MDMA has become a popular drug of choice for festival goers. Photo: NZ Herald.

Changing face of Nelson’s drug use


The scale of Nelson’s drug problem is slowly becoming clearer after more than 12 months of wastewater testing for illicit drugs.

The National Wastewater Testing Programme, which began in November 2018, tests wastewater for byproducts of illicit drugs found in urine.

These include methamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine and fentanyl. In the first three months of testing, from November 2018 – January 2019, Nelson City’s meth usage represented 72 per cent of drugs detected.

A year later methamphetamine represented 60 per cent, while MDMA had climbed to 38 per cent from 27.

The recently-released results show Kiwis used more than $8 million of illicit drugs each week between Nov 2019 and January 2020, with meth use alone generating an estimated $16 million in social harm.

The Tasman Police District was estimated to be consuming almost half a kilogram of the tested drugs per week.

A police spokesperson says the increase in MDMA is in line with what police have seen in several regions across the country.

The spokesperson says they were “unable to speculate” on what had caused the amount of methamphetamine detected across the region to drop.

However, they say organised crime staff as well as tactical crime teams continue to address crime and methamphetamine production and use across the region.

“As the Tasman data is fairly consistent, with few fluctuations, at this stage there has been no significant change that would require additional staffing or an immediate change in how we respond,” says the spokesperson.

Nelson Marlborough Health GM mental health & addictions services, Jane Kinsey, says Addiction Services sees around 150 referrals a month across the Nelson, Tasman Marlborough region – a number that remains “relatively constant”.

“As an indication, in the month of August 2020 approximately one quarter of the referrals received indicated that people identified some current or previous use of methamphetamine.”

Jane says there has been an increase in the number of people who feel comfortable about disclosing their use of methamphetamine when seeking support from the Addictions Service.

“We appreciate when people do this, and this disclosure is encouraged so we can provide the right support and treatment.”

If anyone has concerns about their use of addictive substances such as methamphetamine, alcohol, and other drugs then contact the Addiction Service in Nelson on (03) 546 1994.