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Health and Police Agencies Target Methamphetamine

Wednesday, 29 May 2002

Health, Police, law enforcement and social policy agencies are taking a three-step approach to tackle the increased use of the drug, methamphetamine, Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia and Police Minister George Hawkins announced today.

"The Government wants to minimise harm from methamphetamine use by reducing the supply of methamphetamine and its precursors, reducing its demand in the community, and limiting problems occurring from its use by improving treatment for people with drug dependence and providing accessible information," Mrs Turia said.

Mr Hawkins said he wanted to ensure there was dedicated resourcing to support enforcement activities and announced additional funding of up to $250,000 examining methamphetamine use and its effects on young people.

"This spending will contribute to the development of an early warning system to inform police of worrying drug trends, and to gather information to support police intelligence activities."

"Increased experience and skill has enabled our police to locate and dismantle clandestine methamphetamine laboratories. Police dismantled 41 laboratories in 2001, and a further 40 have been located in 2002 to date."

Mrs Turia said the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD), the body that makes drug classification recommendations, is meeting in June to consider whether methamphetamine's current classification (B2), is appropriate in terms of its potential harm to the community.

"Methamphetamine is the strongest of the amphetamine type of stimulant drugs, commonly known as speed. Long term use of the illegal stimulant has been linked to potentially violent behaviour, and users who inject the drug are at risk of spreading blood-borne viruses including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis."

In other work, Mrs Turia said a Memorandum of Understanding signed last year with the chemical industry provided greater control over the precursor substances used in the manufacture of illicit drugs including methamphetamine.

"We are encouraged by the support from across the community, including pharmacists and the pharmaceutical industry, for taking steps to limit the sale and supply of substances which may end up in the illicit drug market and are considering further steps to restrict availability of precursors."

In May 2001, to reduce the availability of products used in manufacturing methamphetamine, the Ministry of Health restricted the maximum amounts of relevant products that could be sold over the counter.

Mr Hawkins said Police have been active in raising awareness about the harm associated with methamphetamine. Recent meetings throughout New Zealand with United States of America expert Gary Shimabukuro alerted government and non-government organizations, as well as the public, of the potential dangers associated with the drugs.

ENDS

Background

Supply Control

Methamphetamine is a Class B2 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and already subject to law enforcement activity. It is illegal to possess, produce, manufacture, sell, supply, import/export methamphetamine. Penalties include:

· up to 14 years imprisonment for importation, manufacture or supply
· up to 10 yrs imprisonment for conspiracy to commit an offence
· up to 3 months imprisonment or $500 fine or both for possession

The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD), the body that makes drug classification recommendations to the Minister of Health, is expected to meet
in mid June this year to consider whether methamphetamine's classification (B2) is appropriate, in terms of its potential harm to the community. The
Police, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, are preparing a background paper on methamphetamine for consideration by the EACD. The EACD
process is also expected to yield valuable information on appropriate means to address the methamphetamine issue.

Pharmacies have taken a professional approach aimed at tightening the availability of methamphetamine precursors and are working closely with the
Police. In April 2002 the Self Medication Industry hosted a workshop that developed recommendations for each sector in the distribution chain, on
improving security and minimising leakage of the precursors to illicit users.

The New Zealand Customs service indicates that while the majority of methamphetamine is sourced from local manufacture, there are still shipments from
overseas. In 2000-2001 Customs Officers made a series of seizures of amphetamine and methamphetamine, primarily from Europe, totalling more than 10
kilograms. In the last 12 months Customs has made two seizures of highly potent "Ice" (crystal methamphetamine), including one of a kilogram. There
have also been some interceptions of methamphetamine tablets, a form which, while not common here, is extensively used in parts of South East Asia.

Demand reduction

Harm minimization information on amphetamines, including methamphetamine, is already available from various sources including Waitemata District
Health Board's "Sorted" booklet available at www.waitematadhb.govt.nz/sorted, the Government sponsored youth website www.urge.co.nz and the Ministry
of Health's safe dance party information available at www.ndp.govt.nz. The Ministry of Health will also consider how district health boards can
further incorporate methamphetamine-related information in current and planned health promotion activities.

Evidence indicates that a broad, multi and inter-sectoral community action approach is an effective way to combat drug problems. Community action
works through community partnerships. It uses evidence-based, locally designed strategies to address community risk factors and improve family, school
and community environments. By addressing an issue in a collaborative way through alliances and coalition building, communities increase knowledge,
share information, and develop skills and expertise. The Government is keen for relevant agencies to consider how the community action approach could
be applied to the methamphetamine issue.

Problem limitation

The established Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme, providing sterile injecting equipment, is a key strategy in preventing the spread of
blood-borne viruses amongst the injecting drug user population (including those injecting methamphetamine) and the wider community.


Indications from drug treatment services are that while numbers presenting with methamphetamine problems have grown, the drain on services is still
limited at present. Recent reviews of treatment have found, however, that methamphetamine users are highly over represented amongst those not retained
in (or failing) treatment programmes.


Aftercare (post-treatment) support, extended beyond traditionally typical times, will be a critical component supporting the methamphetamine user's
recovery, decreasing chances that the person will again turn to drugs.


Treatment is more effective if tailored to a person's specific situation and usually involves a combination of methods. Options include individual
counselling, group therapy, medication and supervised/home withdrawal.


There are already some treatment services available in New Zealand, capable of working with methamphetamine dependent clients. Effective treatment of
methamphetamine abuse may, however, require longer and more intensive treatment protocols than usual, possibly including residential services. It may
also be necessary to upskill some of the workforce on coexisting drug abuse and mental health problems (comorbidity issues).

The Ministry of Health will work with drug treatment services as necessary, to aid development of services as described above, that can effectively
treat people with methamphetamine problems


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