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ACC releases methamphetamine pilot studies review

19 October 2005
Media Release

ACC releases review of methamphetamine pilot studies

The Accident Compensation Corporation has released a report entitled “Exploring Methamphetamine and Injury: Feasibility Studies of Data Collection Methods” which summarises four pilot studies exploring data collection methods on the drug “P” or methamphetamine and injury.

ACC Research General Manager Keith McLea says the commissioned report, prepared by Auckland University researchers, vividly captures the pain and anguish from methamphetamine use in anecdotal accounts within the four pilot studies that it reviews.

These pilot studies were based on hospital emergency department admission data, anecdotal accounts of P users, similar accounts from people who work professionally with P users (such as police and medical staff), and a survey sampling some of the people attending an all-day music concert.

Dr McLea says some of the anecdotal accounts in the report from both the P users pilot study and the pilot study of people who work professionally with P users make harrowing reading.

“Hospital staff members describe witnessing injuries from fighting, falls, burns, and self-inflicted harm—particularly to hands—from punching walls or windows while on the drug. Nightclub security witnessed many ‘bloodied faces’ and ‘cracked heads’. Counsellors regard the intensity of symptoms as ‘far greater than alcohol and cannabis’ with P users having vivid hallucinations and hearing voices that make some suicidal,” he said.

“One community worker considered that methamphetamine production was ‘taking out whole generations of communities’, and concluded the spread of P amounted to ‘murder of the community’.”

Dr McLea says workplace issues discussed by the professionals who work with P users revolved around security problems arising from aggressive, irrational and unpredictable behaviour of patients requiring emergency care after taking P. He says Police and Fire Service workers in particular expressed confidence in the training they received to cope with such cases.

“Anecdotally, smoking appears to be the main way people use P in New Zealand according to the report which is consistent with other studies,” he said, “although some people report noticing an increase in use through injections and this might be linked to more serious injuries.”

Dr McLea says the pilot study sampling some of the people attending a one-day music festival was aimed at determining what kind of data could be derived from such sampling and whether it was meaningful. Of the 42 respondents who had used “P” in the last 12 months, six reported they had suffered personal injury as a result of using the drug. Dr McLea cautioned against extrapolating the report’s data to the New Zealand population.

Also, in the pilot study of professionals who worked with P users, some recounted anecdotes where P users were ‘in denial’ about the danger they were in. For example fire fighters recounted one situation where they could see flames coming from what they thought was a P lab, while a person inside denied that anything was on fire.

Dr McLea says while the report’s data is derived from small scale pilot studies, some key areas of concern emerging from the study include violence, burns, and injuries to other people not involved in using P. He says ACC will be taking a careful look at the report before deciding on the nature of follow-up initiatives.

“This research was designed to avoid duplicating qualitative studies already undertaken under Cross Departmental Research Pool funding criteria while still leveraging off the whole-of-government approach in the Methamphetamine Action Plan,” said Dr McLea. “As such, it has laid the foundation for a commitment by ACC to support the goals of the Inter-Agency Committee on Drugs (IACD) through this and future research on the impact of P.”


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