Drug survey aims to get info on Kiwis
The number of New Zealanders seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction continues to rise but there is little real-time information about how, why and what drugs people are using.
This year, and for the first time in New Zealand, Fairfax Media is partnering with the Global Drug Survey to help create the largest and most up-to-date snapshot of our drug and alcohol use, and to see how we compare to the rest of the world.
The independent survey, which is run by British addiction psychiatrist and researcher Adam Winstock, will run with media partners from around the world, including The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald and Spain's largest daily newspaper El Pais, and will reach people on four continents and in six different languages.
It will be the biggest survey of drug users ever done, Winstock said.
"With so many partners and supporters we are hoping for a game-changer of a survey with 50,000 to 100,000 people taking part from around the world," he said.
New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said data around drug use in New Zealand was "poor".
"We do not have rapid, real-time or even annual data," he said.
"It's difficult to know what the drug trends are in New Zealand.
"We are not collecting good data on what challenges are facing young New Zealanders with drugs and alcohol."
The last major survey, Drug Use in New Zealand, was carried out by the Ministry of Health in 2007-08 and released in 2010.
It found that overall, about half of all adults aged 16–64 years had used drugs for recreational purposes at some time in their lives.
Bell said good, real-time data collection was crucial to directing resources where they were needed, and quickly.
"The Global Drug Survey is the kind of innovative way of collecting the data that will get us a better picture," he said, adding that treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in New Zealand was on the increase.
"What we do know around treatment is that there is forever a demand for it," he said.
According to a 2011 report by The National Committee for Addiction Treatment, 150,000 people a year in New Zealand required addiction treatment, but only 34,000 people were treated by DHB-funded sources in the same period.
The survey is anonymous and takes about 20 minutes to complete. Drugs included in the survey include alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, mephedrone, tobacco, ketamine, "legal highs" and prescription medicines.
This year's survey will have a particular focus on marijuana use, prescription-drug addiction, and look at what happens around the world when you are caught with drugs.
Results of past years' surveys have been published in the British Medical Journal, the Lancet, and Addiction, and have helped produce a project called the drugs meter, where people can find out how their drug use compares to others.
Early next year Fairfax Media will report the New Zealand results.