Pubdate: Mon, 28 Nov 2005
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2005 New Zealand Herald
Author: Simon Collins
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


New Zealanders are turning up at Narcotics Anonymous younger than ever
as cannabis and stimulants such as methamphetamine replace traditional
hard drugs such as heroin.

The first national survey of members of Narcotics Anonymous has found
that only 10 per cent of members aged under 30 say that their "drug of
choice" is an opium-derived drug such as heroin, down from 35 per cent
of those in their 50s and over.

Cannabis (26 per cent) and methamphetamines such as "speed" and "P"
(16 per cent) are now much more popular among the under-30s.

A founding member of Narcotics Anonymous in New Zealand said the new
drugs were bringing people into the organisation at much younger ages
than even a year ago.

"We have a lot more people in their early 20s than a year ago, and
they are staying because they have a social network [in NA]," she
said. "I think they get in trouble a lot quicker. They seek help earlier.

"Young people always used alcohol and other drugs, but they can't take
alcohol into a lot of venues now."

The survey shows that more than half of NA members are in the northern
region from Hamilton north, most are relatively highly educated, and
19 per cent are Maori - a bigger proportion than in the general
population. Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton will release the
full results at the launch of a new history of Narcotics Anonymous

The group, founded in the United States, was started in New Zealand in
1982. It now has about 700 members attending regular meetings where
people share stories to strengthen their resolve to stay off drugs.

The survey, filled in by 475 members, found that they were more likely
to be male (58 per cent), with a median age of 35. A massive 82 per
cent live in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin.

Most (74 per cent) are European, with 19 per cent Maori and only 7 per
cent Asian, Pacific Island or other.

Most are highly educated, with 19 per cent holding postgraduate
qualifications, 26 per cent other tertiary qualifications, 15 per cent
trades, 21 per cent school qualifications and only 19 per cent no
qualifications. Many of the last group are too young to have finished

Almost two-thirds of those in their first year of being "clean"
(drug-free) survive on welfare benefits, but this drops to only around
10 per cent of those who have been clean for more than five years.

"So we are taking drop-outs and turning them around," said a
spokeswoman for the group. The group's rules prevent any member from
being named in public.

A founding member still attends group meetings at least once a week 26
years after she stopped taking drugs.

"We say that the disease of addiction doesn't go away, you just keep
it in remission," she said.

The survey found that 74 per cent of members have a "sponsor", or
mentor, from the group who contacts them regularly. But only 31 per
cent are sponsors, indicating that many look after more than one other
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake