'Legal highs' a hit amongst illegal drug users
Thu, 18 Oct 2012 6:06a.m.
By 3 News online staff
Synthetic drug use soared in New Zealand last year, according to a new report.
A study by Massey University study shows 41 percent of methamphetamine users in 2011 were also using synthetic cannabis, up from 10 percent in 2010.
Many of the so-called "legal highs" are now illegal, but researchers say their findings show just how quickly synthetic cannabis can become popular when it's introduced to the market.
Another key finding was the growing misuse of prescription pharmaceuticals. The study calls it "the primary drug problem of the 21st century".
The percentage of frequent users of illegal drugs who tried new substances increased from 33 percent in 2010 to 40 percent in 2011, reflecting the availability of new drugs on the market. The most popular drugs used for the first time included synthetic cannabis, Ritalin, ecstasy, anti-depressants and oxycodone, an opioid.
"The use of many of these new substances remains at a fairly low level at present, but it is important to continue to monitor them closely given the speed at which new drug epidemics can develop (such as methamphetamine in the early 2000s) and, in the case of new synthetic compounds, the potential for unpredictable health risks,” says lead researcher Dr Chris Wilkins.
The number of drug users who used another person's prescription or went "doctor shopping" more than tripled to 30 percent last year.
"The misuse of pharmaceuticals is a growing problem in many first-world countries and our findings indicate increasing use of pharmaceutical opioids, such as oxycodone, by frequent illegal drugs users in New Zealand," says Dr Wilkins.
"It is a complicated problem, though, as we need to balance making pharmaceuticals readily available to those in need with reducing their inappropriate use."
Police efforts to crack down on methamphetamine use seem to making an impact too, with the street price of 'P' increasing from $610 a gram six years ago to $815 last year. It's also not as strong as it used to be.
Another trend noted in the study was an increase in drink spiking and users being given drugs without their knowledge.
"These trends may reflect the growing number of new synthetic drugs which can easily be passed off as other substances or concealed in drinks," says Dr Wilkins.
The 2011 Illicit Drug Monitoring System (IDMS) study spoke to 372 users of illegal drugs from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in the study.
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22/10/2012 2:01:50 p.m.
Blair Anderson wrote:
Legal highs ' red herring' - the popularity of alternativs to the ever popular cannabis depended on many factors: (a) the illicit status of cannabis (b) the market led need to embrace cognitive liberty in a shrinking definition of privacy, (c) because we can and (d) they are percieved as safer than alcohol or tobacco while/and (e) market embracing to be not seen 'smoking' anything.
The fact they were 'untested' had double meaning... (Bukster is quite right)
That they allowed (and still will under Class D) branding and reputation as a harm reduction measure escaped all but the most erudite of policy wonks.
19/10/2012 7:32:19 p.m.
Why not put a positive tone on this news article? You could say that illegal drug users would rather use legal drugs if they had a choice and that people using these drugs aren't giving money to gangs. Perhaps we should remember that people who choose to use substances other than alcohol are not monsters, but just ordinary people. Given the chance, they would rather be within the law than outside of it.
18/10/2012 6:26:01 p.m.
Let's not forget something else that has happened in the same time period - a huge increase in workplaces drug testing with workplaces testing everybody in sight for any or no reason safety sensitive or not. My workplace has crumbled under pressure and gone random testing as have so many others.
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