Legalise P? Hold on there fella, let’s do marijuana first

Matt Noffs is chief executive of the Noffs Foundation, and with his wife Naomi runs a early intervention service called a “street university” in Sydney, Australian Capital Territory and Queensland. He has recently published a book: Breaking the Ice: How we will get through Australia’s methamphetamine crisis.

Methamphetamine – known as “ice” across the Tasman and “P” here in New Zealand – has a reputation as a “fearsome” drug, but Mr Noffs argues that the use of meth and other drugs should be treated as a public health issue, not a crime.

He is calling for innovative injection or inhalation rooms, which are used to deal with addiction in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, to be introduced here and in Australia.

Mr Noffs said Germany already had nearly 30 “consumption rooms” and it had been shown that the benefits far outweighed the costs, with German banks the first to fund them.

Is this a room where you bring your own P?  Or do you get supplied some at a nice government sponsored discount? 

He said New Zealand once had 6 percent prevalence of meth use (“off the charts”) but after the government tried a treatment approach, it dropped to less than 1 percent.

“You’ve done a remarkable job by being compassionate and looking at the evidence and acting on the evidence, as opposed to acting on a hunch.”

The fact that it was rising again could be due to lack of resources, he said. The New Zealand Drug Foundation had called for treatment to be doubled, as there was now a waiting list, he said.

Although methamphetamine could lead to anxiety, aggressive behaviour, paranoia and psychosis, Mr Noffs said with a triage system in place, experienced staff could manage manic situations. This was a good argument for inhalation centres instead of drug-affected people turning up in public hospital emergency wards.

Mr Toffs said someone suffering from methamphetamine-induced psychosis might need 10 people to wrestle them to the ground and hold them down. But 80,000 people had injected P in a drug injection centre in Sydney’s King Cross over the past four years.

“How many episodes of violence? Zero.”

It’s not the zero-violence cases the public are worried about.  Nor are the police.  They worry about some idiot coming after them while off their face on P wielding a brush cutter.

People needed to understand that it was rare, he said; most young people might use cannabis but very few would experiment with P.

He said those who became dependent on drugs were generally impoverished, rarely functional, lacking links to family and friends and often homeless.

On the other hand, “drugs to people who can get on with their life are secondary to a flourishing life”.

Mr Noff said his drug rehabilitation centre dealt with preventing people from harming themselves and others, and not necessarily trying to stop them using all drugs.

“Our idea isn’t to get kids off drugs, it’s to help them find a flourishing life.”

With drugs, if they so choose.

Good luck getting that approach anywhere past the government.  New Zealand can still treat P addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal issue without going to the extreme of making it an acceptable part of life.



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