The Fiji Times

Our meth challenge


THE fact that Acting Commission­er of Police Juki Fong Chew is saying methamphet­amine is being produced in Fiji through prescribed medicines that could be obtained from pharmacies should be a concern.

While this is known, meth or ice, he said, was not only found in Suva but is also in Vanua Levu now.

“So, there are a lot of arrests that have been made, not only on green, but also on white and on the streets, not only here in Suva but in Vanua Levu too. Meth is in Vanua Levu,” Mr Chew said.

“They are being bought; they are also being cooked in the country.”

Now that’s a serious concern.

This obviously hasn’t just popped out of the woodworks. Surely it is difficult to accept that we just woke up and realised that meth was now readily available around the country. We now ask the question, what happened?

When did this trade in meth start? Why wasn’t there a concerted effort over the years initiated to target the sale of meth?

It seems while the police focused on raiding marijuana farms around the country, attention was slowly transition­ing to meth.

As Mr Chew said, people could search for how to manufactur­e meth on the internet and “there are a lot of chemicals that are available at our pharmacies”.

“They come and they do trial and error. With trial and error, you get that white residue, you put it in a plastic bag, and an ordinary person thinks ‘oh this is meth’, it’s all trial and error, but whoever takes it, they will get sick.”

It is encouragin­g to note that police have increased their efforts in the war against drugs.

“It’s not just, you can get it over the counter and once it’s prescribed by the doctors, then a person is eligible to buy it over the counter,” he said.

“But if the pharmacist and the person have been colluding to get this over the counter to manufactur­e meth, then we have to go that way.

“Why are they colluding? Maybe because of money or something else?”

Crime statistics released by Fiji police on Wednesday showed that of the 161 drug cases recorded in August, 17 cases were meth-related.

We learn that a primary component of methamphet­amine is pseudoephe­drine. This is a drug which can be obtained over the counter, through a doctor’s prescripti­on for nasal congestion, sinus or other infections.

Just last month we reported on two men who were involved in one of Fiji’s largest drug busts eight years ago.

They were handed lengthy prison terms by the High Court in Lautoka on charges of being in possession of 49.9 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of $15 million. After a re-trial in May this year, judge Justice Aruna Aluthge handed one of them a 16-year sentence, and the other man a 15-year jail sentence. Both have a non-parole period of 10 years.

Once again we reflect on the war against drugs and wonder how we are faring now.

We reflect on the rise in cases of people taking “ice”. Young Fijians are getting addicted.

This is why we have been urging the powers that be to push for the set-up of rehabilita­tion centres that will help addicts get over their habit.

In June this year, we reported that drug abuse and addiction had escalated to serious levels with cases handled by St Giles Psychiatri­c Hospital doubling over the years.

As a result, Government has decided to set up a national drug rehabilita­tion centre to address the surge in addiction plaguing some of our communitie­s.

Sceptics may suggest that everyone has a responsibi­lity and should have common sense to stay away from drugs.

This is why we need awareness, to educate Fijians, especially the young about the dangers of drug addiction, and the challenges they may be forced to live with. Addiction is real and the police will need our assistance to fight this. It is unfortunat­e, but we do have a major drug problem and we cannot sweep this under the carpet and hope it disappears.

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