Expert outlines three reasons why meth is flourishing in NZ

Long Lunch 14/03/2018
Photo: Getty.

Jacinda Ardern recently announced the war against methamphetamine has failed, with new research suggesting the drug is now more accessible in New Zealand than cannabis.

A Massey University preliminary study found that while 13 percent of the 6100 participants could purchase cannabis in less than 20 minutes, 31 percent could purchase meth within the same time frame.

Dr Doug Sellman, professor of psychiatry & addiction medicine at University of Otago in Christchurch joined Wendyl Nissen on the Long Lunch to discuss the methamphetamine epidemic.

He said the drug “continues to surge” in New Zealand, despite saying in 2012 that meth use had plateaued after the 90s epidemic.

“I was wrong,” he admitted.

Dr Sellman listed the following as reasons behind the P epidemic: 

New Zealand’s cultural landscape for drugs

“We are essentially a very heavy drug-using nation,” Dr Sellman said.

Dr Sellman explained that while alcohol is a powerful (and common) drug, it still has a relatively unregulated market in the country.

New Zealand’s strong alcohol culture only further links social situations with “getting out of it”, Dr Sellman said.

“We’ve got a landscape just fertile for other drugs,” he said. “And one of these is methamphetamine.”


Dr Sellman notes that it’s clear that the availability of methamphetamine demonstrates that there’s an active market for the drug.

“There is a dense network of drug dealers of methamphetamine in New Zealand,” he told RadioLIVE.

“A lot of these people are relatively poor.

“And methamphetamine is one of the best ways of making money.”

Poverty, he explained, is certainly a background issue that’s linked to the methamphetamine epidemic.  


Dr Sellman explained that when alcohol was prohibited in the past, it encouraged people to buy stronger liquor because it was easier to transport.

“We are living in prohibition days with drugs,” he said.

He points out that methamphetamine is both potent and easier to transport, as opposed to cannabis.

Synthetic cannabis is another example of a highly potent spinoff of a drug that is not currently legal in New Zealand, Dr Sellman explained.

“I think if we had a regulated market we could get much better control and therefore reduce the harm from cannabis in New Zealand.”

Listen to the full interview with Dr Doug Sellman above. 

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.