in New Zealand
Drugs in New Zealand National
Adrian Field and Sally
- This report
summarises the results of a national survey of
5,475 people aged between 15 and 45, conducted in
1998. People were interviewed by telephone, and
asked about their use of alcohol, tobacco,
cannabis and other drugs.
- Alcohol was the most
commonly used drug in New Zealand. Some 90% of
men and 85% of women had tried alcohol, and only
slightly lower proportions had consumed alcohol
in the last 12 months.
- Almost half of men
aged 18-24 drank six drinks or more per occasion
at least weekly. One in three women in this age
group consumed at least four drinks per sitting
on a weekly basis.
- More than 40% of male
drinkers aged 18-19, and almost one-quarter of
women drinkers in the same age group, drank
enough to feel drunk at least weekly.
- Comparison with a
1995 national survey on alcohol suggested an
increase in the proportion who reported
drunkenness, particularly among women.
- Alcohol was most
frequently seen as having a harmful effect on
energy and vitality, and also financial position.
Men were more likely than women to identify these
- Tobacco was the
second most commonly used drug in the national
survey. Almost two-thirds of the sample had tried
tobacco, and more than a third had used tobacco
in the last 12 months, with the rates for men
slightly higher than those for women.
- Smoking one or more
cigarettes per day was most common among men aged
18-34 and women aged 18-29.
- Women were more
likely to smoke between one and ten cigarettes
daily, while men were more likely to engage in
heavier levels of smoking (11 or more cigarettes
- The majority of the
sample had never smoked or had smoked only
occasionally. One in five of the sample were
- A majority of smokers
felt their use was more than they were happy
- Cannabis was the
third most popular drug in New Zealand, and the
most popular of the illegal drugs.
- Although half of the
sample had tried marijuana, the majority did not
use it on a regular basis.
- Twenty percent of the
sample had used cannabis in the last year and 15%
described themselves as current users. More men
than women, and more 18-19 year olds were last
year users and current users.
- For most people who
had tried marijuana, use tended to be occasional
rather than regular. Only 24% had used marijuana
more than twice in the last 12 months.
- Use of cannabis more
than ten times in the last 30 days was confined
to a very small proportion of the sample (3%) and
only 1% were daily users.
- The average amount
smoked during an occasion was less than one joint
and once again men and younger people smoked
- Other forms of
cannabis - hashish, hash oil and skunk - showed
similar patterns of use to marijuana with
skunks reported use being in line with its
recent introduction and its more common use among
- The majority of
marijuana users had first tried it before the age
of 18, and almost half had tried it by age 16.
- Most people who had
tried marijuana no longer use it. The main
reasons for stopping or limiting use were: not
liking marijuana; concern over physical and
mental health; it was no longer fun or became
boring; and having new friends or social scene.
- The small group of
respondents who were using more marijuana did so
because of its increased availability; enjoyment
of the effect; to forget, escape or cope with
problems; new friends and social pressure.
- Those who never used
marijuana were most likely to say they simply
didnt like using the drug or felt no need
to do so, followed by health related reasons, and
to a lesser extent risk of being caught or fear
of the law, and not being in the social scene.
- One in four of those
who had never used marijuana had had the
opportunity in the past year to use the drug;
this was most common among younger people.
- Marijuana context
- Marijuana was most
commonly used in private homes, and very rarely
used in workplaces.
- A small group of
marijuana users (14%) said that at least some of
their driving was done under the influence of
marijuana, but two out of three said that no
driving was done under the influence of
- One in four people
thought that smoking marijuana at parties would
be acceptable to most people or everyone. Less
than one-fifth of respondents (17%) thought that
smoking marijuana at the beach with friends would
be similarly acceptable.
- Around three-quarters
of respondents felt that smoking marijuana before
driving, before work or study, or when children
are around, was not generally acceptable.
- The settings in which
marijuana was smoked were usually in groups of
three or four people, rather than alone.
- Respondents tended to
acquire and share their marijuana on a casual
basis, and a substantial proportion obtained
their marijuana for free. Only about one in three
current users bought at least some of their
marijuana, and only 14% of current users always
or mostly tried to keep a supply on hand.
- Few people (3% of
current users) grew all or most of their own
supply of marijuana.
- Most current
marijuana users reported that their supplier(s)
did not supply other drugs. Of current users who
bought at least some of their marijuana, 8% said
their supplier had encouraged them to buy other
- Responses from
current marijuana users who bought at least some
of their supply indicated stability in marijuana
prices, with most saying prices were the same as
the previous year.
- Access to marijuana
was perceived as similar to last year by about
half of current marijuana users, and one-third
thought access was easier.
- Harmful effects and
self-reported problems from alcohol and
- More people reported
harmful effects on areas of their lives, such as
energy and vitality, financial position and
health, from alcohol compared with marijuana,
reflecting higher prevalence of alcohol use in
- Frequent users of
marijuana were more likely to report high levels
of alcohol consumption, and to identify harmful
effects related to their consumption of both
alcohol and marijuana, than those who used
marijuana (and alcohol) less frequently.
