In 2003 it was reported that New Zealand had one of the highest proportions of amphetamine and ecstasy abusers in the world – 3.7% of the population were believed to be abusing these drugs at the time . The situation has not noticeably improved and drug abuse continues to be a problem for the individual, families, and communities in New Zealand.
A Ministry of Health survey in 2007/2008 found that 16% of New Zealanders aged between 16 and 64 admitted to using recreational drugs in the previous year. Those aged between 18 and 24 were the most likely to have take these substances (38%). In 2004 a study called Safer Communities: Action plan to reduce community violence and sexual violence found that alcohol was one of the major causes of violence in society. The Illicit Drug Monitoring Report (2006) provides an in-depth assessment of the pattern of drug abuse in New Zealand. The average substance abuser in their study claimed to have used at least 13 different drug types in their lifetime.
The most commonly abused illegal drugs in New Zealand include:
* Ecstasy (MDMA)
* GHB (this substance has developed a reputation for being the ‘date rape drug’)
The Illicit Drug Monitoring Report found that the people in their study (318 frequent drug users) most commonly used:
* Cannabis (99%)
* Alcohol (98%)
* Tobacco (86%)
* Ecstasy (85%)
* LSD (84%)
* Amphetamine (80%)
* Methamphetamine (75%)
Drug problems cause problems not only for the individual and their family but also for society as a whole. Whole communities are blighted by this type of behavior. The most common difficulties associated with such abuse include:
* Many of those who use recreational drugs will eventually develop a dependence on these substances. This means that their life will be blighted, and they will be unable to live up to their potential in life.
* Drug use has huge financial consequences for New Zealand. Not only does dealing with and treating the problem cost society money, but it also means businesses suffer because of lost productivity.
* It is common for addicts to support their habit by turning to criminality. Some communities live in fear because of this type of criminal activity – desperate people become willing to do desperate things.
* Those who are involved in drug abuse are more likely to be victims of violent crime or perpetrators of violent crime. Those who fall into addiction usually come in close contact with the criminal underworld.
* Many individuals turn to substance abuse as a means to self-medicate emotional or psychological problems. This means that these conditions go untreated while the substance abuse makes the situation worse.
* Overdoes is common among drug users, and in too many cases this leads to death.
* Those individuals who use IV drugs have an increased risk of catching HIV and other diseases such as Hepatitis B.
* Treating addiction problems is a drain on New Zealand’s health care services.
* Those who abuse these substances often develop personality changes as a result. Even normally placid individuals can become violent and abusive.
* There is a strong connection between drug abuse and domestic violence.
* When people are under the influence of these substances they will tend to act impulsively and make bad decisions. The individual may suffer the consequences of these actions for many years.
* Those individuals who turn to these substances at a young age will usually perform badly at school. This means that their future prospects are poor.
* The prognosis for drug addicts who do not enter recovery tends to be depressing. Many of these individuals will die as a result of their abuse
There are a number of options for those people seeking drug addiction treatment in New Zealand including:
* The Alcohol Drug Helpline offers free advice to anyone dealing with alcohol or drug problems. They can be contacted on free phone 0800 787 797.
* Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offers a 12 Step program that can help the individual escape drug abuse and build a meaningful life. There are NA meetings all over New Zealand.
* The Alcohol Drug Association New Zealand (ADANZ) is a nationwide organization that offers help to the people of New Zealand.
* Some Kiwis are travelling abroad to seek treatment for their drug problems. One of the most respected treatment facilities in Asia is DARA Rehab, Thailand
New Zealand National Drug Policy
The New Zealand National Drug Policy 2007-2012 sets forth a number of goals to reduce drug problems in the country. These goals include:
* Controlling and limiting the amount of drugs that are available.
* Limiting the amount of drugs that can be consumed by the individual – encouraging abstinence.
* Reducing the amount of harm that is being caused by the current drug problems in society.
It is understood that not all drug users will be willing to give up their addiction right away. This is why harm reduction measures are encouraged. This will give the individual the chance to improve their situation and hopefully this will encourage them to choose complete abstinence. At the very least harm reduction should reduce the impact of this type of behavior. The type of harm reduction programs to be found in New Zealand includes:
* Needle exchange programs are where drug users are given clean needles in exchange for their old needles. This is to discourage drug users from sharing needles so that they are less likely to develop HIV or Hepatitis B.
* Methadone maintenance programs are available to reduce and eventually eliminate the need for opiate drugs. The aim of the program is for the individual to reduce their dosage over time so that they can eventually quit without serious withdrawal symptoms.
* Moderation management programs for alcohol abusers encourage them to drink sensible amounts. This approach is usually only effective for those who have not yet developed a physical dependence.