BY CHERIE TAYLOR
Wed 7 Nov 2007
Rotorua children as young as 7 are getting help for cannabis addictions - and social workers say the drug is still a major problem in the city.
But new figures from a National Household Survey on Drug Use released by Massey University shows fewer people in New Zealand have tried cannabis and cigarettes or used P in the past year compared with five years ago. The survey shows more people are trying alcohol.
The findings were presented at the Cutting Edge Addiction Conference in Auckland this week.
The report blames liberalisation of alcohol and tighter smoking laws for the trends.
However, Rotorua addiction counsellors say both cannabis and alcohol are major problems locally.
Police say alcohol is a factor in a majority of the cases they deal with but violent crimes involving P are on the increase.
June Bythell, Te Utuhina Manaakitanga Trust (Addiction Resource Centre) clinical co-ordinator, said fewer people addicted to methamphetamine were seeking help from the service than a year ago but there was a steady increase of clients seeking help for alcohol and cannabis addictions.
Each week the service sees about a dozen new clients seeking help and runs group sessions twice weekly for about 30 clients.
She said the Bay of Plenty was plagued by issues around cannabis use and alcohol was affecting younger people more today than it was 10 years ago. She blames easy access to ready mixed drinks and a younger drinking age for the problem.
"We have more young people binge drinking today. You just have to drive anywhere in this town on the weekends and there are kids drunk and smashing bottles.
"We have a real binge drinking problem," she said.
Clients as young as 7 were getting help for cannabis addictions, she explained.
"The problem is going to get worse. We have a major problem with cannabis in our area. People are trying to make changes but it is a huge struggle for them," she said.
Although not as many people were coming forward to seek help for P addictions today, it was still a major issue our community needed to address, Mrs Bythell said.
"People know that methamphetamine causes brain problems and personality changes. I believe we are seeing more domestic violence because of it," she said.
Rotorua's Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Loper agrees.
Police had noticed a worrying trend in the rise of P-fuelled crime, Mr Loper said.
"There has been an increase with P and associated violence-related crimes," he said.
He believes police are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.
"It's just the start. Alcohol is still a problem right across the board but P is a growing problem. Until it affects them personally, people don't take any notice of it," he said.
The only way to address the problem was education, he said.
Meanwhile, more people are seeking help to quit smoking.
National Quitline executive director Helen Glasgow said in the past eight years since the telephone support line was launched there had been a growing number of people calling for help to give up.
About 80,000 call annually with around 32,000 registering to kick the habit.
The National Household Survey on Drug Use showed there was a higher proportion of New Zealanders who had drunk alcohol in 2006 compared with 2003 - up nearly 3 per cent.
It showed a lower proportion had tried tobacco in 2006 compared with 2001, down 7 per cent. There were just over 2 per cent fewer people who had tried cannabis and more than 1 per cent fewer who had used amphetamines.
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