New Zealanders as a population have some of the higher drug-use rates in the developed world, evidenced in the 2007/2008 New Zealand Alcohol and Drug Use Survey, which reports that one in six (16.6%) New Zealanders aged 16–64 years had used drugs recreationally in the past year.
This drug use includes 84% of the adult population (16-64) consuming alcohol at least twice a week, and 21% describing themselves as smokers. In regards to illicit drug use, cannabis remains the most popular illicit drug with 14.6% of adults reporting past year use in 2007. Far fewer adults use other illicit drugs - methamphetamine use sat at around 2% in 2009, and ecstasy use at around 2.6% in 2007.
Young people in New Zealand are also consumers of drugs, in spite of access being restricted due to their age, or the drugs legality. 32% of people aged under 18 report drinking alcohol on more than three occasions in the past month, 18%5 describe themselves as current smokers and 24.8% (of 16-17 year olds) report using cannabis in the last year. Less common, but highly dangerous drug use in young people includes volatile substance abuse (or huffing), responsible for the death of 25 people aged under 17 in the last ten years. It also includes the use of the new ‘legal highs’ - party pills and synthetic cannabis which are causing young people to present to emergency departments and treatment clinics with severe unwanted effects.
If we look at lifetime use, the 2007/2008 New Zealand Alcohol and Drug Use Survey reported that one in two adults (49.0%) had used drugs (excluding alcohol, tobacco and party pills) for recreational purposes at some point in their lifetime, equating to about 1,292,700 people in the total population aged 16–64 years in New Zealand.
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