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The Drug Foundation welcomed the Government’s increased investment in reducing demand for drugs, released today in a pre-budget announcement.

Associate Minister of Health Jim Anderton announced the spending of $5.9 million over three years on two activities to reduce drug demand. The first is a targeted information campaign to inform people about drugs and where they can get help, the second activity supports better policy making on drug issues.

“We don’t begrudge the government’s investment over the past few years on tackling the supply of drugs, but it’s a no brainer that if we don’t increase our efforts to reduce the demand for drugs, especially among young people, then we’re wasting our time on controlling supply,” says Ross Bell, executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

“The laws of supply and demand apply as much to illicit drugs as they do to TVs and bananas. Efforts to reduce supply may reduce the quantity of drugs and push up prices, but as long as there is a demand for drugs people will find a way to meet that demand. And because it’s an illegal market, this results in criminal activity,” says Mr Bell.

The Drug Foundation, however, cautions against a saturation media campaign on drugs, saying there is little research and evidence to support the types of anti-drug campaigns seen overseas.

“While high profile media campaigns showing extreme consequences of drug use may win advertising awards and increase politicians’ popularity, such campaigns do not deter, and may even encourage, teen drug use,” warns Ross Bell.

Mr Bell welcomes Jim Anderton’s commitment to a targeted campaign based on credible messages and the most up-to-date and best evidence.

“The campaign needs to provide honest and factual information to people that need it, including young people, schools and community agencies. We also need to support parents to deal with drug issues, including providing advice on the best ways to communicate with their children about drugs. And people need to know where to get help,” says Mr Bell.

The Drug Foundation also welcomes Mr Anderton’s focus on cannabis, which, despite its legal status is the mostly widely used illicit drug in New Zealand.

“The attention given to methamphetamine and party pills has been at the expense of a serious discussion on new and better ways to address the harms from cannabis,” says Ross Bell.

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