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A report released today about the deaths of young New Zealanders from poisoning shows the need for a new drug policy, the New Zealand Drug Foundation said today.

“We are deeply concerned with the number of young New Zealanders who are dying from unintentional poisoning,” Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell said.

“Volatile substances, prescription medicines, and alcohol are the three biggest causes of poisoning of young people. The tragedy is these deaths would be preventable if proper action was taken.”

“Decisive action from Government is needed now to prevent these deaths. The solutions are there, they just need to be implemented.”

The Special Report: Unintentional deaths from poisoning in young people by the Health Quality & Safety Commission reinforces earlier findings by the chief coroner about volatile substance abuse.

Mr Bell said it is because of these findings and other drug-related harm that the Drug Foundation has convened a national summit on reshaping New Zealand’s drug policy starting today in Wellington.

“This is the first time all the people affected by the ‘drug problem’ have been bought together to build an enduring consensus on health-focused solutions to prevent and reduce the serious harms legal and illicit drugs cause in our communities.

“Some of the 67 groups represented at the summit have traditionally not been included in discussions about drug policy even though they are directly affected by it,” Mr Bell said.

“A range of communities from around New Zealand including people who use drugs, their family members, health professionals, educators, researchers, policy specialists, community advocates, people in recovery, young people, Māori and Pasifika will be present.

“The discussions will identify the best solutions for moving New Zealand’s drug policy forward and send a clear statement to the Government that the status quo is not protecting our young people.

The summit is convened by the New Zealand Drug Foundation and will be chaired by the head of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs Michel Perron.

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