Over half the Whangarei detainees interviewed in a survey conducted by Massey University say they are methamphetamine or ‘P’ users. It's just one statistic from the research done by the University of Massey with over eight hundred detainees from police stations around the country.
In all 56 percent of the 169 detainees questioned at the Whangarei Police Station last year said they used P. It’s a result which clearly shows that P users are turning to crime according to the NZ Drug Foundation.
Executive Director Ross Bell says, "If these people are committing crime because of their addiction then do we lock them up or do we provide them help? Even the police are telling us that they can't arrest their way out of the meth problem. And so we need to be looking at how we get more people more help."
The survey by Massey University also found that Northland now has a lower street price for methamphetamine than Aotearoa’s main city centres. Bell says the big issue for the regions is the limited treatment services available.
"It does seem to be provincial New Zealand that is seeing an increase in meth problems and these are parts of the country where we have limited treatment services,” says Bell, “And we’re hearing that all the time, families [are] really in crisis not knowing where to go for help and if there are places to go for help there are long waiting lists."
Last month the government announced that $15 million seized under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act will go towards address the P issue nationally, including $3 million to fund a joint police and Ministry of Health initiative to reduce methamphetamine demand in Northland.
Mr Bell says, "By providing treatment you start to end the cycle of addiction leading to crime, and if we start breaking that cycle by investing early in treatment we're actually going to save costs down the track. We may not need to build more prisons if we're beginning to address people’s addiction."