“Treat the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue”

Moves continue more towards drug and alcohol issues more as health problems than criminal problems.

NZ Herald reports: Value in new drug addiction approach

An “inspiring” Auckland rehabilitation centre shows why a recent shift to treat the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue is warranted, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says.

A substantial number of patients at Higher Ground Facility in Te Atatu, which Mr Dunne visited today, are being treated for methamphetamine.

“It was extraordinarily impressive and very moving. There is a highly dedicated staff, really well motivated residents, and just a sort of a buzz that everyone was there to do a job about making life better for the people who are the residents there,” Mr Dunne said.

It’s good to see promising results with a more compassionate approach.

Mr Dunne recently launched the 2015-2020 National Drug Policy, which could significantly reform the treatment of drugs such as cannabis.

“We are shifting the focus very deliberately to seeing drug-related issues primarily as health issues, and I keep using three words in respect of the principles that underline the policy – compassion, innovation and proportion.

“Compassion in terms of a sympathetic response to people’s issues, innovation in looking a new and different ways of tackling old problems…and proportion, making sure we get the balance right all the way through.”


The new national drug policy has five priority areas, one of which is “getting the legal balance right”. The Ministry of Health will work with the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs to make sure that classification decisions on drugs were focussed on harm.

Work will also take place to examine whether the law and enforcement measures around drug possession and utensil possession are still reasonable and proportionate.

When it was released, the policy was hailed as hugely significant by the NZ Drug Foundation, who say it signalled an armistice in “The War on Drugs”.

Treating the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue would mean prevention, education and treatment would take priority over the criminal justice approach, the foundation said.

Dealing with the health issues will help prevent them becoming criminal issues, or break the habit and cycle.

I think that Dunne is doing as much as he can in moving the handling of drug issues in a better direction. It’s taking a while but there are signs of a far more realistic and hopefully more effective approach.

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  24th February 2016

    It certainly looks promising. But I am not sure cannabis can be handled that way. P users know they have a problem. Cannabis users probably don’t and it is hard to prove they have one that is any worse than many others that are not illegal.

  2. Kevin

     /  25th February 2016

    I despise junkies with a passion. To me they are selfish and greedy and the reason why we have a punitive approach to drugs rather than the far more reasonable temperance approach. With regards to illegal drugs you can’t get a better example of punishing the majority for the actions of the minority.

    With regards to Higher Ground and treatment centres in general chances are you’ll find that the majority of them are there because they were court-ordered and most of them will just go through the motions. As soon as they are back home they will be back on their drug of choice – not out of addiction but because they are selfish and greedy.

    Does this mean I’m against treating drugs as a health problem rather than a criminal problem? Not really. I’m all for treating addiction as a health problem. If someone becomes an addict due to their own greediness and selfishness they are still an addiction and the best way to treat addiction is as a health problem rather than punitively,

    The bottom line is that people treat drugs with way not enough respect and think they can take as much as they want whenever they want. If we took a temperance approach then hopefully people would learn to treat drugs with the respect they deserve.

    • mrMan

       /  25th February 2016

      You’re letting your hatred cloud your judgement. Drug addicts may be selfish and greedy, but selfish and greedy people do not necessarily become drug addicts, it is the addiction that makes them selfish.

      • Kevin

         /  25th February 2016

        If people knew how easy it is not to become addicted to drugs they wouldn’t be so sympathetic towards so-called drug addicts. For example the reason why most of us view drunks with disdain is because most of us are able to drink alcohol moderately without any problems.

        • Pickled Possum

           /  25th February 2016


          Read your post while listening to Seether … Careless Whispers with ear phones on and turned Up Loud.
          Makes reading your..Story Saga Careless whisper about Drugs and Alcohol less disdaining ….

          I thought you got the Banned poster ?

        • mrMan

           /  25th February 2016

          “If people knew how easy it is not to become addicted to drugs they wouldn’t be so sympathetic towards so-called drug addicts.”

          But the convererse is true too, probably more true. It’s very easy to get addicted to drugs. Most people can experiment, but for some people it takes just one hit, and no-one ever thinks that that person could be them.

          • Kevin

             /  25th February 2016

            What you’re referring to is called “voodoo pharmacology” – the belief that there are drugs which are so powerful that taken just once, they take over a person. Interestingly voodoo pharmacology was originally applied to alcohol with warnings such as “just one drink and you’l be an alcoholic for the rest of your life”.

            It takes time to develop an addiction. Even in the case of heroin, one of the most addictive drugs in the world, it takes about a month of regular use to get addicted.

