A woman, a little rough around the edges, a little zoned out, walks into a cafe clutching her cup of noodles. All she wants is hot water for her lunch and, of course, the owner doesn't think twice. She sits down at a window-seat and pours eight sachets of sugar into her noodles, gives it a mix, and begins to eat.
"I really like the flavour," is her response when he asks if it tastes nice. But little does he know that beneath the unusual sweet pairing is the bitter truth of a meth epidemic.
Sugar sachets, lollies and chocolate are being nicked by drug addicts from Rotorua cafes and dairies.
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The news comes hard on the heels of a damning meth wastewater report and a former addict who says her sugar cravings "were pretty intense" when coming down from a high.
A few weeks ago, The Early Bird cafe owner Anthony Estrada stood bewildered after a woman put eight packets of sugar in her instant noodles.
The woman slurred her words and was "zoned out" - as she often was when he saw her - when she asked for some hot water and Estrada said he did not give it a second thought.
"She sat down and put eight sugars in her cup of noodles," he said.
Unsure of what to say, he asked her if it was nice to which she responded, "I really like this flavour," he said.
He said the woman appeared "out of it" and was unable to hold a conversation.
"You can tell when they're sober and when they're not," he said.
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For the Fat Dog Cafe and Bar, the missing sugar has gotten to a point where duty manager Kena Mose has made it a rule that no sugar bowls would be left outside.
Mose had worked at the cafe for eight years and said there had been a noticeable rise in sugar being stolen in the past year.
Previously, the sugar would need to be replaced once a day, but now it was at least twice, sometimes three times.
Mose confronted a woman who walked into the cafe and began taking sachets of sugar without buying anything else. He said she ran away empty-handed.
She said there was the occasional freedom camper who would take some sugar, or a person might walk by and put sauce on their pie, but they never stole it like they did the sugar.
Like many other cafes who had noticed the rise in missing sachets, she did not know that the underlying reason could be related to methamphetamine.
According to a "managing your withdrawals" guideline by Matua Raki - a national addiction workforce development - withdrawal from drugs and alcohol leads to sugar or chocolate cravings.
Blood sugar in the body would rise while using meth and the body would get used to it. This led to cravings of sweet food without the drug.
The latest findings from the New Zealand Police wastewater drug testing programme were released this month.
They revealed the average daily drug use per 1000 people in each policing district between May and July.
The region's meth consumption was the third highest in the country behind only the eastern region - Hawke's Bay - (950mg) and Northland (1000mg).
Nationally, about 15kg of methamphetamine was consumed on average each week.
"I'd get up in the middle of the night and just pour Milo all over my ice-cream," said former meth addict Rachael Wild.
"I had never done that before but I just craved sugar that much that I just had to find anything that had sugar in it."
Wild was addicted to methamphetamine for almost half her life and has been clean for three years and nine months.
The between-use come-downs and when she was getting clean was a time the sugar cravings "were pretty intense".
"Not so much when I was using but when I got clean or was coming down ... definitely massive sugar cravings," she said.
"For me, I'd go into the cupboards and eat sugar and Milo, and smother things in chocolate and sugar.
"Sugar was huge."
Erin O'Neill would always make sure the fridge was stocked with what her son wanted - chocolate, sugary drinks and V.
"Meth addicts, when they're coming down they crave sugar."
Her son is a former addict who became addicted at just 15 while at school, an addiction which lasted 10 years. He has been clean for five years.
She said not having the sugary treats in the house could result in anger or threatening behaviour, "so you're quite happy to feed those cravings".
She started the charitable group Brave Hearts to support families coping with the fallout of having a loved one addicted to meth and sugar cravings was something that was talked about in the group.
Mount Maunganui GP Tony Farrell, who specialises in addiction services, said meth caused a "major release of dopamine" in the brain which the body could try to compensate through a sugar craving when coming down from the drug.
He said drugs affected the mid-brain which was responsible for fight and flight responses, emotions and pleasure.
"Methamphetamine causes a major release of dopamine, much more than sex and much more than cocaine," he said.
"Your body is used to this release of a chemical in your brain and if you're not getting it your body behaves in a way to try and replenish that."
Sugar craving was a common feature of addiction, he said, and patients with opioid and alcohol addiction also craved sugar.
Diane Dairy owner Sukhsit Singh said chocolate and lollies were frequently stolen by people who appeared to him to be drug users.
Last week, a woman who regularly came to the store and verbally abused him stole two handfuls of chocolate bars.
Subway store manager Jamie Moss said a moment that had stuck with her was when a man took a cup out of the bin and filled it up with a soft drink.
Occasionally people would ask for bread but most of the time it would be a bee-line to the soft drink dispenser to try steal drinks or sugar sachets.