By Emma Mackie
Amphetamine prevalence in New Zealand remains among the highest in the world and injecting methamphetamine is on the rise, according to the latest United Nations report.
The World Drug Report 2011 shows 2.1 percent of New Zealanders aged 16-64 used amphetamines in the year 2007/2008 and rates of methamphetamine use are still rising, in contrast with Australia.
Among frequent injecting drug users in New Zealand those who injected methamphetamine increased from 40 percent in 2006 to 50 percent in 2009.
Managing Director of Methcon and former police drug squad detective Dale Kirk says not enough is being done to educate people on the dangers of methamphetamine, or on getting addicts into meaningful programs to deal with addiction.
“We go and educate adults and children about it and we certainly get no government funding, there’s no money at all being put into that side of things,” he says.
He says the rise in intravenous use is due to a build up of tolerance from users.
Over time he says other methods of using does not give the “same kicks” as before, which is why they progress to injecting.
“Smoking it or snorting it doesn’t have the same impact as what injecting does. Obviously it’s more direct it goes straight into the blood stream.”
According to Mr Kirk higher rates of injecting will probably lead to an increase in blood borne viruses like HIV and Hepatitis C, as a result of unprotected sex and needle sharing.
“As night follows day we’re going to see that sort of thing happen and it’s something we’ve been predicting for some time.”
Although increased police and customs resource has seen a rise in seizures of methamphetamine, the issue needs to be tackled from both the supply and demand end, he says.
He says methamphetamine is a drug anyone can make, “it’s a drug you can make on your kitchen bench…the drug obviously suits that Kiwi DIY mentality”.
Restrictions in over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine have made it harder for people to get hold of the pre-cursor drug to methamphetamine – however large amounts of pseudoephedrine are still imported.
National manager of the Needle Exchange Programme, Charles Henderson, says he has seen “substantial increases” in needle and syringe exchange.
He agrees that regular users of methamphetamine are looking at different ways to get “the same bang for their buck”.
Although the organisation do some educational workshops and outreach work, the majority of their service is based on people coming to them.
“Word of mouth is a very powerful medium, so if we take that confidential and non-judgemental approach, that’s our best method for getting people to access a clean syringe.”
The report shows Oceania - primarily Australia and New Zealand - also has the highest ecstasy use in the world.
Ecstasy use in New Zealanders aged 16-64 ranged from two to three percent, with an estimated 67,000 people reporting to have used it in the year 2007/2008.
New Zealand is also linked with widespread non-medical use of prescription drugs, and along with Australia has the highest heroin prices in the world. In 2009 Oceania's heroin market was worth an estimated US$3.5 billion.
Globally cannabis remains the most widely produced and consumed illicit substance.
In 2009, between 2.8 percent and 4.5 percent of the world population aged 15-64 had used cannabis at least once in the past year.