Dr Chris Wilkins
Use of the subtance, also known as Ice, increased from 29 per cent in 2010 to 51 per cent two years later, according to the 2012 Illicit Drug Monitoring System (IDMS) study carried out by researchers at the SHORE & Whariki Research Cemntre at Massey University.
Lead researcher Dr Chris Wilkins says 330 illegal drug users from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch were interviewed between August to December 2012 about trends in the use, availability, price and potency of a number of key illegal drug types and about any new drugs they had encountered in the previous six months.
Among emerging drugs he confirmed that a there had been a reversal in the use of synthetic cannabis (eg Kronic, K2) with the proprtion of frequent ecstacy users who had used synthetic cannabis in the previous six months falling from 45 per cent in 2011 to 24 per cent a year later.
“The sharp decline in synthetic cannabis use may reflect growing reports of negative health consequences from its use, and some reduction in its availability brought about by the temporary banning of a number of synthetic cannabis compounds during that time.”
Reasons for the increasing use of Ice were less clear, Dr Wilkins says.
“There has been increasing law enforcement pressure on the domestic manaufacture of methamphetamine in recent years, including tighter precursor and other chemical controls. The increased supply and use of Ice (which is the imported form of methamphetamine) may be a response to the disruption of the local methamphetamine market.”
Pure methamphamine, also known as ‘P’ fell in price from $815 per gram in 2011 to $678 per gram a year later, with users noting the introduction of cheap, low-strength grams of methamphetamine.
“There could be a number of possible explanations for this including declining demand for methamphetamine, disruption in the quality of methamphetamine manufacture, or merely an attempt to offer a more attractive product type to a particular market segment,” Dr Wikins says.
Another noticeable trend was the “dramatic changes” measured in the street morphine market in 2012.
Availability of what is the principal opoid used by New Zealand injecting drug users fell sharply in 2012 – particularly in Christchurch where most users of the substance were interviewed, with a subsequent increase in price and purity.
“The observed changes in the ‘street morphine’ market may reflect changes in local conditions there, including on-going social disruption caused by the earthquakes, lifestyle changes brought about by the earthquakes, changes in prescription practices as a result of earthquake-related trauma and local enforcement operations.”
Frequent ecstacy users reported more drug related problems stating there were increased levels of verbal and physical threats, assault and drink spiking related to their substance use.
“This might reflect the new substitute compounds currently being sold as ‘ecstasy’, which are associated with aggression and psychosis, such as MDPV,” Dr Wilkins says.
The report can be downloaded at http://www.shore.ac.nz/projects/idms_study.htm