- Men tended to be
heavier users of marijuana and were more likely
than women to report harmful effects relating to
use of both alcohol and marijuana.
- Energy and vitality,
financial position and health were also the most
commonly cited areas affected by heavier use of
both alcohol and marijuana. One in five of the
heavier marijuana users also stated they had
memory loss associated with their use of the
- Most marijuana users
were happy with their level of use but about one
in four felt they were smoking more marijuana
than they were happy with. Of these, a small
proportion felt they required help to cut down.
- A very small
proportion of marijuana users had not received
help when they wanted it. Service related reasons
included not knowing where to go, and services
were too expensive. A smaller group also reported
fear of what would happen if they contacted a
service, specifically fear of the police.
- Use of drugs other
than alcohol, tobacco and marijuana was
considerably lower than the three more common
- While 22% reported
ever trying other drugs, only 9% had used other
drugs in the last 12 months.
- Use in the last 12
months was higher in men, and highest in 18-19
year olds (29% of men and 14% of women in this
- The most commonly
used illicit drugs, other than cannabis, were
hallucinogens, tried by 13% of the sample, and
stimulants, tried by 9% of the sample.
- LSD, mushrooms and
ecstasy were the most commonly used
hallucinogenic drugs. They were used in the last
12 months by 4%, 2% and 1% of the sample
- Opiate use was
relatively low, with only 1% using any of the
opiate drugs (heroin, homebake, morphine and
poppies) in the last year.
- The licit drug, kava,
had been tried by 8% of respondents, and used in
the last year by 3%.
- Use of tranquillisers
and solvents in the past year were reported by
less than 1% of respondents.
- Multiple drug use
- People were more
likely to have tried all three of alcohol,
tobacco and marijuana, than any drug alone or
combination of any other substances.
- People were more
likely to have used either alcohol alone, or
alcohol and tobacco, in the last 12 months, than
any other drug alone or any other combination of
- For most marijuana
users, alcohol is at least sometimes consumed in
conjunction with marijuana.
- Nine percent of the
sample had tried three or more illicit drugs, and
3% had done so in the last year.
- Seven percent of the
sample had never tried any of the drugs asked
about, and 11% had not used any in the last 12
- Drugs and the community
- The level of
perceived risk of harm from marijuana and tobacco
smoking increased according to the level of
consumption. Regular cigarette smoking was seen
to be more risky than regular marijuana smoking,
although with both substances a majority of
respondents saw a "great risk" of harm.
- Solvent abuse,
illegal drugs other than cannabis, and alcohol
were rated highly as community concerns by all
age groups in the sample.
- Alcohol was seen as a
serious issue for the community in most age
groups, although concern was less in younger age
- Marijuana had a high
rating of concern among 15-17 year olds, but was
seen as less serious in older age groups.
- Compared with other
drugs, tobacco had a lower rating as a community
concern, particularly among younger respondents.
- People were more
likely to perceive levels of enforcement against
people using marijuana to be either about right,
or too heavy, rather than too light.
- Enforcement against
selling marijuana, and using and selling other
illegal drugs, was most commonly seen as too
Region and urbanisation
- More people in the
southern North Island and South Island, than the
northern North Island, had ever tried alcohol and
had used alcohol in the last 12 months.
- More people from
medium urban areas and smaller urban/rural areas,
compared with large urban areas, had tried
alcohol and used alcohol in the last 12 months.
- The northern North
Island region had a lower rate of trying tobacco
than other regions.
- More people from
medium urban areas, and the smaller urban/rural
areas, had tried tobacco than people from large
- Having tried
marijuana, use in the last 12 months and current
use were most common in the large and medium
urban areas than in the smaller urban/rural
- The northern North
Island region tended to have higher use of other
drugs than the other regions.
- The large urban areas
tended to have higher use of other drugs.
- Comparison with
drug use in different countries
- Alcohol use was
fairly similar in Australia, the United States
and Ontario, when compared with New Zealand. A
notable exception is that more 15-17 year old New
Zealand girls used alcohol in the last 12 months,
compared with Australia.
- Considerably higher
percentages of New Zealanders aged 15-19 (both
men and women) had used tobacco in the last year,
compared with Australians in the same age group.
- The rates in New
Zealand of last year use of marijuana were
comparable with those of the United States and
Australia, but higher than those in Britain.
- Last year use of
other drugs was similar in Australia and New
Zealand, with the exception of any hallucinogens,
where use in New Zealand was higher, and cocaine
and heroin, where use in Australia was higher.
- Last year use of LSD
and hallucinogenic mushrooms was higher in New
Zealand than Britain. Use of cocaine and ecstasy
in the last 12 months was similar in both
countries, while use of amphetamines
(stimulants), was higher in Britain.
- Last year use of LSD
tended to be higher in New Zealand than the
United States, while use of cocaine was higher in
the United States.
- Ecstasy use in the
last 12 months was similar to use in Australia,
United States and Britain.
Top | Back | Home