By: Nikki Preston
Methamphetamine, also know as P, is much easier for drug users to access than cannabis especially for those living outside the three main cities, according to a new study.
Drug experts are now renewing calls for more addiction services for methamphetamine to be rolled out in the regions in the wake of the study by Massey University highlighting an oversupply of the dangerous drug.
Of the 6100 drug users who responded to the anonymous online survey, over 50 per cent of P users said the drug was “very easy” to get, while only 14 per cent of cannabis users thought cannabis was so easily accessible.
There was also higher availability of it in Northland with 65 per cent of users saying it was easy to access. It could also be easily obtained in the Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Waikato, Manawatu-Wanganui, West Coast and Southland.
But it was less accessible in areas such as Otago, Canterbury, Wellington and Auckland.
Lead researcher associate professor Chris Wilkins said he was extremely surprised at just how accessible methamphetamine was compared to cannabis throughout New Zealand.
While Wilkins had heard methamphetamine was easier to access over cannabis in a few areas – he had not expected the research to show it was more highly available everywhere and that cannabis was quite hard to get.
The research showed more work to address methamphetamine issues needed to be offered in the regions and not just the three main centres – Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch – where a lot of the drug facility centres were based, he said.
“Especially in the regions … being geographically isolated it’s easy to forget that Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne and Bay of Plenty have serious problems with drug problems and hopefully that can inform future decisions about drug facilities and services.”
NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said there was a “real problem” with methamphetamine use in regional New Zealand where there wasn’t any help.
“Meth has moved out of the big cities and it’s moved into regional New Zealand and that is parts of the country where people don’t have the same kind of access to the really good health and treatment service.”
Bell said the previous National government was already piloting a programme in Northland where the police were referring anyone they arrested for methamphetamine to DHB treatment services.
He hoped the outcome of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addictions would be a better picture of where to put the increased spending on drug and alcohol treatment.
However he warned that the study only compared the availability of the two drugs not the popularity of them. how one was more popular than the other.
But Matua Raki national manager Dr Vanessa Caldwell said the findings confirmed the programme’s own treatment statistics and feedback from the community over the past two years that methamphetamine had overtaken alcohol and cannabis to become the drug of choice.
Caldwell said more services were needed to cope with the demand from people seeking help for P addictions given how readily available it was.
“The availability means people are going to use it, develop potential problems and need assistance and so we do need to provide that and we can’t continue to rely on police and emergency services to actually do that without a huge investment to increase the level of support.”
This is the first of six bulletins to be released by the university looking at methamphetamine and cannabis. The next one, expected to be released within the next week, will look a the level of dependency on the two drugs in the different regions and how much help the participants thought they needed to reduce their alcohol and drug use.
The survey ran between November 2017 and February 2018 and the average age of people who responded to the survey was 29. Pakeha made up 72 per cent and Maori made up 29 per cent.
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