This week, a report called "Drug Use in Aotearoa" was released by the NZ Drug Foundation Te Puna Whakaiti Pāmamae Kai Whakapiri. The report draws on the latest 2022/23 data from the NZ Health Survey, wastewater testing, and the NZ Drug Trends Survey to paint a picture of drug use across the country.
In this report, disabled people are over-represented in their reported use of cannabis, amphetamines (including methamphetamine), and opioids.
To find out more about the higher levels of reported drug use among disabled people, DPA has been in contact with the NZ Drug Foundation. The Foundation's Executive Director, Sarah Helm has kindly provided additional context for us to share with you:
The Foundation’s Executive Director Sarah Helm says disabled peoples are over-represented in their reported use of cannabis, amphetamines (including methamphetamine), and opioids.
Disabled people are 3.79 times more likely to have used cannabis weekly, and 5.14 times more likely to have used amphetamines in the past year, as compared to non-disabled people. They are also 3.54 times more likely to report past-year opioid use.
“The report builds on many years of information showing elevated use of these substances among disabled people,” says Helm.
“What we don’t know enough about is why, what are disabled peoples’ experiences of use, and are there downstream harms they need better support with. As a disabled person myself, and in my role at the Drug Foundation, I would like to see more research into the experiences of disabled people to better inform treatment, harm reduction and other support services design.”
Helm says that while the data doesn’t show why disabled people use substances, some informed assumptions could be drawn, such as people using them to manage health conditions and relieve pain.
“The pain relief offered from opioids and cannabis are now well understood. We also know illicitly sourced stimulants are more heavily utilised by people with unmanaged ADHD, due to their similarity to prescribed medications.”
“However, given we have known this for some time now, the onus really is on all of us to call for more and better research to ensure disabled peoples’ needs are better met.”
The report also showed changes to the drug market, including increased cocaine availability and use.
Read the Drug use in Aotearoa 2022/23 report – NZ Drug Foundation.