INDEPENDENT NEWS

Background to methamphetamine reclassification

Published: Tue 17 Dec 2002 11:03 AM
· Ministerial Action Group on Alcohol and Drugs
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·Background to methamphetamine reclassification
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· The proposal is that:
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· methamphetamine be re-classified in the First Schedule (Class A) and that a presumption for supply be set at 5 grams of pure methamphetamine; that methcathinone be classified in the First Part of the Second Schedule (Class B1); that 4-MTA be classified in the Second Part of the Second Schedule (Class B2); and that pemoline and aminorex be classified in the Fifth Part of the Third Schedule (Class C5) of the Act.
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· These proposed classifications and re-classification reflect the potential risk of harm associated with these substances and is consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations under the United Nations drug classification framework.
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· There will also be complementary initiatives, such as the provision of accurate health information and harm minimisation messages to help reduce potential harm from these substances.
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· The reclassification and other issues will be considered by the Health Select Committee.
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· The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2000
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· The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2000 changed the way controlled drugs are classified under New Zealand law. A more efficient and evidence-based process was designed, including the establishment of the EACD to help assess the risk of harm that each drug poses. The harms the EACD consider include:
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· the likelihood or evidence of drug abuse, including such matters as the prevalence of the drug, levels of consumption, drug seizure trends and the potential appeal to vulnerable populations; the specific effects of the drug, including pharmacological, psychoactive and toxicological effects; the risks to public health; the potential for use of the drug to cause death; the ability of the drug to create physical or psychological dependence.
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· The EACD also considers if the drug has any therapeutic use, the international classification and experience of a drug and any other matters the Minister considers relevant.
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· The EACD membership comprises experts in toxicology, pharmacology, community medicine, psychology, drug treatment, pharmaceuticals, and public health. The Police and the Customs Service sit on the EACD, as does a consumer representative. Under the Act the EACD reports to the Minister responsible for the National Drug Policy.
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· The Act now requires controlled drugs to be classified according to the risk of harm to individuals or society. Accordingly, drugs posing a:
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· very high risk of harm should be scheduled as Class A and hence listed in the First Schedule to the Act high risk of harm should be scheduled as Class B and hence listed in one of the Parts in the Second Schedule to the Act moderate risk of harm should be scheduled as Class C and hence listed in one of the Parts to the Third Schedule to the Act.
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· Health harms
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· Methamphetamine can cause immediate death by causing strokes, convulsions, heart attacks and liver necrosis amongst other things.
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· Many deaths associated with methamphetamine use are caused by accident (59% in Taiwan) and homicide (approx 28% in Osaka and 14% in Taiwan).
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· In New Zealand several deaths have been associated with methamphetamine poisoning and heart attacks or strokes associated with methamphetamine use. Police also relate anecdotal evidence of violent deaths and homicides either relating to the use or supply of methamphetamine.
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· In the US the number of methamphetamine related deaths rose for 155 in 1991 to 433 in 1994. In Taiwan 244 methamphetamine related deaths were noted between 1991 and 1996.
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· Methamphetamine harms are also associated with the production of methamphetamine (toxic chemicals and potential explosions) and the supply of methamphetamine (violence, criminality and imprisonment).
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· Psychological effects are severe, especially if used continuously over a number of days. One Australian user described a psychotic episode he had when, after bingeing for several days, he hallucinated police ‘everywhere’, took out his unlicensed shotgun and sat on the roof and, in his words, ‘if any one had walked up his driveway they would have been dead’.
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· Environmental
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· Clandestine laboratories are dealing with toxic and dangerous chemicals with none of the safety equipment or procedures that most organisations dealing with such chemicals have. Safety is not given a high priority, there is rarely proper ventilation and often the ‘cooks’ dealing with these chemicals do not have an understanding or knowledge of their toxicity and the dangers associated with them.
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· In clandestine laboratories there are several unstable and volatile chemicals and fire or explosion are serious concerns. In the US most clandestine laboratories are discovered due to fire and many have exploded, causing harm and death to the people in the laboratory and also posing harm to the neighbourhood.
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· The clean up of clandestine laboratories is an arduous and costly operation. Decontamination of the site, and the people in it, can cost up to $100,000 and more decontamination is required for the site to be habitable again.
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· The chemicals and waste products from clandestine laboratories are disposed of secretly and are often disposed of carelessly as a result. Some disposal sites for these toxic chemicals have included nearby streams or rivers, drains and between the cracks in the floor of one particular laboratory.
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· Social costs
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· Like other addictive drugs methamphetamine has an impact on the family, local area and community. Particular social costs that have been identified are family breakdown, relationship problems and neglect of children.
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· The costs associated with methamphetamine related psychosis, psychological disorders and general cognitive damage and costs to family and community of these conditions and their treatment.
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· Increased methamphetamine related violent crime in communities. Anecdotal reports indicate increases in domestic violence and violence towards children.
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· Some commentators and people in the Alcohol and Drug sector have spoken of their fears of a ‘lost generation’ of methamphetamine users for who their dependence and heavy use of methamphetamine has made them socially dysfunctional, leading to many other social problems that will need to be dealt with.
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· Costs to industry Pharmacists already have in place measures to limit the purchase and/or theft of methamphetamine precursor substances from their pharmacies. This adds to costs for pharmacists.
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· It was reported in the news on 11 December 2002 that pharmacists were concerned about increased burglaries and had fears of armed robberies being carried out for methamphetamine precursor substances.

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