Kia Orana e te iti tangata. I’m Nancy Kareroa-Yorke, born in Mitiaro, raised in Mangaia and for the early part of my 20s lived, studied and worked in Rarotonga.
I now live in a small coastal town called One Tree Point in the Northland Region of New Zealand.
Northland has a long history with meth, like other parts of New Zealand. And our District Health Board, the Police, the community at large and other organisations have been fighting to make Northland meth-free. A hope for all of New Zealand.
There is much to learn from countries with meth problems, to help keep our home the Cook Islands meth-free. We have the opportunity to put preventive measures in place now rather than the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff approach that other countries have to resort to.
Methamphetamine (also known as meth, speed, P, etc) is an illegal drug. It is highly addictive, and it starts to systematically destroy a person’s health and life from first use.
It is associated with serious health conditions, including memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior and potential heart and brain damage.
The chemicals to make this drug – ammonia hydroxide, battery acid, drain cleaner to name a few – aren’t meant for consumption. These chemicals burn your insides and it is precisely what happens to users’ internal organs over time.
I’m not sure how meth got into New Zealand, but I imagine it would be something like what is happening in Rarotonga right now. Some selfish pricks who managed to smuggle this rubbish into the country and started distributing and selling it to whomever, including locals.
Fast forward to 2019, meth is an epidemic that has spiralled out of control in New Zealand and other countries. Meth has killed people, destroyed families, crippled and taken advantage of communities.
In Northland, low income and vulnerable families are among meth’s targets. It uses homes as meth labs. Meth affects everyone and it costs the government and other agencies a lot of resources and money because that is what meth does.
Meth is a stimulant. When taken, it fires up the central nervous system to release large amounts of dopamine, a “feel-good” brain chemical. This gives the user a rush of confidence, hyper-activeness, energy and a false sense of happiness.
When this wears out, users develop a strong desire to continue using and the addiction starts.
Meth doesn’t discriminate and it usually involves some sort of crime to get the stuff, use the stuff and to make more and move the stuff.
My husband Daniel and I know of a business owner that lost his business and his family to his addiction.
A friend had to separate from her husband, because it had become unsafe for them to stay together because gangs were also involved, and the stories go on.
Meth makes users hallucinate. Users can go without sleep for days. This leaves them feeling agitated, suffering mood swings, and seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren’t there.
In a previous employment, as the Northland Manager for the New Zealand Red Cross, I recall a participant’s story: “Peel me! Peel me! I’m an orange!” is what they called out during their moment of euphoria.
My staff delivers our drug and alcohol harm reduction community course and in another session another person was running for their life, petrified, because “monsters are after me”, they said.
While these may be comical it is also a dangerous state for a sober person to approach to offer help.
Where I can, I want to help keep the Cook Islands away from this abomination.
I am writing to call our people in the Cook Islands and overseas, our Government, to our House of Ariki, our religions’ leaders on each island, to band together and kick meth out.
Meth has no place in the Cook Islands. It can’t. Meth leaves an irreversible path of destruction that we don’t need at home.
Te Kuki Airani to tatou ipukarea, to tatou metua vaine.