Quakes keeping Cantabs on drugs

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2012

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Cantabrians are still using alcohol and drugs to help cope with stress after the earthquakes.

Christchurch's Alcohol Drug Association New Zealand chief executive, Paul Rout, said people were "well-equipped" to deal with a crisis, but it was the "steady stress over time" that was taking its toll.

Stresses included dealing with authorities, having damaged homes and having to go to new areas.

"It takes about 18 months until we start to see real mental health problems," he said.

"We're getting to that point now where some of that initial resilience is wearing out."

The number of Cantabrians calling the association's helpline in the last year totalled 1571 - 1025 from people seeking help for their alcohol or drug issues and 546 from concerned family members or friends.

This was down 8.5 per cent on the previous year's 1717. But Rout said a drop had occurred after February 2011's quake, when the organisation had to move premises and was not able to record every call.

The loss of many central-city bars after the quake could have caused people to drink at home more, he said.

Helpline service manager Mel Johns said some callers had found themselves drinking a bottle of wine a night, whereas before the quakes one bottle would have lasted a week.

"People are just coping - doing whatever they need to cope," Johns said.

Rout said concerns existed that the number of workers expected to move to Christchurch to help with the region's rebuild would put additional pressure on the service.

"Twenty thousand workers - mostly probably men and probably of a younger age and mainly single - are going to bring their own issues with them, and alcohol and drugs will be some of that," he said.

National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman said he had heard of people using drugs and alcohol to cope with quake-related stress.

"Not only do drugs give a little short-term pleasure to people whose lives feel a bit empty at times, but they also give a strong dose of immediate comfort to those who are stressed," he said.

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- The Press

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