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The Drug Foundation’s State of the Nation report is a snapshot of how New Zealand is dealing with alcohol and other drugs. The report shows while we are doing well in some areas, there is massive room for improvement.
As well as helping us understand where we should be focusing our attention, the report is intended to provide a starting point against which we can assess the impact of any policy changes. The statistics were compiled from publicly available statistics. The 2018 report was released in January 2019.
The report highlights the unprecedented number of deaths in the past 18 months linked to synthetic cannabinoid substances. The coroner has indicated as many as 50 deaths may be connected with the use of synthetic drugs since June 2017.
An emergency response was announced by the Government in December 2017. This will see support for local responses being made available as well as changes to the outdated Misuse of Drugs Act (1975) to ensure drug use can be treated as a health issue.
Data from the criminal justice system is summarised in the report. Of 62,173 convictions for drug offences in the decade to 2017, 61% of these were for low-level drug charges such as personal possession and use, or possession of a drug utensil. Convictions for low-level drug offences have been increasing over the last five years.
The report notes:
Demand for addiction treatment continues to grow. 5,000 more people accessed treatment in 2017 than five years earlier.
There are some bright lights in the way New Zealand responds to drug use. These include our Needle Exchange Programme, provision of opioid substitution therapy and a joint health and Police pilot initiative in Northland which offers health referrals rather than sanctions for methamphetamine use.
We were reliant on data collected by government to produce this report. It is obvious that New Zealand does not have adequate statistics. With all that is going on, it’s essential we rectify this in a hurry. How else will we know what’s working and what’s not working?
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