Drugs and alcohol: survey results revealed

Substance use is a social problem across the whole country.
a pair of hands are exchanging money for a bag of drugs.

A social problem

People use substances, both legal and illegal, for a number of reasons, including pleasure, belonging, bonding, coping, healing, escaping, or to improve performance.

But all substance use carries a risk of harm. On a fishing vessel, it's a safety hazard that can endanger the person impaired by substances as well as those around them.

That's why Maritime NZ is working with the NZ Drug Foundation and the fishing industry to help minimise the risks of impairment from drugs and alcohol among crews.


What our research results reveal...

Earlier in 2019 Seafood NZ, the NZ Federation of Commercial Fishing and Maritime NZ invited people in the fishing industry to take part in a survey, and received 600 responses. They were asked about awareness of, and thoughts on, the use of drugs and alcohol on board.

We found that substance use among fishers is no greater than that of the general population, so the problem is not specific to the fishing industry. While this is good news, it's not reason enough to ignore the issue, especially given the hazardous environment fishing crews work in.

Our findings also included:

  • cannabis use is higher among crews that aren't aware of their company's drugs and alcohol policy
  • alcohol and cannabis are the most commonly used substances on board
  • methamphetamine and cocaine use is rare, but they can be used ‘to stay awake’ and ‘because others are using it’
  • the most common reason for using substances is enjoyment
  • crews that are at sea for two or more days are more likely to take drugs on board than those that only spend one day at sea at a time.

30% of fishers know of someone who used drugs on board in the past 3 months, highlighting that the issue is relevant to a third of people working on fishing vessels.


The need for a change

We also discovered that 37% of fishers surveyed don't recognise the dangers of working on a fishing vessel while impaired by drugs. While 62% agree that accidents are likely to happen, and 41% acknowledged that drugs are addictive, only 63% believe that drugs should not be used on board.

The survey results highlight a need to change behaviour and attitudes towards drugs and alcohol. Even though substance use is a society-wide issue, we still need to minimise the danger of impairment on fishing vessels — by being aware of the signs and risks, and being open and supportive. Fishing sober makes everyone safer.


Managing the risk of impairment on your vessel

Turning a blind eye to substance use can leave your boat, your business, your livelihood, and the lives of your crew at risk. But it's a complex problem.

That' why we're compiling insights on impairment from drugs and alcohol, including signs and symptoms to be aware of, as well as tips on writing an effective drugs policy and ideas for ways to help support someone with an addiction. Stay tuned…


Face the facts

70.8% of New Zealanders have used illegal drugs in the past, with 42.7% having used them during the past 12 months.*

*2017 survey involving 3795 New Zealanders