As the nation nears its third week in Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown, drug and alcohol addictions are coming to the fore, social agencies say, and while some people have sobered up, issues with violence, gangs and nasty withdrawals have shone a light on the grip addictions have on some of our most vulnerable.
Visions of a Helping Hand Charitable Trust founder Tiny Deane said deception and aggression were some of the things he was dealing with as people with addiction lost their supply when the country went into lockdown.
He has housed 200 homeless in Taupo and Rotorua in five motels across the cities.
"It's been real hard. I think it was hard for them but it was harder for us."
The first five days were "unbelievable" with gang members from three separate gangs turning up to two Rotorua motels to try to sell drugs, 24/7.
"We've had some pretty hair-raising stuff ... I didn't think we were going to get through with the amount of threats that came at me."
The effect of the lockdown and the vulnerable rough sleepers, most of whom struggled with addictions, now in secured motels, meant a stream of income was now obstructed for drug dealers.
They would come to the motel in the middle of the night and then become aggressive when told to leave by Deane, he said.
"You're killing our people slowly," he would say to them.
To which the dealers would respond that those inside owe them money.
Among those housed in the motel for the lockdown were alcoholics and people who had been on meth, synthetics and other substances "for years".
The New Zealand Drug Foundation stated the most common psychological symptoms of withdrawal were irritability, urges to use, anxiety, depression, anger and confusion.
The most common physical symptoms are sleep problems, restlessness, loss of appetite, tremors, night sweats and diarrhoea.
The strict no drugs or alcohol policy was enforced, which left some angry and agitated.
They say they feel awful, "and I say - bro, you're actually brown, your face isn't red anymore," he said.
Deane said the addiction was evident and he dealt with deception daily, with many lying about needing to go to the dairy or supermarket and returning with drugs.
He said any movement was interrogated and he would often drive to the supermarket if they said they were going to watch them go in and out.
"They get p***** with me but I'm just doing it for their benefit."
A man Deane had known for over two years has not had anything to drink for 21 days, and before the lockdown, Deane had never seen him sober.
"The first few days he was on edge and sketchy, walking back and forth, pacing."
Now he was a "totally different person".
"You have to be hard for these people to understand ... if you're not, then they'll take an inch to get a mile."
Three social workers live in the two Rotorua motels with the rough sleepers and support those who were now unable to become intoxicated.
Police, nurses, security and a psychiatrist have also been assisting.
Many had expressed their gratitude to Deane and the team already and several have signed up for rehab for when the lockdown is lifted.
Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust executive director Tommy Wilson said while there had been some signs of drug dealing, the normal channels were not operating which meant many would go into withdrawal.
"P is a problem, not so much when people are on P but when they come off it."
Withdrawals looked like heightened anxiety which Wilson said could manifest itself in domestic violence which had already doubled since the lockdown.
Stressors were amplified in the lockdown.
"It's amplified when you put people in confined spaces and condense their challenges - work, food, addiction or mental health."
They had an average of five new health issues every day and this was only surpassed by the growth they saw in mental health and addiction issues.
"I think we're only going to see it increase."
Alcohol continued to be the biggest issue and Wilson supported the calls to ban alcohol deliveries as the addiction which continued to cause the most harm was alcohol.
"We don't need more petrol for the fire.
"The number one thing with addiction is you don't want to go through your withdrawals flying alone."
He said staff were focused on continuing to provide crucial one-on-one support for their clients, having worked for 15-days straight dealing with the rapid rise of incidents since the lockdown.
They were currently in talks with Dr Tony Farrell and the Civil Defence to put together a facility to deal with the growing amount of domestic violence and substance abuse in one place.
It is hoped to be a "one-stop-shop" for medical checks and assessments for mental health and addiction.
Since the lockdown, the Mount Maunganui GP has had a case where a person relapsed after being beaten up.
"Family violence and interpersonal violence has increased since the lockdown and we know that alcohol is a significant factor.
"If an alcoholic can't get alcohol they can go into a nasty withdrawal state which can be quite dangerous," Farrell said.
He said the level of severity could worsen depending on the number of times someone with alcohol dependency had gone through withdrawal.
Farrell was one of the 12 Tauranga doctors to sign a letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week urging the closing of all online alcohol sales during the lockdown.
"It's really worrying for us to know patients are in lockdown with addictions and having less contact with their treatment providers," though phone or video-call contact were still being made.
He said withdrawal of any kind could cause emotional distress and physical discomfort.
Fatigue, depression, distorted thinking, paranoia, agitation and being unfunctional were associated with a lack of supply of meth.
"Alcohol withdrawal is probably one of the more dangerous of all withdrawal states because it can put people into seizures or what's called delirium tremens and you can die from that without medical attention."
Rotorua police area commander Inspector Phil Taikato said there was evidence showing that harder drugs were getting more difficult to source, but this was difficult to gauge with cannabis and synthetics.
"We are becoming more aware of those that handle the products, being more exposed with less people around.
"As a consequence, we will be leveraging off this situation to shut down these people."
He said while the number of drug-related incidents appeared to be the same, police were mindful there were also fewer people out in the streets.
"A lot of this offending is happening inside the homes which could become problematic post-Covid".