Exploring drug availability, prices and help services


Associate Professor Chris Wilkins.


Associate Professor Chris Wilkins will highlight the findings from his recent drug and alcohol research during his presentation at the Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference on the Gold Coast next week.

Dr Wilkins says findings from his research can inform future investments in drug treatment capacity and innovative online approaches to helping geographically isolated drug users in rural communities.

“The local availability and price of illegal drugs are often seen as key determinants of drug use levels and related harms, while the accessibility of drug treatment is considered an important means to address drug problems. However, the monitoring of the availability and price of drugs, and the provision of drug treatment services, is often limited to high population urban centres,” he says.

Dr Wilkins’ recent research suggests many smaller towns and rural areas have significant drug problems reflecting economic decline, concentration of clandestine drug manufacture, and geographical remoteness from treatment and other health services.

His use of online surveys to gauge the issue in New Zealand, are a first. “Online surveys potentially offer a platform to engage with geographically isolated drug users, assess local drug markets and obtain information concerning the extent of drug dependency and need for help services for substance use problems in regional areas.”

Dr Wilkins’ presentation will present findings from the first online New Zealand Drug Trends Survey (NZDTS) which aimed to collect data on the availability and price of drugs, and level of demand for help services in all regions of New Zealand. A total of 6,311 people completed the survey from November 2017 to February 2018 from all 16 regions of New Zealand. Significant differences in drug availability, prices, dependency, and self-reported need for help were found between regions. Statistical modelling found a number of independent predictors of high drug availability and prices with relevance for future policy response.

The Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference will cover a broad range of topics including prevention, treatment, systematic responses, behaviours, mental health and harm reduction in relation to all types of addiction. The program will include emerging trends and the various addictive habits of alcohol and other drugs, gambling, internet, sex, gaming, food, shopping, pyromania and kleptomania.

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