Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Normalising methamphetamine

Reported in a soundbite during tonight's TV One News the italicised finding below.

The press release from which the soundbite arose:

Methamphetamine Use And Its Impact On Violence Laid Bare In World-first Study
Wednesday, 19 February 2020, 2:33 pm
Press Release: University of Otago
Almost a third of middle-aged New Zealanders have tried methamphetamine at least once, according to a new University of Otago, Christchurch study looking at the link between using the drug and violence in the general population.

"Almost a third" is 28%; "middle-aged" is 35 and  "New Zealanders" were 1,000 individuals born in Canterbury.

The other big market for meth is Australia. According to Flinders University in Adelaide:

In 2013, 7% of Australians reported that they had used methamphetamine in their lifetime, and 2% reported using in the past 12 months."

"In their lifetime" is a much larger window than by age 35 but read on.

Probably the most reliable NZ source for the prevalence of drug use is the Ministry of Health's  NZ Drug Survey which finds:

In 2015/16, 1.1 percent of adults (95% confidence interval, CI: 0.9–1.5) used amphetamines in the past year. This equates to about 34,000 New Zealanders.

1.1% is much lower than 2%, the Australian finding. Which calls into question the discrepancy between "middle-aged" and lifetime findings.

Back to the Christchurch Study press release:

"The findings show use of methamphetamine is common, as observed in the study’s cohort of middle-aged New Zealanders. According to Christchurch Health and Development data, methamphetamine is the third most common illicit drug after cannabis and ecstasy, Professor Boden says
...He cautions while methamphetamine use increases the risk of involvement in violence most people who used the drug did not engage in violence or experience violence in others.

I appreciate the study focuses on meth and associated violence and that is useful.

But what I heard - and subsequently read - was the message that methamphetamine usage is "common".

I've never used it. In my life I've used cannabis three times and wouldn't expect that to contribute to any claim about usage prevalence today.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Unemployment Rate versus Jobseeker Receipt by region

Here the official unemployment rate (from the HLFS) is charted against the receipt of Jobseeker benefit (from MSD fact sheets) by region at December 2019.

Only Auckland and Otago have a higher unemployment rate than % of the (local) working age population receiving a Jobseeker Benefit.

All of the areas with large discrepancies have high Maori populations. This is consistent with the discrepancy when charted on ethnicity alone.

My current conclusion is that many Maori in those regions are not unemployed but working part-time or seasonally so still entitled to the Jobseeker benefit.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Lowering the prison population: At what cost?

There are people in prison who shouldn't be there. And there are people who aren't in prison who should be there. 

According to Police, reported crime is up 7.1% in the year to November 2019 and "Serious Assault Resulting in Injury victimisations increased by 39.5% compared with the previous 12 months." There is some qualification about change in assault classifications but it isn't conclusive.

The most common reason for a prison sentence is violence. 

Yet the Ministry of Justice says, "Compared to 2017/2018 a smaller percentage of adults received prison sentences in 2018/2019, while the percentage receiving more serious community sentences continued to increase." (My emphasis)

Also, "The number of adults receiving a prison sentence increased between 2013/2014 and 2016/2017, however over the past year it has decreased from 8,130 people (13%) in 2017/2018 to 6,883 (12%) in 2018/2019. This has brought the number of adults receiving a prison sentence back to levels seen before the increase." 

It is to be hoped that the crimes not sending people to prison are of the 'lesser' variety. Though if you were a victim or theft or burglary (up respectively 7.6 and 6.3%) you may not agree.

I blogged recently that I agree with Andrew Little's goal to lower the prison population but not at any cost.