Meth use targeted in billboard campaign

Continuing concern . . . Methamphetamine abuse continues to be a concern in Clutha, as the Clutha Youth Council launches its latest billboard campaign. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Recent ‘‘Say No to Meth’’ billboards are an unsettling reminder of a methamphetamine subculture in Clutha.

Clutha District Council community development adviser Jean Proctor said the Clutha Youth Council installed the billboards with education and prevention in mind.

Although it was difficult to quantify the extent of the issue locally, one former user, who asked not to be named, was willing to share his experiences.

He, too, hoped to raise awareness and discourage curiosity about the drug.

‘‘I’d never even heard of it. Then I got out of prison around the end of 2001 and all my mates were on it. I thought ‘all these guys are f…..’.

‘‘Then I went to my sister’s and she and her partner were on it — it was everywhere.’’

‘‘I wanted to keep out of trouble but you get to drinking and the first time’s always free — and I gave it a try.

‘‘It was amazing. You feel confident and full of energy and everything’s interesting and anything’s possible.

‘‘But that lasts about two or three hours before you can feel it starting to run down and you just want to feel that way again. But you never do — you’re always chasing that first time,’’ he said.

The methamphetamine high came from the drug causing a sudden release of the user’s own ‘‘feel-good’’ chemicals — dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, adrenaline and more, he said.

These quickly waned, leading to the opposite: anxiety, depression and irritability, which a user believed could be ‘‘treated’’ by using more of the drug in a developing habit. ‘‘So you pool together with mates to get hooked up and party a couple of times a month.

‘‘Then you’re doing it every weekend.

‘‘The people you hang out with changes and you’re meeting whoever your supplier gets it off to buy larger amounts.

‘‘So now you’re dealing to help pay for it as well as stealing and selling off whatever it takes,’’ he said.

‘‘It affects people differently.

‘‘There’s professionals in good jobs who can keep at it and keep functioning but the amount you need for a real high just grows.

‘‘A year or two after their first go and some people have got to smoke a gram just to get out of bed in the morning and [look after] the kids.’’

Drug overdose deaths in New Zealand are up 54% since 2017, according to a new Drug Foundation report.

Besides health and social consequences, methamphetamine fuels organised crime through direct cash transactions and the indebtedness of users to gangs.

Clutha’s ‘‘Say No to Meth’’ billboards advertise the 1737 Need to Talk? free mental health and addictions counselling helpline.

Mrs Proctor said in addition to the services accessible by calling 1737, the local Bravehearts organisation was always standing by to assist people seeking support in the face of methamphetamine issues.

Police encourage anyone with information about criminal activity to contact them on 105, through Crime Stoppers on 0800 555-111, or by dropping by their local police station.