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Methamphetamine use during New Zealand’s lockdowns. Should we be worried?

For those of us working in the sector, recent headlines about increased methamphetamine detected in wastewater samples that were collected last year will come as no surprise.

Although wastewater analysis can’t tell us anything about the prevalence of drug use, we also know that COVID-19 lockdowns have been challenging for many people and drug use may have changed. Some people may have increased use of alcohol, cannabis, methamphetamine, and other drugs to pass the time, manage boredom or in response to a range of emotions.

For Aucklanders in particular, 2021 saw long periods of restriction in movement and activities. Life in lockdown isn’t easy at the best of times and for those who may be living in less-than-ideal home environments, dealing with challenges in their own lives and others, life can be so much harder.

So, what’s next?

For some, lockdown drug use will have been just that, an increase in use during that time and without significant problems. For others, it may have led to an increase in drug-related harm.

New Zealand is one of the top five countries for the use of methamphetamine. It’s a drug that has developed a relatively unique prevalence in this part of the world. Around 1.2% of the New Zealand population report methamphetamine use in the last 12 months (a figure which has been historically quite stable), it remains to be seen if this will now increase or return to pre-COVID levels.

It’s important to emphasise that general statistics often mask the disproportionate prevalence and impact of the use of methamphetamine and other stimulants amongst Maori, as well as low socio economic and/or disadvantaged groups. We know that there are regions where use of methamphetamines dominate and presentations at drug treatment services have – or are likely to – increase significantly.

It’s incredibly important that the New Zealand alcohol and other drug sector is trained in best practice treatment for methamphetamine related problems, so that they can respond effectively in the case of increased presentations.

360Edge’s CEO Professor Nicole Lee is the leading expert in methamphetamine, having designed a number of tailored services and treatment programs to ensure evidence-based responses to methamphetamine use in Australia and abroad.

We have a suite of training programs that can be delivered either online or in-person to help practitioners understand the unique impacts of methamphetamine use on treatment; develop effective responses; and manage complex behaviours whether in low threshold, early intervention or treatment settings. Using evidence-based interventions is essential if we are to respond effectively.

If you want to find out more about this course or other ways 360Edge Aotearoa New Zealand can help, get in touch!

– Kathryn Leafe, Head of Partnerships Aotearoa New Zealand