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To quickly identify changes in substance use and harms we work with alcohol and other drug support services to understand what is happening in communities throughout New Zealand.  We run regular short Pulse surveys of services and report on the results.

We had 122 responses from services, sharing the changes that they had noticed between June and August this year. The insights from the survey were critiqued and interpreted by the Acute Drug Harm Community of Practice - a network of frontline organisations who respond to surges in drug harm.

We found that during this period:

  • There was no change in the substances that people most commonly sought support for. This was alcohol for adults, and both alcohol and cannabis for young people.
  • Almost three quarters of adult services had noticed a 'slight' or 'large' increase in alcohol use among people accessing their services. Some had noticed a 'slight' or 'large' increase in methamphetamine or cannabis use, and a few had noticed a 'slight' increase in opiate, non-prescribed pharmaceutical, and MDMA use.
  • Youth services noted that young people seeking support appeared to be experimenting more with different substances over this period. Approximately half of the services had noticed a 'slight' or 'large' increase in alcohol and cannabis use, and some had noticed a 'slight' or 'large' increase in methamphetamine and MDMA use.  

This is a challenging year for many people, and services shared that two issues appeared to be increasing among the people they supported - difficulty finding stable housing, and experiences of serious mental distress. Not having a safe place to live has a far-reaching impact on people's lives - drug use is often a barrier to get into housing, and inappropriate housing can make issues worse. Services were concerned that the harm caused by this may be worse for women who lose housing. Supporting more people with those complex issues and with their alcohol and other drug use was putting pressure on staff, who were already feeling the strain of a challenging year.

Most said they needed more funding and resourcing to continue the positive changes they had been making to their service delivery - becoming more flexible, lowering access thresholds, and increasing their ability to provide longer-term support. 

Previous Pulse survey reports

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