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 A new report released by the NZ Drug Foundation today shows that too many people are suffering harm and our drug laws are often compounding the problem, not reducing it.

The Drug Foundation’s 2022 State of the Nation report shows that while there have been some positive moves forward recently, including legalisation of drug checking, the numbers show that a step change is needed and that Māori continue to suffer grossly inequitable outcomes.

Executive Director, Sarah Helm, says she hopes the report prompts real action.

“The reality is, too many people are suffering harm or preventable death and our approach to drugs is making things worse or stopping people from getting help if they need it,” she says.

“No one reading this report should be happy with the incremental improvements we’re making. There are real people behind these numbers, and they require urgent action”

“Māori in particular continue to bear the brunt of our approach. This report shows we continue to see disturbing and hugely inequitable outcomes, for example two-thirds of those convicted for drug-related offences are Māori. We urgently need to change gear if we’re to reverse generations of harm.”

“It’s clear we won’t solve drug harm without serious work to tackle broader societal issues of poverty, inequality, housing and belonging. The report also shows that we need to rewrite our punitive drug laws and move to a health-based approach, work across the board to reduce the stigma suffered by people who use drugs, and introduce harm reduction measures we’ve seen work overseas like supervised consumption spaces.”

The report pulls together the latest available data from a wide array of sources, including Police, the Ministries of Health, Justice and Education, DHBs, Customs, service and treatment providers, and health surveys. It covers the country’s overall picture of drug use, harms, and responses.

Key points from the report include:

  • Alcohol is by far the most widely consumed drug and causes the most harm. 19.5% of adults drink in a way that’s likely to cause them harm.
  • Māori suffer grossly unequitable outcomes in almost every aspect of the report, including:
    • Drug-related deaths for Māori are three times the rate for non-Māori
    • Wāhine Māori are 3.6 times more likely to smoke daily than non-Māori women and are 2.7 times more likely to use amphetamines
    • 42% of Māori in addiction treatment were double vaccinated as at late-November – half the rate of the general population at that time
    • Māori make up 48% of those convicted for drug possession offences and 61.9% of those sentenced to prison for these offences
  • An estimated 94% of those using cannabis for medicinal purposes, 266,700 people, are still accessing the drug through the black market
  • Too many people are dying from preventable overdoses, and we aren’t doing enough to prevent them with the likes of supervised consumption spaces and distribution of naloxone.
  • Changes to our drug laws in 2019 have seen a reduction in charges and convictions but far less than hoped, with only a 13% overall reduction in convictions for low-level drug offences in the two years after the amendment, compared to the two years before.

Read the full report on the Drug Foundation website, or watch a recording of the live launch on 17 February.

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