A local pilot of the New Zealand arrestee drug abuse monitoring (NZ-ADAM) system

Chris Wilkins, Megan Pledger, Arier Lee, Rachel Adams, Emily Rose

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Overall the local pilot of NZ-ADAM can be judged a great success. During the three weeks of the study the interviewers completed 62 interviews with arrestees, achieving a response rate of 70%. Ninety-five percent of arrestees agreed to participate in the study once they had been introduced to the interviewers. Ninety-seven percent of the arrestees interviewed provided an alcohol breath sample and 57% provided a urine sample. Interviews and census data were collected on arrestees during all three police watch-house shifts for 21 consecutive days. The census data allowed the sample to be statistically ‘weighted’, so as to be representative of all arrestees brought to the watch-house during the three weeks of the study. The interviewing of arrestees proceeded smoothly and without incident. No issues arose around the privacy and confidentiality of the interviews or the ethical requirements of the study.

Arrestees reported high levels of drug use and high levels of involvement in purchasing and selling illicit drugs. Alcohol, cannabis and mphetamine/methamphetamine were the drug types arrestees reported using most often just before their arrest and the drug types most often reported as contributing to the activities they were arrested for. Amphetamine/methamphetamine and crystal methamphetamine were reported by arrestees using them as the substances most likely to make them feel angry. Cannabis and alcohol were the drug types that arrestees were most often under the influence of when driving. Half of the arrestees had purchased an illicit drug and 15% had sold one in the last month. Just over half of the arrestees who used cannabis felt they were dependent on it. Arrestees spent an average of $300 a month on illicit drugs. Those arrestees involved in drug dealing reported an average monthly income from drug selling of $1,900.

Two areas of the methodology were identified where improvements could be made. Firstly, it may be possible to increase the response rate. While the response rate achieved is comparable with other drug and alcohol surveying in New Zealand, an increase in response rate would add further value to the research by reducing any bias related to non-response. Most refusals to participate in the study occurred at the point where police officers invited arrestees to meet the interviewers. While most refusals at this stage appeared to be unrelated to the nature of the study, such as the arrestee was ‘tired’ or ‘sleeping’ (see Appendix 1), further effort around the invitation process may yield enhanced levels of positive response. Secondly, improvements are likely to be possible in the proportion of arrestees providing urine samples. While nearly 60% of the arrestees provided a urine sample, this is a lower level than that was achieved in ADAM studies overseas. Factors that may account for the lower provision of urine samples in NZ-ADAM include: less popular experience in New Zealand of providing urine samples; Maori cultural norms against providing body fluids; and the process used to invite arrestees to provide a urine sample. Further exploration of these causes and the investigation of ways of reducing their negative influence should lead to an increase in the provision of urine samples and consequently strengthen the depth of analysis possible.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages42
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2004


  • drug abuse
  • pilot study
  • New Zealand

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