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The most recent government statistics show that overall numbers of people who use methamphetamine in New Zealand have remained relatively consistent in the past five years. 0.8% of New Zealanders (31,000 people) used the drug once or more in 2016/17. Around one fifth of those took the drug monthly or more, according to 2013/14 data. Anecdotal evidence suggests methamphetamine use is more concentrated in some communities than others.
Although overall usage of methamphetamine remains low at a population level, misuse of the drug remains a serious concern, particularly in some communities.
By far the largest proportion of money spent on dealing with harm from methamphetamine in New Zealand is spent on enforcement (policing, courts and prisons). The evidence for spending our limited resources in this way just doesn’t stack up. Convictions for methamphetamine manufacture and supply have increased dramatically in the past ten years, yet surveys indicate it is becoming easier to get hold of, not harder.
We would like to see New Zealand investing less in enforcement and more in what the evidence shows actually works – healthcare, prevention and treatment.
In particular, we would like to see:
New Zealand has responded poorly to the drug issues in the past and methamphetamine is no exception. Many communities have expressed their frustration with the current situation. Numerous people are calling out for urgent funding, resources, services and support to help their friends and whānau who struggle with methamphetamine use.
Communities have developed innovative solutions with very few resources. But there much to be done and central government has a significant role to play.
Investment should be spread across:
The whole sector needs to see increased funding and communities need services much closer to home. It should be much easier for people to get help.
Methamphetamine can be harmful to those who use it and potentially to others (especially children) who live with them while they are using. Manufacturing methamphetamine in a house can also be damaging to the health of inhabitants, due to the toxic chemicals that are sometimes used in the manufacturing process.
Third-hand methamphetamine exposure is a completely different story. A recent report by the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor found no data showing any health risk from living in a place where methamphetamine has previously been smoked. The Chief Science Advisor's report concluded previous ‘contamination’ standards were set far too low at 1.5 μg/100 cm2. The report suggested a new level of 15 μg/100 cm2. Even at this level a health effect is thought to be extremely unlikely.
Based on the report, we recommend you only test your property if the police have advised you it was used to manufacture methamphetamine, or you have good reason to suspect very heavy use in the property. If you’re a landlord you may also want to find out if your insurance company has a policy on testing, and follow their advice to limit your liability.
We expect new regulations guiding methamphetamine testing to be developed later in 2018.
Read the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor's report on methamphetamine contamination in residential properties
The release by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor's methamphetamine contamination report has set off a flurry of reactions and responses. See what is next and how New Zealand can muddle through the meth myth mess.
2016: Across New Zealand, tenants are losing their homes and possessions – or receiving debilitating bills – because their houses are found to be meth contaminated. Russell Brown looks at a poorly informed phenomenon of near hysteria that is putting vulnerable people out onto the street.
Watch a Drug Foundation seminar about methamphetamine by Matt Noffs, CEO of the Noffs Foundation and author of Breaking the Ice.