Clearer picture of community drug use

A picture of New Zealand’s drug use is set to become clearer with the expansion of wastewater testing across New Zealand, says Police Minister Stuart Nash.

“The Commissioner of Police today announced that wastewater testing at 38 sites in each of the 12 Policing districts will be rolled out this month,” says Mr Nash.

“Wastewater testing provides an accurate measure of illegal drug consumption that is cost effective, timely and non-intrusive.

“Expanding the programme will allow agencies to accurately assess the levels of drug consumption in our major centres and provincial communities to build a better picture of the harm these substances are causing.

“Some of our provincial areas are the most vulnerable to the scourge of methamphetamine, and are being preyed upon by organised criminals who supply it.

“I am pleased that the use of illicit substances will be analysed in these areas so Police and other agencies will be able to make informed decisions on education, prevention and enforcement initiatives.

“Methamphetamine causes a huge amount of social harm and those who supply it in our communities are responsible.

Over the past 18 months, 1.5kg of methamphetamine was estimated to have been consumed on average each week across the 647,000 people sampled at the three test locations. This translates into an estimated $2 million per week in social harm.

“The expanded testing will also give agencies an early warning system for emerging drug risks.

“Fentanyl, for example, was added to the testing programme in May, and while the misuse of this drug remains low, agencies will be now be able to closely monitor any fluctuations or increase in its use,” says Mr Nash.