Methamphetamine (‘P’) manufacture in NZ is a growing problem, not only for law enforcement, but also for innocent property owners and the general public that come in contact with dangerous residues, which are by-products in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
What is P?
‘P’ is a street slang for methamphetamine – a psychostimulant drug. It enters the brain and triggers a cascading release of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, causing euphoria and excitement and making it prone to abuse and addiction. Other common nicknames for ‘P’ include meth, jib, ice, crystal and glass.
How is it made?
The manufacture of methamphetamine is fairly simple and does not require a chemistry degree. It is easily produced in makeshift labs hidden in homes, garages, warehouses, or even motel rooms, using over-the-counter pseudoephedrine found in cold medication. The person manufacturing the drug literally ‘cooks” the ingredients.
Symptoms of ‘P’ users
People who use methamphetamine may experience anxiety, confusion, insomnia, and mood disturbances and display violent behaviour. They may also show symptoms of psychosis, such as paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions (for example, the sensation of insects crawling under the skin).
Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same physical effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine. Long-term methamphetamine use has many negative consequences for physical health, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), and skin sores caused by scratching.
How can ‘P’ affect my health living in a contaminated property?
There are short term and long term health effects associated with being exposed to meth residues in property. Where these residues are at low levels and limited to use only, the effects on health are less severe than if a lab has been operating. It should be noted that the effects on children tend to be more pronounced as they are closer to the contamination, absorb proportionately larger amounts of contaminants and less well developed metabolisms.
Short Term Health Effects
These can be wide ranging. They can be similar to seasonal effects associated with allergies or cold/flu. The key thing to note, is that they will persist far longer than you would normally expect. It is important to note, that some people will suffer none of these effects, while others will. Symptoms might include:
- Watery or burning eyes
- Burning skin
- Coughing or Choking
- Pain in diaphragm
- Feeling of coldness or weakness
- Shortness of breath / dizziness
- Decrease in cognitive function – feeling ‘mismothered’
- Sleep disorders
Long Term Health Effects
Studies into long term health effects associated with living in properties that have been used as meth labs are not widely available. However, the effects of the chemicals associated with manufacture are understood. So, living in a contaminated property increases the risk of the following:
- Nervous disorders/Tremors
- Damage to kidneys and liver
- Birth defects
- Reproductive problems
Rental Properties contaminated
Tenanted properties make up a significant proportion of the P-laboratories in existence and the innocent property owners are unaware of the property damage caused by their tenants until well after the manufacture has ceased.In addition to Rental properties, Motel rooms and even Book-a-batch properties are prime targets for short term labs, where the cooking can only take a week or a few days.Repairing the damage is a costly and time-consuming exercise. Buildings and houses can become contaminated with carcinogens, posing a danger to future occupiers, especially children. The clean-up can involve the removal of wallpaper, wall linings, sinks and benches, stoves, baths, furnishings, soil and septic tanks.
How often should rental properties be checked?
Usually the contamination damage is discovered following police investigations; however thorough inspections completed by landlords every three (3) months can lessen the chances of significant damage resulting in methamphetamine manufacture. Owners of rental properties need to be vigilant as it can cost thousands of dollars for their houses to be re-inhabitable.
What to look out for if there is a suspicion of ‘P’ users in your property?
- Pyrex dishes & laboratory glassware
- Chemical smells
- Rubber/surgical gloves and masks
- Dead grass around drains
- Light bulb containers – or missing lightbulbs
- Iodine containers
- Unexpected high-tech security
- Unusual rewiring or plumbing or the presence of extractor fans in unusual places
- Signs of smoking inside the house, with piles of cigarettes outside the property
- Etching or staining of concrete, particularly outside drains
What to do if you find ‘P’ evidence on your property?
Calmly exit the premises and notify the police immediately
Who does testing for Meth on rental properties?
Mirroring the increase Meth users, there are an increasing number of companies that exist just for the purpose of testing houses for contamination. We do not advocate one company over the other, but a quick Google search will locate many of these businesses.
There are devices landlords can install in their houses, very similar to smoke alarms that detects chemicals associated with the manufacture of methamphetamine. Your tenants should appreciate that you are willing to protect your investment and their home. Future tenants will have confidence that they are not being exposed to an environmental hazard left from the previous tenant. Any reputable meth testing business will assist you in installing these devices or visit www.methminder.co.nz for more information
Does Insurance cover the costs of repairing contaminated rental property?
All Rental property policies have their own variation of wordings, but in the whole there is cover provided under your policy. For a claim to be considered you must first demonstrate all these landlord obligations:
- Vet potential tenants by obtaining satisfactory references, collect a minimum of 3 weeks rent in a combination of bond/rent registered with the Tenancy Services
- Complete internal & external inspections at a minimum of 3 month intervals and upon every change of tenants
- Keep a written record of the outcome of each inspection
Where do I get help for addiction?
Alcohol and drug helpline http://alcoholdrughelp.org.nz or 0800 787 797
(some content NZI, 2016)