The number of people seeking treatment for addictions in Queenstown has doubled in two years.

And health professionals admit resources in the resort are not good enough.

Southern District Health Board figures show 136 people accessed its addiction assessment and treatment service in the district last year. In 2015, 65 people did.

DHB community alcohol and drug services manager David Jaggard said alcohol was still “by far and away the number one drug” in the resort.

Queenstown man Adam (not his real name), who had marked a year of being alcohol-free, was one of those who needed help.

“For me to pick up a drink again would be to die,” he said.

Recovery has been a long road, one littered with angst and damaged relationships, and hampered by what he described as New Zealand’s binge-drinking culture.

In his home country, public drunkenness was not common. When he arrived here, he said, he found it was totally normal.

According to the Queenstown Lakes District Council, the number of licensed premises in the resort has increased by 34% in four years, from 192 to 259, although they are governed by stringent anti-binge drink rules.

It was a drink-driving charge that made Adam realise things were spiralling out of control.

Prior to that, showing up to work smelling of alcohol was no big deal, he said.

“I got to the point with my alcoholism where I was drinking for breakfast.”

He spent time in a psychiatric ward, which failed to put a stop to his drinking.

That was followed by two stints in rehab.

He is now sober but remained concerned about the level of support available to people struggling with addiction.

“The waiting lists are huge, and with addiction, you’ve got to move quickly.”

He was also worried about the perception that addiction was a choice, not a health problem.

“When you’ve got cancer or you’re sick, you get a get-well card. When you’re an addict you basically get a get-f… card, because of our actions and our behaviour, it’s just so anti-social.”

Queenstown Salvation Army social worker Hine Marchand said the resort enabled addiction.

She was seeing more people suffering from alcohol addiction walking through the door, but said there was not the support to match.

“A lot of people have got a lot of alcohol issues in this town.

“It’s advertised as a party town; it is too easy, there are too many outlets.”

She was also aware of “a lot of people taking drugs”.

“I don’t think people think it’s a problem, because it’s done so often as part of this town.”

Mrs Marchand believed the town was short of resources to help people with addictions – and the resources it did have were not affordable for the people who needed them.

“I feel like a cracked record, but I don’t think we do enough prevention, rather than the ambulance at the bottom of the hill.”

Mr Jaggard said Queenstown was “a bit under-served” with the present services, because of its population growth.

He was keen to get more resources to the area.

That was especially to tackle issues around alcohol, but the number of people seeking opioid substitution treatment also rose slightly, from 9 to 11.

Source: NZ Herald

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