P, short for Pure Methamphetamine, developed from its parent drug amphetamine with the base compound of Pseudo-ephedrine, has become social anathema to the Police, doctors and Nurses who treat the results of it and to Social Workers and Counsellors across the country who pick up the pieces of shattered lives. Available to all (with enough money) in pill, powdered or crystallised forms, it has become the gin, opium, heroin and crack cocaine of the 21st century.
Until the past year I really had no personal knowledge of P, drugs not being one of my vices; information filtered through the media and through friends to me about it, but still I never actually knew any of these people who did P and experienced the terrible (and be aware they are awful) consequences of taking this particular drug. The stories of the man who, high on P, took a machete to his flat mates and cut their hands off, or the man who robbed the RSA and murdered several people and claimed he was high on P when he did it, or the man who murdered the bank teller and pizza worker in cold blood who was purportedly paying a P debt at the time. All contributed to a picture of a drug that was causing extreme behaviour in people who possibly otherwise may not have behaved in such a fashion.
Seeing it in the media and hearing about it second hand, has nothing on witnessing the incredibly destructive power that P has on peoples lives. This occurred for me last year, when a friend, “Kate”, became addicted to P. Kate, brought up in a stable two- parent home, was never one to walk the straight and narrow. Always up for a laugh, she had a succession of dodgy boyfriends, the last of whom she had two beautiful little girls with. I always knew that Kate and her boyfriend were into Dac – that distinctive smell was always present in their shared flat – but I had no real idea about her P addiction until it was too late.
The moment Kate tasted P it was the drug of choice for her, no other would sate the extreme need she felt to have another hit; she would do anything for it. P stimulated the release of dopamine, noradrenalin and serotonin within her Central Nervous System; the combination caused her body to believe it had an unlimited supply of energy by draining energy from other parts of her body. This biological and chemical robbing of Peter to pay Paul caused her to stay awake for hours and hours on end and then when the high ended, she crashed. With P the highs are so good at giving the user unbelievable confidence, they feel that they can do anything, a sense of euphoria and heightened alertness; the reverse is applicable when they come down they are exhausted – their bodies have used a lot of energy, the levels of serotonin drop and they become depressed, feeling that if they had another hit they would feel that ‘superman’ feeling again and so the cycle goes on.
Kate used her benefit money, sold her gear, borrowed money left, right and centre, she stole from family members, resorted to committing burglaries, and eventually put herself on ‘the block’ for the gang members who held the P supply that she couldn’t live without. All this time, until she started in with the gang, she had custody of her daughters. She eventually gave them up, to her dodgy boyfriend’s mother, as he was just as bad as she was in terms of drugs. The burglaries continued, as did the P taking. Her family was desperate to help and took her in, and she swore that she would get clean but never did. Kate is currently serving a suspended sentence for all the burglaries she committed to feed the habit, clean but with her life in absolute tatters. The likelihood that she will be able to gain custody of her children is small, her family love her but can never trust her and some don’t want to acknowledge her existence based on the knowledge of what she has done. Being addicted to P has wreaked havoc on her life and I very much doubt it will ever be like it was prior to her becoming a user.
All those who have any contact with P addicts or survivors acknowledge that part of the immense problem with P is that is extremely addictive; other drugs that are seemingly less destructive on peoples lives such as cocaine are not immediately as addictive; for some people once is enough and they never touch it again. Unfortunately with P that’s not the case, from the start users take P again and again, often using it to avoid the extreme low when they come off the drug. The negative side effects of Pure Methamphetamine are many: Hyperactivity, irritability, visual hallucinations (including the feeling that insects are crawling on or in your skin) , auditory hallucinations, suicidal tendencies, severe depression, aggression, suspicion, severe paranoia and paranoid delusions, shortness of breath, increased blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, sleeping for 24 – 48 hrs or more, severe depression, weight loss, malnutrition, anorexia, welts on the skin, involuntary body movements, and induced psychosis. Given the list of negative side effects and the high that they receive from P it is understandable how users are sucked into the incredibly destructive cycle that turns them into ‘Speed freaks’.
The problem with P is that not only has it caused a generation of people who may not have been regular users or possibly tried it once and left it at that. The ripples that emanate from P’s introduction into New Zealand are enormous – the social costs are mind boggling in terms of families split because of the user’s actions or behaviour, job losses, the cost of policing the clan labs that seem to pop up everywhere to feed off human misery, the loss of potential that the user had to share with his or her community that could be lost forever or a severe delay on sharing with the world, the people beaten, bashed, slashed, shot and murdered by a psychotic user.
Pure Methamphetamine is a very powerful drug, but it is still just a drug, and, like any other, needs to be treated with a healthy dose of respect for the consequences of taking it. We all have free will and it is our right as human beings to decide what to do with our bodies, these are our choices, but along with choices come consequences; with P the consequences can be hideously tragic and not just for the user. Pure Methamphetamine should never, ever, be a drug of choice. The price is just too high.