North Island regions show higher rates of drug dependency

March 27, 2018, Massey University
Of the drug survey respondents, 47 per cent of cannabis users compared to 17 per cent of the methamphetamine users reported they were using daily or near daily. Credit: Massey University

Higher levels of methamphetamine and cannabis dependency, and need for help for substance abuse, were found in northern, central and eastern regions in the North Island.

The latest research bulletin from Massey University's SHORE and Whāriki Research Centre outlines preliminary findings from the first online New Zealand Drug Trends Survey. The bulletin, the second in the series, focuses on different levels of drug dependency and need for help for substance use problems found around the country. More detailed analysis will be presented to the Ministry of Health and other government agencies later this week.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Chris Wilkins says the need for help for substance use problems was highest in the Bay of Plenty, Manawatu/Whanganui and Gisborne/Hawke's Bay regions.

"Respondents from the upper and central North Island and east coast of the North Island reported of methamphetamine and cannabis dependency, and a higher need for help to reduce their alcohol and other drug use," Dr. Wilkins says.

Higher levels of methamphetamine dependency were found in the Waikato (43 per cent of those who used in the previous six months), Gisborne/Hawke's Bay (42 per cent), Auckland (35 per cent), Manawatu/Wanganui (34 per cent) and Bay of Plenty (30 per cent) regions.

Higher levels of cannabis dependency were found in the Bay of Plenty (37 per cent of those who used in the previous six months), Northland (35 per cent), Waikato (34 per cent), Wellington (33 per cent) and Gisborne/Hawke's Bay (33 per cent) regions.

"While cannabis is a less addictive substance than methamphetamine, drug dependency is also closely related to the frequency of use. In the sample, 47 per cent of the cannabis users compared to 17 per cent of the methamphetamine users reported they were using daily or near daily, and this may explain the similar levels of drug between the cannabis and methamphetamine users," Dr. Wilkins says.

The proportion of respondents who reported needing either "a lot" or "some" help was highest in the Bay of Plenty (16 per cent), Manawatu-Wanganui (16 per cent) and Gisborne/ Hawke's Bay (15 per cent) regions.

Dr. Wilkins says the survey is not intended to be a representative sample of the drug using population. Rather, it engages with an otherwise hidden population who are difficult to access with traditional household surreys to provide a "snapshot" of recent trends.

"At the very least, there is likely to be some bias toward more functional drug users who have higher utilisation of the internet. It is likely our findings underestimate the level of and need for help for substance use problems in general, and among people who have limited access to the internet in particular, for example rough sleepers. However, in this survey we successfully engaged with a large number of otherwise difficult to access people from a wide geographical area," he says.

Survey demographics

The anonymous online survey, promoted via a targeted Facebook campaign, was conducted from November 2017 to February 2018. A total of 6,100 people completed the survey. Forty-five per cent of the sample was female. The average age was 29 years old (range 16–87 years). Twenty-one percent were Māori and 72 per cent Pakeha. Eighteen per cent were students, 11 per cent unemployed or on a sickness benefit and 65 per cent were employed.

Participants who reported using a drug type in the past six months were asked if they had ever felt dependent on the during that time. All participants who had used alcohol and other drugs in the past six months were asked about the extent to which they felt they needed help to reduce their use, using a four point scale – either "no help," "a little help," "some help" or "a lot of help."

Explore further: Increasing use of internet to buy and sell drugs

More information: For more information, see

Related Stories

Increasing use of internet to buy and sell drugs

April 20, 2016
Findings from the latest Illicit Drug Monitoring System (IDMS) study show 72 per cent of frequent drug users report increased buying and selling drugs via social media and encrypted websites.

Young people turning away from pot

May 10, 2016
Significant decreases in cannabis use by young Australians have been tempered by a warning about challenges to physical and psychological health.

Student drug use in Ontario, Canada, at historic lows but new concerns over fentanyl emerge

December 14, 2017
By almost every measure, students in grades 7 through 12 in Ontario, Canada are drinking, smoking, and using drugs at the lowest rates since the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) began in 1977. This according ...

Illegal drug users more likely to use new synthetic drugs and pharmaceuticals

October 18, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Methamphetamine users' use of synthetic cannabis products (such as Kronic) increased from ten per cent in 2010 to 41 per cent in 2011 an annual report on illegal drug use shows. Many of these synthetic ...

Concern with potential rise in super-potent cannabis concentrates

July 21, 2017
University of Queensland researchers are concerned the recent legalisation of medicinal cannabis in Australia may give rise to super-potent cannabis concentrates with associated harmful effects.

Psychostimulant users seek information, not drugs, online

June 5, 2012
Australian illicit drug users are turning to the internet for drug education, but not to buy drugs.

Recommended for you

Graphic warning labels linked to reduced sugary drink purchases

June 18, 2018
Warning labels that include photos linking sugary drink consumption with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay, may reduce purchases of the drinks, according to a new study by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Study unmasks scale of patient doctor divide

June 13, 2018
A study has estimated that around three million Britons—or 7.6 % of the country—believe they have experienced a harmful or potentially harmful but preventable problem in primary healthcare.

Lentils significantly reduce blood glucose levels, study reveals

June 13, 2018
Replacing potatoes or rice with pulses can lower your blood glucose levels by more than 20 per cent, according to a first-ever University of Guelph study.

Researcher studies the impact religion has on sleep quality

June 13, 2018
Can a person's religious practices impact their sleep quality? That's the focus of a new study by Christopher Ellison in The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Department of Sociology and his collaborators.

Mediterranean-style eating with lean, unprocessed red meat improves heart disease risk

June 13, 2018
Adopting a Mediterranean-style eating pattern improves heart health, with or without reducing red meat intake, if the red meat consumed is lean and unprocessed, according to a Purdue University nutrition study.

Sleeping too much or not enough may have bad effects on health

June 12, 2018
Fewer than six and more than ten hours of sleep per day are associated with metabolic syndrome and its individual components, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health that involved 133,608 ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.