Pubdate: Mon, 14 Apr 2014
Source: Timaru Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2014 Timaru Herald


An invisible swath of middle-class New Zealanders are drinking 
heavily and indulging in drugs, a new survey has found.

Fairfax Media's involvement in the Global Drugs Survey on worldwide 
drug use has for the first time revealed how entrenched alcohol and 
drugs - both legal and illegal - are in our everyday lives.

Addiction medicine specialists say the results have identified key 
trends in our drug use, and show users fall across a broad spectrum 
of the population.

The survey reveal both interesting and shocking glimpses into the 
drug habits of the 5731 New Zealand respondents, who had a mean age 
of 34.7, about half of whom had an undergraduate degree, and 84 per 
cent of whom were employed.

Alcohol was the most commonly used substance, but also the substance 
we are most concerned about: 8 per cent admitting to blacking out at 
least monthly while drinking.

About 1 per cent of respondents said they had received emergency 
medical help after drinking in the past year, with the most common 
number of drinks consumed in those cases being between 10 and 20.

Survey founder Adam Winstock said Kiwis appeared to use cannabis 
responsibly, but their attitudes towards alcohol were worrying. A 
large proportion of those surveyed recorded heavy drinking behaviour, 
but almost half of them believed their drinking was average or less 
than average compared with others, he said.

Three-quarters of respondents had used illegal drugs during their 
lifetime, almost half had used them in the past year, yet legal highs 
were considered to be detrimental to users' health.

Prescription painkillers were also popular, raising concerns about 
the ease of access to and dependence on opiates such as oxycodone.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the results could 
not be taken as a picture of the overall population, but were a great 
snapshot of drug use.

"We've known for a long time that alcohol does cause a lot of 
problems. People want help for themselves and their loved ones, but 
where do they go for help?"

Stereotypes about drug users, such as their being confined to gangs 
and the unemployed, were simply not true.

"New Zealand's drug problem is not just found in state houses, and 
the sooner we wake up to that problem the better."

Some of the survey results, such as those regarding prescription 
medicine use, were worrying and it was important more work was done 
into how drugs were being used by wider society, he said.

"If we all reflect on ourselves, I'm a drug user - I use alcohol, I 
use it for a reason and I don't have a problem with that - but you're 
going to get someone else who's non-alcohol but smokes pot. It's not 
to condone drug use, but I think we have to have a better 
understanding of the role drugs have in people's lives."

Most people used drugs not because they had a traumatic childhood or 
their lives were unpleasant, but because they wanted to relax, he said.

Fairfax NZ
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