scratching arms and torso."

This is Lyndon's first literary novel, although she has a background in romance writing.

"I was pretty much compelled to write it because I really did want to shed a light on the extent of the problem ... but at the same time I want it to be entertaining, I want readers to keep turning those pages ... it is a dark read but I hope it makes people think."

She has one particular reader in mind — her friend who she remains "devastated" that, despite 14 years' addiction, cannot kick the drug.

She is amazed that there is no residential facility in the Bay despite noticing increased need over the years. "That is what astounds me. Because if we could have got him there, we might have saved him. I think of him reading it. It is a book for so many many people, too many people. But it is also written for him."