Meth overtakes alcohol in addiction problems


For the first time, alcohol has been overtaken as the most pressing addiction problem in the country.

The addiction treatment sector says more patients now need help for methamphetamine use.

Treatment facilities are stretched to capacity and there are long waiting lists.

"For a number of our treatment facilities, methamphetamine is the primary presentation issue - [it's] overtaken alcohol," says Vanessa Caldwell, Addiction Treatment National Committee chairperson.

"That hasn't ever happened before and it's significant because it demonstrates how many people are struggling with this addiction."

Higher Ground programme director Johnny Dow says more than two-thirds of those seeking help at one Auckland rehabilitation clinic are there for methamphetamine addiction.

"The problem does seem to be getting worse," he says.

And there are plenty waiting for help.

"On the waiting list currently, there's about 70 people waiting to come in," Mr Dow says.

"They won't all be addicted to methamphetamine, but a majority will be."

Last night, Newshub revealed even a faction of Black Power has concerns about the drugs availability.

"It's nearly on every street corner," a former Black Power president said. "It's accessible for anyone."

In 2009, John Key promised to break supply chains in a war on the drug.

"We will use every tool we have available to destroy you," he said.

But that hasn't happened. Even so, he's not accepting Government policy has failed, saying New Zealand "definitely" hasn't lost the war on P.

"But we've got a bigger target on our heads because there's just so much money involved in these gangs," he says.

Domestic manufacture has dropped, but imports are at record levels.

And experts say it's hitting provincial New Zealand particularly hard.

"A number of provincial communities are feeling actually overwhelmed by the problem... and don't know where to start," Ms Caldwell says.

She says an extra 50,000 people could benefit from addiction treatment every year, and she wants to see a funding boost for both addiction services and mental health.

Labour says it's clear the Government hasn't achieved what it set out to do when it declared a war on P back in 2009.


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