Sunday, February 13, 2005

Samurai slasher

I asked a psychiatrist her opinion on the Samurai slasher case. "Methamphetamine psychosis," she declared without hesitation. "It's the most dangerous drug there is."

How dangerous is it, really? In a December 2004 report entitled "Injury and Other Harms Associated with Methamphetamine Use: A Review of the Literature," a University of Auckland research team concluded that, "[d]espite the circumstantial and anecdotal implications, the contributing relationship between methamphetamine and violence is not well understood, and the literature reveals a lack of data on the type and rate of trauma injury and criminal harms associated with methamphetamine use." In other words, we don't actually know.

In recent years there have been a lot of high profile killings where the killer was using methamphetamine. In 2001, William Bell committed the RSA murders, leaving three dead. In 2002, Ese Junior Falealii claimed two lives in the course of armed robberies of a pizza bar in Howick and a bank in Mangere. In 2003, Steven Williams killed his 6-year-old stepdaughter Coral Burrows, and Antonie Ronnie Dixon (above) gunned down a man. And that's... all. Did I say a lot? That's 7 homicides in the last three years or so. Proportionately, it's not a lot, 3 out of roughly 100 homicides a year.

And was methamphetamine to blame, or just blamed? If 97 out of 100 murderers don't use P, they must have some other excuse. Perhaps those same explanations apply in the minority of cases involving methamphetamine.

The most recent police crime statistics (for 2003) show that homicide offences dropped from 122 in 2002 to 104 in 2003. But non-cannabis related drug crimes such as those involving amphetamine type stimulants increased by 24.8% percent. This isn't the correlation you're looking for.

Excessive or prolonged methamphetamine use can, and often does, cause paranoia, psychosis and violence. Please, don't try it at home. But it's not the big problem we've collectively deluded ourselves into thinking it is. It's not pure evil, after all.


At 7:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, this whole drug thing...what about a culture of accountability.There is a good book available at Laissez Faire Books about addiction being a choice, and the myth of mental illness. I forget the title.

At 11:42 am, Blogger Rich said...

If you're a criminal defence lawyer with an admitted violent criminal for a client, then your job is to search for any mitigation you can find.

"It was the P, your honour" just happens to be the current mitigation of choice.

At 1:39 am, Blogger Cal said...

You should see the stats for A&E departments for P. Rather large numbers of people being admitted for P-related psychosis, apparently it's because the more P you take the more sensitive you become to it, rather than with many other drugs where you build up a tolerance to it. So you think you're taking what is a safe level of P for you, because you've taken that amount before and wham - psychosis.It's nasty.


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