I think there is an argument for the value of access to lower risk drugs as a potential means of directing people away from higher risk ones. However, there will always be those who seek out the higher risk ones, and in my view that use is much less likely to be damaging if it happens in the light of day rather than in dark marginalised corners.
And of course no discussion of risk is complete if we don't give alcohol a mention. Especially in terms of ER visits and violence towards others.
These could be a bit off because they're from memory, but I think it's about 8% of regular meth users that end up on the problematic use spectrum. For alcohol is about 16%, for heroin about 24% . So really, while meth damage is the sexy topic right now, in context I don't think singling out meth contibutes to overall harm reduction in any useful way.
As you are suggesting long prison time as a 'solution' to an alleged problem with methamphetamine, it would be good if you could demonstrate how harsher punishments for supply of methamphetamine has reduced the harm associated with the drug in other countries.
It would also be good if you could explain how emergency department staff fearing for their safety warrants ratcheting up prohibition and its punishments for methamphetamine, but not, say, for alcohol.
Finally, please consider how it's possible for a drug like methamphetamine to be administered to children in the US (Desoxyn) while being demonised in NZ, alongside contemplation of the correlation between the marginalisation of a drug and its users, and the harm associated with the drug.
Prohibition is not, and has never been, a solution, regardless of the dangers associated with specific substances. We need to do better.
Amphetamine use in NZ has been stable for about 8 years. It is a moral panic, and part of the reason for that is that the marginalisation of methamphetamine and its users means that problematic meth use is now centred in poor communities – and we all know that everything poor people do is something to panic about.
Meanwhile Fentanyl is a very useful drug for anaesthesia and is quite safe when administered under supervision in accurately measured doses. It’s when its misrepresented as something else in a market with no quality control that deaths occur.
Neither of these drugs are poisons any more than other drugs, and the harms associated with them are a direct result of the lack of regulation in illicit markets. The solution to this is not more punishment – that method has had 45 years to work and has failed spectacularly to reduce use or harm.
KnowYourStuffNZ would like nothing better than to be put out of business by a better system, one that includes legal purchase, quality control, and labelling, and doesn't pretend that prohibition had ever worked.
The illicit drug market is global. Economics + distance would be my guess. But it is just a guess.
Thanks Steven, the needle exchange model is the one most apt to apply to what we’re doing. They also began with ‘ethical non- compliance’ that produced evidence which demonstated its value.
Hopefully it won’t take the government 20 years to catch up this time.
Hi Steven, Wendy Allison from KnowYourStuffNZ here. While we try to stay involved in discussions where we can, we are all volunteers and have full time jobs, and as you can imagine today has been quite busy for us already. If you have any questions, please fire away but we can't guarantee a speedy response.
We are quite happy to pour compliments on Russell - he is awesome and his grasp of the issues is streets ahead of the majority of folks commenting in this field.
None of the testing methods available to the general public can reliably detect synthetic cannabinoids. FTIR is unlikely to be able to detect Fentanyl either. It's also unlikely NMR could. For this, we need GC-MS.
I think 7 deaths is enough to warrant demanding this be addressed - people need to know what this is, and a means of submitting samples for identification.
The thing that bothers me is that it sounds like maybe the people dying are not from groups that get prioritised highly, and all the warnings we put out may not reach those people effectively.
Meanwhile, possibly not relevant to this but still worth putting out there: Dancesafe now has Fentanyl testing strips available. They recommend that for plant matter, the material is soaked in water and then the water tested.
Oh ffs when are the people with access to the technology to identify this stuff properly going to stop faffing about wringing their hands about ‘sending the wrong message’ and start testing, identifying and telling people what is out there?
Customs, police, ESR, I’m looking at you. You all have the technology to do this, and the power to say “Actually saving lives is more important that moralising about what we do and don’t condone."
Get on with it. We need an early warning system and we need it now.
To fully make sense of the “2/3 decided not to” statistic, we’d really need more detail on what the alternatives were.
You are quite right. KnowYourStuffNZ did ask people to expand on their reasons for choosing to take a substance that turned out not to be as presumed, however the responses were subjective and not really useful for making claims from a research perspective.
Anecdotally and by observation only (ie not backed by data), they generally fell into two broad categories - "Had used before with no problems" and "Was identified as another desirable substance" (ie cocaine that turned out to be speed). Even these people often said that they would approach with much more caution than they would have had they not gone through the checking process.
We can judge these reasons as much as we like, but the outstanding thing for me is how few people fell into the 'don't know, don't care, will gob anything for kicks' category that seems to be the stereotypical one applied to drug users.
The frustrating thing about that UK scare is the way that all the media outlets ran with the police line that it was 'a particularly potent form of MDMA' - they did this without it having been tested and it was pure speculation. Then after testing when it turned out to be synthetic cannabinoids, they called it Spice -which means about as much as bath salts in the world of harm reduction. They are umbrella terms used colloquially to describe families of drugs and give *zero* useful information about what the substance actually is.
Additionally, KnowYourStuffNZ tested a lot of pink crystals this year, and found 39 different psychoactive substances. There is simply no way to tell what is in a substance by looking at it. Yet another argument for implementation of drug checking nationwide.