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P is For Poison

Thu 11 Sep 2003 In: Living Well View at NDHA

When Darren MacDonald was recently convicted of P possession, it may have only been the tip of an "ice" berg within the gay community. If the West Coast of the United States is any indication, we may be in for a lot of grief. Mephamphetamine ("speed") was developed in the twenties. The Nazis and Allies both used amphetamines as legal stimulants during the Second World War, and student and long-haul truck drivers used them to stay awake for examinations and cargo transportation. In the sixties, amphetamine became a recreational drug and was promptly prohibited. In the nineties, US West Coast gangs discovered that prescription drugs could be distilled into a more potent, crystalline form (crystal meth or P/ pure mephamphetamine). P found its way into US West Coast gay dance parties and clubs, with deadly results. P might seem to deliver a high intensity buzz, but it scrambles dopamine receptors in one's nerve cells, so pain and pleasure reception is seriously impaired. As well as that, reasoning skills and risk perception are degraded when one has sex under the influence. P causes "crystal dick" erectile dysfunction, so gay men can become "instant bottoms" and keep searching for more intense sexual experiences- without use of condoms and regard for safe sex. According to recent respondent surveys from San Francisco, there is a strong relationship between P consumption, unsafe sex and new HIV+ diagnoses. P is estimated to have contributed to a quarter to thirty percent of new diagnoses, and even HIV- gay men are exposed to syphilis and gonnorhea risks (San Francisco Chronicle, 05.04.03). In Los Angeles and San Francisco, HIV/AIDS prevention and education networks have become concerned about the damaging effects that P (or crystal meth) has had on West Coast gay male sexual health during the late nineties, and have established prevention websites, listed at the end of this article. According to the AIDS Project of Florida, Tina (P) is "not a nice girl." P results in decreased appetite and possible anorexia, respiratory problems, hyperthermia (overheating), convulsions, left heart ventricle engorgement, moodswings, hallucinations, strokes and bizarre or violent behaviour if one becomes addicted. Users may undertake increased consumption to avoid low-associated depressions, and increased risks of unsafe sex, and adverse dietary, respiratory, cardiovascular and psychological risks may follow (AIDS Project of Florida, 14.07.03). Because P consumption leads to impaired risk perception, conventional drug harm minimisation and risk reduction strategies may not work in this context. In New Zealand, there have been several recent high-profile court cases that demonstrate that our own gangs are involved in P synthesis and distribution as a new source of illicit revenue. Unfortunately, P is easy to synthesise from certain prescription drugs in covert mephamphetamine labs, and it is difficult to interdict production for that reason. Parliament made P a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act last year, but ACT and the Greens have both criticised the government. ACT believes that the pace of law enforcement training and deployment is too slow, while Green MPs misguidedly opposed the imposition of Class A drug status, but did make valid points about balanced educational prevention initiatives and treatment facilities. Like some Northland iwi, the New Zealand gay community needs to move now and develop its own P prevention and education programmes, or the current unsettling developments on the US West Coast may re-emerge here. Recommended Reading: These two websites are gay-oriented P prevention and education resource sites and are essential reading about the drug in question: One can trace the development of concern about crystal meth and unsafe sex in the United States from this Los Angeles HIV education and prevention website "Everyone's talking about crystal and sex" "An Update" How does P affect gay and bi men? I recommend consulting "Mephamphetamine Use Amongst Gay and Bi Men" on this website: See also the AIDS Project of Florida for information about its health consequences: Contemporary resources and statistical data about the US West Coast situation can be found at: The San Francisco Department of Health conducted its own research on this issue: Chris Heredia (San Francisco Chronicle) has written two excellent articles: "Dance of Death" (05.04.03) "San Francisco Forum on Meth: Drug Use Tied to Rise in HIV Infection" (05.08.03) New Zealand's own Parliamentary Library produced this excellent resource: "Background Note: Mephamphetamine (Speed and P) in New Zealand" Parliamentary Library: Wellington 2003/05. Available from Parliament Buildings, Wellington, or local MP offices. Craig Young - 11th September 2003    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 11th September 2003 - 12:00pm

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