30 May 2015

Too scared to wean mates off weed?

4:26 pm on 30 May 2015

It might be more socially acceptable now to tell people to kick the habit and ditch the cigarettes but, when it comes to cannabis, it seems New Zealanders are not so brave.

Cannabis plants in Uruguay on 15 December 2014.

Cannabis plants in a commercial operation in Uruguay on 15 December 2014. Photo: AFP

The Ministry of Health's latest New Zealand Health Survey showed few people were prepared to confront friends and family members over their use of marijuana.

87 percent of the cannabis users canvassed in the survey said no-one had expressed any concern about their use of the illicit drug.

It's not just mates and relatives; doctors and health care workers fall into that category too.

The analysis also showed that the older the drug taker, the less likely people close to them were to raise the topic.

Alcohol Drug Helpline chief executive Paul Rout said people might be reluctant to get involved for fear of an angry backlash.

"I think, because it's an illegal drug, there's more stigma issues around it. I think often people are unsure of the reaction they'll get if they raise something like this," he said.

"And often, if you do it in a way that's very confronting or challenging, you'll end up with a negative response or an angry response."

Mr Rout said the helpline could coach people in ways to speak to cannabis users.

"We would generally just talk about ways that you can find a safer space as possible to have that discussion, so that you can actually sit down and talk it through with people and encourage them to see what the impact is having.

"We would generally get people to avoid being really highly judgemental but really try and get a discussion about it, so they're talking about it and the other person's talking about the impact they see and their concerns and how it might be affecting them."

Where's the help when you need it?

Another statistic from the survey revealed 3.6 percent of cannabis users wanted help to reduce their level of drug use but did not get any support.

Mr Rout said there were many reasons for that.

"I think the main one is that people don't know where to get help. There are in fact many good services available ... but often people don't know they exist.

"We tend to promote help around drinking issues in New Zealand but there's very little resources put into promoting help for other drug use in New Zealand."

The New Zealand Health Survey was carried out for the year ending June 2013. It questioned 13,000 adults and revealed just over 1400 of them were cannabis users.

Key stats on cannabis use in New Zealand - and efforts to cut back

The Alcohol Drug Helpline can be reached on 0800 787 797.

Access the latest cannabis use data on the Ministry of Health's website