Kiwi’s are increasingly using social media to buy and sell drugs, and are finding it easier than ever to get P, according to new drug monitoring research.
The Illicit Drug Monitoring System(IDMS) study shows that nearly three-quarters of frequent drug users now use social media and encrypted websites to purchase and sell narcotics. Conducted by Massey University academics and funded by New Zealand Police, the report provides annual snapshots of trends in illegal drug use and drug markets in New Zealand.
More than 300 regular drug users from Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch were interviewed about drug trends between August and December 2014. Dr. Chris Wilkins, Senior Researcher and Leader of Illegal Drug Research Team at the Shore and Whariki Research Center, said social media and encrypted websites offered a new platform to connect drug users and sellers.
In 2011, no one used encrypted sites, but in 2014 that figure went up to 37 percent. The sites are found on dark net. Dr. Wilkins said, “ Nucleus and Alphabay were two popular options for those seeking and selling illicit drugs, as they offered a range of drug types not widely available in New Zealand. These technological advances present new challenges to domestic and international drug control.”
A police spokesman said dark net sites have been a police focus for some time now. “ We know New Zealanders have been purchasing drugs from these sites. Police are aware of the risks posed by these sites and are adapting strategies and tactics to address them, on a case by case basis.”
Dr. Wilkins said the survey also revealed a decline in the use and availability of synthetic cannabinoids following the ban of legal highs. Reports also stated that methamphetamine was easier to obtain than ever before.
“Findings indicate the bans had a significant impact on the use and availability of synthetic cannabinoids, the most widely used products.”
The use of synthetic cannabinoids by ecstasy users declined sharply, from 22 percent in 2013 to 6 percent in 2014 and the proportion of frequent drug users who reported that synthetic cannabinoids were harder to find jumped from 19 percent to 57 percent. Those who reported the price was increasing rose from 31 percent in 2013 to 51 percent in a year, and the drug users who said fewer people were using them increased from 36 percent in 2013 to 70 percent.
“The findings suggest while synthetic cannabinoids have not disappeared completely, their use and availability is much reduced with the end of the legal commercial market.”
He said the increased availability of methamphetamine continued in 2014, particularly in Christchurch and Auckland.
“The proportion of frequent drug users who could purchase methamphetamine in one hour or less increased from 51 percent in 2011 to 76 percent in 2014. The proportion of frequent drug users who could purchase methamphetamine from a gang member increased from 36 percent in 2013 to 50 percent.” Dr. Wilkins said.
Dr. Wilkins also stated that a number of factors could be behind that trend in Christchurch, included are the general recovery following earthquakes, the influx of workers fro the rebuilding in the city and reported re-organization of the gang scene, as well as more coming from Australia and around the world. The police spokesman said police were also seeing increased usage across the board.
“This years survey continues to confirm the link between gangs and methamphetamine, which is well known to police. In 2015 police laid 572 charges against gang members and prospects for importation, supply and manufacture of methamphetamines. In the same year, police and customs agents seized 334.3kgs of methamphetamine, three times the amount seized in 2014.”
The current availability of cannabis fell from 2013 to 2014, with a particularly marked decreased in Christchurch, said Dr. Wilkins. The proportion who described the availability of cannabis as very easy declined from 62 percent in 2013 to 45 percent in 2014.
The spokesman said that the survey was a useful part of the intelligence gathered by police and other agencies about trends in drug use and drug related harm. The report findings are summarized below:
73% of people surveyed used social media and encrypted websites to buy and sell drugs.
37% of people used encrypted sites, compared to almost no one using them in 2011.
P is easier to get than ever before.
Half of P users surveyed now bought it from gangs.
70% reported fewer people using legal highs
Only 6% of regular ecstasy users now use legal highs compared to 22% in 2013.
Marijuana is harder to get now than in previous years.