A vision for a P free Waiheke has inspired a hui in Oneroa on Thursday 17 November. Piritahi Hau Ora clinical psychologist Paora Joseph and Waiheke Sergeant Chris Kerekere talk to Rose Davis about the devastating drug.

Methamphetamine is like an aitua that takes hold of people and doesn’t loosen its grip, says Piritahi Hau Ora clinical psychologist Paora Joseph.
“I call it the demon drug.

“Collaborative and proactive measures are needed to tackle this aitua or ngangara.
“It’s like a dark thing, a dark force that grabs you and doesn’t let you go,” he says.

Methamphetamine, which is also known as P, ice and crystal meth, is an extremely addictive drug that is widespread on Waiheke and causing serious harm throughout New Zealand, says Mr Joseph.

“There are more meth problems than marijuana problems on the island.
“In Aotearoa, meth is like an epidemic among our young people.
“In mental health terms, it’s like the plague.”

Mr Joseph has worked with many people who have tried meth once or twice and become hooked.

“It’s one of the most addictive drugs out there. It’s important that your children know it’s not a drug you can experiment with.”

He sees about one new client a week who is struggling with P addiction or is distressed by the behaviour of a loved one who has fallen into the stranglehold of the drug.

“There are so many people who have been influenced by meth in New Zealand from all walks of life – everyone from doctors to lawyers to young people. For the people selling the drug, it’s easier to infiltrate the naivety of the young, so young people should be aware to watch out at parties, because it can be a common feature.”

Meth is made from toxic ingredients, including battery acid, turpentine, phosphate fertiliser and toilet cleaner, that “pollute” the body and undermine people’s mental and spiritual wellbeing, he says.

“Meth is so poisonous and so mind changing in a negative way, it attracts negative energy, negative mauri or life force, and that grows.

“It takes people away from their core being to the extent that they don’t actually know themselves any longer,” he says. Meth gives people a brief “illusion” of extreme clarity and increased energy, a sense of being “superman or superwoman”.

However, the incredible high from the drug is soon followed by a massive crash.
Research links meth with increases in violent crime and family violence throughout New Zealand. “Meth can induce a psychotic state, so people on it do things they have no idea that they are doing and that’s why it’s so dangerous. When people come down from meth, there’s that moodiness, depression, anxiety, lack of energy, hence the need to feed that aitua, that addiction, so they can have the same peak experience they had previously.”

People who use P might lose weight, look gaunt and discoloured, pick their faces and seem nervous and shaky. Meth causes emotional instability, angry outbursts and longer term mental health problems, such as psychosis, personality disorders, early dementia and depression.

“There is a strong correlation with suicide, because of the huge lows associated with it.” The impacts of meth addiction on families are also tragic. “On a whanau level, I’ve seen huge negative effects and trauma, because of the changing behaviour of the person. They will steal from their family and lie and cheat to support their habit. They get away from their core values and become disconnected from their whanau.”

Many people feel ashamed of meth addiction within their families, says Mr Joseph.
“There’s no need to feel ashamed because such a high proportion of the population is affected by meth. It’s very difficult to find an extended whanau that has not been affected by this drug. The problem with that whakama, that shame, is that if we all hide in the shadows around this epidemic, it’s like a dark secret that is allowed to grow.”

Piritahi Marae, the hau ora and Waiheke police have organised a public meeting next Thursday to encourage people to come forward to seek information and support without “shame or blame”.

“We’re saying we have decided as a community on Waiheke that we can stop the epidemic.”
Mr Joseph says addiction to P and other drugs can stem from people lacking a sense of appreciation for ordinary life or wanting to numb emotional pain.

“If we don’t appreciate what we have here and now in terms of the privilege of being alive, then we’re always trying for something better. Or there is the aspect of not wanting to confront our suffering in a healthy way and with acceptance. As humans, suffering is as much a part of life as the happy times. It’s important for people to reach out for support and to communicate to get clarity around their emotions,” he says.

The hui on meth will be held at Morra Hall from 5.30pm on Thursday 17 November. •

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