What is methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is extremely addictive and destructive. It has serious social, economic and even environmental consequences. Police are highly focussed on destroying the production and distribution of methamphetamine.
What is methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine is a member of the "amphetamine" group of synthetic or designer drugs that have a powerful stimulant effect on a person's central nervous system. It produces wakefulness, hyperactivity, lots of energy and an euphoric effect.
In New Zealand, the most commonly abused drugs in this group are methamphetamine, amphetamine, Ecstasy and the prescription drug Ritalin.
On the street, methamphetamine has a range of nicknames including "speed", "pure", "P" "burn" "goey", "crank", "meth", "crystal", "ice" and "Ya Ba". It can be a powder, a crystal 'rock' like form, or a pill.
The nickname "P" is unique to New Zealand.
The crystal form of methamphetamine is the most pure and becoming more common. Called "ice" due its appearance; white or translucent crystals. Ice has more pronounced effects on the central nervous system and is highly addictive.
Users snort the powder, inject a liquid combination, swallow a pill or smoke the more pure (and more dangerous) crystal forms using what is called an "ice pipe".
Effects of methamphetamine
The effects of meth on users can vary and are therefore unpredictable. Tolerance rapidly sets in - meaning that greater and greater doses need to be taken to achieve the same effect.
Increased use commonly results in compounding paranoia, psychosis and extreme mood swings. This in turn can lead to violence and violent offending such as serious assault and even homicide, especially when the intense craving for the drug often leads to repeated use for days on end, without sleep or food.
Eventually the constant "high" cannot be sustained and the user starts to come down in a steep crash. This overwrought state, often referred to as "tweaking", is when the user is in their most violent and unpredictable state. Sometimes they will resort to cannabis or even heroin, as a "downer", to get over this state.
Methamphetamine is expensive and users often fund their addiction by resorting to crime. New Zealand Police have investigated an increasing number of homicides where the distribution, use or debts associated with methamphetamine have had a direct link to the crime.
Who makes meth?
Some methamphetamine is imported from countries like China but most is manufactured in New Zealand in clandestine drug laboratories, known as "clan labs".
The illegal manufacture, distribution and marketing of methamphetamine is big business in New Zealand and the profits to be made from it have produced some previously unheard of business alliances. Gangs who were once sworn enemies now prefer to work together because it's good for business.
Meth remains predominantly associated with motor cycle gangs such as the Head Hunters but ethnic gangs including the Mongrel Mob have moved into the market and distribute methamphetamine alongside their traditional product, cannabis.
Manufacturing a dangerous process
There are inherent risks in the manufacturing process due to the poisonous, explosive, corrosive, toxic and extremely flammable chemicals used. The process is dangerous for the cooks who are often inexperienced in the safe handling of chemicals, for the public, and for emergency services.
Some of the chemical processes involved in producing methamphetamine can produce highly toxic, deadly gases. These fumes and chemicals pose a significant safety issue for Police, ESR and other emergency personnel involved in the investigation and clean-up process.
A number of clandestine laboratory operators have been discovered dumping chemical waste into local water supplies, farmlands, venting fumes near schools and dumping volatile waste in rented sheds.
Every kilogram of manufactured meth produces around 7 kilograms of toxic by-product that is either flushed down toilets, or dumped outside - quite often in residential neighbourhoods.
Buildings can become contaminated with the chemical process containing carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) that pose a danger to future occupiers, especially children.
How to recognise a clandestine laboratory
If you have concerns about activity in your neighbourhood that you think might involve the manufacture or use of methamphetamine, here are some signs to look out for:
- Strange smells
- Fumes/vapour escaping from windows or ventilators
- Unusual activity and at unusual times
- Premises being used for purposes other than normal e.g. garage not housing vehicles,
- Windows covered/sealed day and night
- Person acting as if under the influence of drugs
- Unusual erratic behaviour
If you have any concerns get in touch with your local Police (phonebook) - all information received can be treated in strictest confidence.
What you can do
If you are a parent, relative or friend, or a concerned member of the community and need support or information, here are some web sites which may help you:
- DARE - Drug Abuse Resistance Education
- FADE - Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Education
- New Zealand Drug Foundation
What Police are doing
Police are shutting down labs and seizing meth throughout the country.
Police are highly focussed on searching for and destroying the production and distribution of methamphetamine.
Police initiatives included:
- Appointment of a national coordinator of actions against clan labs and liaison with the ESR to ensure timely processing of evidence
- The creation of three specialist teams to cover the country in dismantling methamphetamine labs
- The appointment of pre-cursor analysts to enhance intelligence capability
- The development of district protocols with pharmacists to monitor sales of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. (As of 15 October 2004, Ephedrine and Pseudoephedrine became Class C controlled drugs.)
- Implementation of an extensive research programme to gain better understanding about patterns of drug supply and use
- Joint actions with Customs to interdict the importation of Class A and B drugs resulting in the recovery of increasing amounts of attempted drug imports
- Closer cooperation with agencies in other countries to interrupt the source of imported drugs. (The Fijian operation in early 2004 knocked out a laboratory capable of producing more methamphetamine in one lab than all the domestic labs detected last year.)
Police are taking a holistic and balanced approach to reducing crime in New Zealand - we aim to reduce violence, reduce burglaries, reduce vehicle crime, and increase national security and road safety.
Recent crime statistics indicate very positive results from our current crime and crash reduction strategies.
- The Socio-Economic Impact of Amphetamine Type Stimulants in New Zealand Sep 2004
- Recent changes in the methamphetamine scene in New Zealand: Preliminary findings from key informant surveys of drug enforcement officers and drug treatment workers Jan 2004