Drug report no surprise - police

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 16:24 28/06/2012

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United Nations figures slating New Zealand's drug use as some of the worst in the world has come as no surprise to police, who say the title is not one to be proud of.

The 2012 United Nations World Drug Report revealed the rate of annual drug use for New Zealanders was the highest in the world alongside Australians. Both countries were found to have the highest usage rate for nearly all drugs except heroin.

The report, released yesterday, showed showed between 9.1 and 14.6 per cent of the population of Oceania use cannabis, compared to an estimated 2.6 to 5.0 per cent worldwide.

National Drug Intelligence Bureau (NDIB) co-ordinator Detective Inspector Stuart Mills said the figures for the report were provided by the NDIB, so the results of the report were expected.

"Obviously the results need to be read within context with other countries pulling in higher rates on different drugs such as heroin and cocaine, but it's not a good figure at all."

Mills said organised crime was continuing to play a big part in the manufacturing and supply of drugs, but legislation such as the law passed in 2009 to make pseudoephedrine - a precursor to the Class A drug P - prescription only, had made it much more difficult for criminals.

"Police, Customs and a number of other agencies continue to work to bring these rates down through a lot of different initiatives. Prescription-only pseudoephedrine now means they actually have to bring it into the country, which is a lot harder.

"One of the reasons marijuana use is so widespread is because it's grown here, and New Zealand has some of the better conditions for it to grow."

Mills said hospital admission figures for cannabis far outnumbered those for other harder and higher class drugs.

"We know it causes or triggers psychosis and a number of other serious mental health issues," he said.

New Zealand Drug Foundation director Ross Bell said heartening results from an annual survey of secondary schools showed drug use among young people was slowly declining.

"What we'd hope to see is as these generations grow up as non-drug users, then the overall rate will slowly come down.

However, he said the rate was still high, with about 80 per cent of students having tried drugs at some point throughout their adolescence.

While the UN report said there had been a decline in the use of ecstasy, Mills said there were still a number of other "ecstasy-like" pills in circulation.

The report also said the decrease in ecstasy use may also be due to seizures.

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"Significant illicit manufacture" over the past few decades within Australia and New Zealand contributed to their high rates, according to the report. And an increase in the use of cocaine in this country by one percentage point showed how Mexican cartels had made some inroads into the New Zealand market.

Belarus, France and New Zealand all reported report high levels of injecting drug use, in particular among heroin users with more than 20 per cent of Kiwi cocaine users injecting.

Cannabis, however, remained the most widely used drug worldwide, followed by amphetamine-type stimulants, including ecstasy.

National results for the annual seizure of cannabis crops by police are due to be released in the next few weeks.

- Stuff

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