Growth in imports of pre-precursors chemicals to make methamphetamine, along with an increase in the amounts of the drug produced in Nigeria and other African countries, are two emerging trends affecting New Zealand identified in a new study.
The first conclusions of the police New Zealand Methamphetamine Research Program, one of the largest nationwide studies ever, was published last week.
The report, which brings together 279 documents from a range of different agencies, concluded that the extent of damage caused by methamphetamine in New Zealand communities is not yet known and highlighted growing trends regarding the drug. .
Between November 2018 and February last year, the amount of methamphetamine consumed nationally per week averaged 14.1 kg.
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Comparing wastewater data from 27 countries last year, New Zealand ranked fourth in terms of consumption behind Australia, the United States and the Czech Republic.
Recent data on seizures have shown a significant increase in the number of drugs found.
The National Drug Intelligence Bureau (NDIB) reported a 222% increase in the amount of methamphetamine seized by customs and police in 2019, compared to the three-year average from 2016 to 2018.
He also reported that the amount of methamphetamine seized in 2019 was four times the amount seized in 2018.
In April, the NDIB said that while 77.6 kg of powdered methamphetamine were seized between January and April last year, 212.6 kg were seized during the same period this year, an increase by almost 300%.
Earlier this year, Customs warned that methamphetamine production in Afghanistan was becoming a growing threat to New Zealand, a wild shrub found in the country’s mountains, Oman, being used to produce ephedrine, a precursor key used to make methamphetamine.
An NDIB briefing in April identified Nigeria as one of several African countries to emerge as a major producer of methamphetamine over the past decade.
“More methamphetamine shipped from Africa (both produced there and transshipped from the Middle East) has been seized in New Zealand in recent years, and this is noted as an increasing trend in 2021,” indicates the report.
Customs have also already warned of an increase in drugs from South Africa, Kenya and Zimbabwe, which may reflect the production of methamphetamine in Afghanistan reaching New Zealand via the southern route (via Pakistan or Iran to India and Africa), which was historically used. to ship heroin.
The report also identified an emerging trend for the importation of pre-precursors – chemicals that can be used in the manufacturing process – into New Zealand.
One of the chemicals known as 2-bromopropiophenone, which can be used to make ephedrine, is increasingly being detected in China and is not yet under international control.
“These are made to circumvent the law and often have no legitimate use. This highlights the difficulties in regulating the production by the chemical and pharmaceutical industry of chemicals not listed for the manufacture of methamphetamine precursors.
“Pre-precursors are also manufactured in Myanmar and shipped through Southeast Asia to international markets in order to circumvent the laws on banned products and regulated drugs in some countries,” the report said.
As the use of the chemicals becomes more common overseas, methamphetamine manufacturers in New Zealand will import and use pre-precursor chemicals alongside or in place of traditional precursors such as pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. , according to the report.
“Feedback on this report describes the import of pre-precursors into New Zealand as an emerging trend; However, it is too early to say for sure just how widespread this trend is, ”the report said.
The 82-page report is the first step in a long-term, police-led research program, with help from the University of New South Wales, University of Otago, Iwi, services correctional, customs, health and social development departments, and non-government agencies.
Deployment of the deputy commissioner and traffic police Bruce O’Brien said the study, which began in February last year, probably gives the best view the country has ever had on the damage caused by methamphetamine.
“It’s pretty big,” he said. “There have always been disparate reports that different agencies have produced, but to my knowledge, this is the first time that we have seen a consolidated view of the entire industry, on the damage caused by methamphetamine, and this is as up to date as it can be.
In the second phase, researchers will engage with whānau and communities affected by methamphetamine, with the goal of understanding “the uniquely New Zealand stories of those affected by methamphetamine,” said O’Brien.
“I think it’s going to be really effective, I guess, in understanding, from a qualitative point of view, the real impact this has on people, their families and their community at large,” he said. declared.
The third step will focus on the link between methamphetamine use and crime.