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Latest Drug Survey Report Launched - Turia Speech

Thursday 30 May 2002
Hon Tariana Turia
Speech Notes
Latest Drug Survey Report Launched

Rau rangatira ma, tena koutou katoa.

It is a pleasure to be invited to launch the Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit’s report Drug Use in New Zealand: National Surveys Comparisons 1998 and 2001. The Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit’s ongoing drug use surveys are an essential tool to inform drug policy development, and the latest survey provides relevant information for all organisations dealing with drug use in New Zealand.

This report provides an overview of both legal and illicit drug use in New Zealand.

Alcohol remains New Zealand’s most widely used drug, with 85% of the sample group having used it in the last twelve months. Alcohol use overall has remained largely stable between the two years of the survey in 1998 and 2001. However, there have been notable increases in alcohol consumption among young men and women 15 – 17 years old.

Although we know that overall tobacco consumption has fallen by 15% in the last two years, there has only been a small decrease in the prevalence of tobacco use.

However, more women aged 18-19 years and 30-34 years indicated they had not smoked in the last month. This is encouraging. There was also a clearer perception that harm comes from occasional and regular use of tobacco, and tobacco is increasingly seen as a serious community problem, which, of course, it is.

The report also indicates that there has been little change overall in the use of cannabis in New Zealand between 1998 and 2001, with current users remaining at 15%. Again, young people report increased use of cannabis, however, with frequent use by 15 – 17 year olds increasing from 1% to 4%. This particularly relates to young women.

I am concerned to note that about 30% of those seeking treatment for cannabis-related problems, said the primary barrier to getting help was not knowing where to go. The “Treatment Works Week” next month provides one opportunity to address this information gap and other initiatives to improve drug education, information and access to treatment are being actively considered.

There are more notable increases in drug use related to the “dance-party” type drugs. Those trying ecstasy increased from 3% to 5.4% and amphetamines from 7.6% to 11%. Fantasy had been tried by 0.8% of the sample.

The use of opiates, including heroin, remained stable.

The Government addresses the issue of drug use in New Zealand with a ‘whole-of-Government’ approach. This approach is set out in the National Drug Policy, which has a three-part framework. These parts are: supply control – which includes law enforcement efforts; demand reduction – which includes drug education efforts and public health initiatives; and problem limitation – which includes the treatment and rehabilitation of drug related health and mental health problems.

Currently the Government has various initiatives in place to address issues arising from drug use in New Zealand.

Alcohol is responsible for a significant proportion of harm due to its wide use and the National Alcohol Strategy, released last year, provides a framework to address that harm.

The Government recently moved in Parliament to have the potentially lethal ‘dance party’ drug fantasy added to the schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 as a class B1 controlled drug. The scheduling of fantasy comes into force tomorrow.

The survey confirms an increase in the use of amphetamines, and the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs is expected to consider methamphetamine’s current classification at its next meeting.

I am also particularly concerned about the availability of precursor drugs to make methamphetamine. Although steps have already been taken to reduce their availability, I have asked the Ministry of Health to consider what further steps can be taken.

Currently the Smoke-free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill is before the Health Select Committee. This legislation proposes to increase smoke-free areas in hospitality venues and educational institutions and to further decrease tobacco advertising. Initial evaluation of initiatives such as ‘Aukati Kai Paipa’ have shown excellent results. The government has supported an expanded range of cessation services as well as providing subsidized access to Nicotine replacement therapy. The impact of these programmes will take time to be reflected in decreased smoking prevalence but I am confident that there is a movement in the right direction as reflected in the 15% decrease in tobacco consumption over the last two years.

We are waiting on the outcome of an inquiry into public health strategies and legal status issues relating to cannabis, which is being undertaken by the Health Select Committee. The Government will be interested to consider the Committee’s recommendations for reducing cannabis related harm.

The issues regarding drug use facing New Zealand are challenging. Personally, I am very concerned to see the trend for teenagers to use more alcohol, cannabis and so-called ‘party drugs’. However, good information on drug use trends is essential for effective drug policy, and the Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit’s report Drug Use in New Zealand: National Surveys Comparisons 1998 and 2001, provides valuable information that assists with the implementation of the National Drug Policy, to reduce drug related harm.

We do need to know what is going on, and we must continue to minimise the harm caused by drug use through specific measures. At the same time, we must also work to create opportunities for positive youth development in a healthy whanau environment.

Kaati, tena ano koutou, tena tatou katoa.

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