The number of people seeking help for addictions in Queenstown has doubled in two years.
And health bosses admit resources in the resort aren’t good enough.
Southern District Health Board figures show 136 people accessed its addiction assessment and treatment service locally last year. In 2015, there were 65 people.
Alcohol is still “by far and away the number one drug” in the resort, SDHB community alcohol and drug services boss David Jaggard says.
Queenstown man Adam* is one of those who needed help. He’s just racked up a year off the booze.
“For me to pick up a drink again would be to die,” he says.
Recovery has been a long road, one littered with angst and damaged relationships, and
hampered by what he describes as New Zealand’s binge drinking culture.
In his home country, public drunkenness is a no-no.
When he arrived here, he says, he found it’s totally normal.
Information obtained by the resort has boomed by 34 per cent in four years – from 192 to 259 – although they’re governed by stringent anti-binge drink rules.
It was a drink-driving charge that made Adam realise things were spiralling out of control.
Prior to that, showing up to work smelling of alcohol was no big deal, he says.
“I got to the point with my alcoholism where I was drinking for breakfast.”
He spent time in a psychiatric ward, which didn’t put a stop to his drinking.
“They were letting me go out for cigarettes and I was sneaking away and buying alcohol.”
That was followed by two stints in rehab.
He’s now sober and living his life again – but he’s concerned about the level of support available to people struggling with addiction.
“The waiting lists are huge, and with addiction, you’ve got to move quickly.”
He’s also worried about the perception that addiction is a choice, not a health problem.
“When you’ve got cancer or you’re sick, you get a get-well card. When you’re an addict you basically get a get-f****d card, because of our actions and our behaviour, it’s just so anti-social.”
Local Salvation Army social worker Hine Marchand says the resort enables addiction.
She’s seeing more people suffering from alcohol addiction walking through the door, but says there isn’t the support to match.
“A lot of people have got a lot of alcohol issues in this town.
“It’s advertised as a party town, it is too easy, there are too many outlets.”
She’s also aware of “a lot of people taking drugs”.
“I don’t think people think it’s a problem, because it’s done so often as part of this town.”
Marchand believes the town is short of resources to help people with addictions – and the resources it does have aren’t affordable for the people who need them.
“I feel like a cracked record, but I don’t think we do enough prevention, rather than the ambulance at the bottom of the hill.”
SDHB’s Jaggard says Queenstown is “a bit under-served” with the current services, because of its population growth.
He’s keen to get more resources to the area.
That’s especially to tackle issues around booze, but the number of people seeking opioid substitution treatment also rose slightly, from 9 to 11.
And, he says: “There’s been a very slight increase in people using methamphetamine.”
Jaggard’s unsure why the number of people seeking help has risen so rapidly, but says population growth may be a factor.
Less stigma around seeking help may also be a factor, he says.
Waiting times for services can sometimes be up to a month, but he says generally they’re pretty quick.
*Not his real name