            What I advocate is respect. Drugs are dangerous. It’s like holding a gun. You wouldn’t play with a gun so why would anyone play with drugs? If I’m going to put something in my body I want to know exactly what it is. I want to know what the dangers are. I want to know what the chances are of addiction. What will happen if I start using regularly? I want to know what the threshold amounts are and what the likely effects are. Is there are danger of overdose? Is there a danger of losing sense of self?

            For example marijuana is something I don’t believe should be smoked daily. I don’t even believe it should be smoked weekly – maybe once or twice a month at the most. Yet there are people who smoke it almost daily, and in some cases just about chain smoke the stuff. And they mix it with other drugs. It’s absolutely insane and I blame the current drug laws.

            • mrMan

               /  25th February 2016

              I’m describing things I’ve seen

            • “Why would anyone play with drugs”? Isn’t it called adolescence?

              What is a “temperance approach”? The lesson around alcohol in the USA is durely temperance-to-prohibition-to-controlled availability … ?

              It might be safe to assume the same will apply to many drugs, especially one’s that are provably less harmful, e.g. than alcohol?

  3. Yes, Kevin you make a good point. Whether it is drugs or Alcohol, the minute you lose control over the situation, then you have a real problem with the effects of the drug or alcohol, and then it becomes a medical problem. Treatment for addiction has to be a medical solution aimed at improving the psychological state of the addict to the point where they regain control of their personal situation. There still needs to be sanctions against the damage wrought on others by an out of control addict, but otherwise, detoxification must be controlled by our Health professionals who are at the froont line of the problem. We also need to teach the ethics and morality of recreational drugs, including alcohol, in our schools by suitably qualified Medical personnel.

    • Pickled Possum

       /  25th February 2016


      “Treatment for addiction has to be a medical solution” I agree with you there
      and not a criminal solution.
      With a penalty paid to the victims of a life changing action taken by the out of control addict/person.

      ‘The Real Story’ of a night … “Dancing with the devile” at the Night Club.
      It tells a telling story of how our young …. Love to Love the drugs.
      Written Acted Produced and Sung by the very young people the World Needs and Wants to save from their drug addictions.

    • Kevin

       /  25th February 2016

      There was an experiment where a rat was put by itself in a small cage and given a choice between water and cocaine. It always chose the cocaine.

      Next they put a rat with other rats where it had everything a rat could want. Plenty of room, exercise, tasty food – a virtual rat heaven. The rat always chose the water over the cocaine.

      What this shows is that environment plays a big part. Like the rat, people will take drugs to deal with crappy situations and when the situation chances for the better, will stop taking drugs. Even so there’s an element of selfishness here. It’s basically saying “my life is crap at the moment so I’ll just take drugs to deal with it until things get better regardless of the people I hurt.”

      • Pickled Possum

         /  25th February 2016

        Jeepers Kev

        I know of People who Do take drugs and have extremely wonderful fulfilling lives.
        Actors Singers Law people Dentists Doctors Lawyers etc…

        And then I know of people who Don’t take drugs who live absolutely Crappy Lives.
        you know the sort “The Whingers” while wearing their $100 shoes $200 jeans $300 t-shirt all made in Hell; they moan about the earth wind and fire, the air the drugs takers
        the hospital food, natives you me … anything that’s trending for the day.

        So much Doom and Gloom and Crappy vibes. Yeck.
        They may take Drugs one day Kev To forget about their Crappy Lives!.

        Rat Analogy … for the foreword of your logic. 😦
        Think of the children Kev ….

      • @ Kevin – I’m interested to know what you mean by “selfishness”? Is this as opposed to selflessness? Does any indulgence of “self” constitute selfishness? Like over-eating? What constitutes over-eating as opposed to simply eating?

        I don’t entirely see the link between a person’s behaviour becoming self-harm and it being selfish? There is, of course, the litmus test of ‘harm to self and others’.

        Surely we are all selfish and selfless beings to various degrees? I think it might be more in the naming than the behaviour. Another example of polarisation born of calling one thing – behaviour – by two names – selfish and selfless?

        Is a drug addict necessarily a narcissist? I know some alcoholics who I think are narcissists and some who I think aren’t.

        There’s a good many more things in our society which are really health issues flying in other colours, mental health issues in particular perhaps?

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  25th February 2016

          Like dildo throwing? I see Nurse Nutter thinks Brash’s accusation that she wasn’t charged because she is a woman and a Maori is funny. At Waitangi I think not.

          • Well, Alan … ummm … look, I must play soccer with you more often, but let’s do it on a day when the park isn’t marked out for cricket, shall we?

  4. kittycatkin

     /  25th February 2016

    As far as I know it is treated as a medical problem now-but the problem is that, unlike most medical problems, addiction can lead to crime. And while someone with another medical problem-let’s take diverticulitis just as an example-can drive safely with that condition, a drunk or stoned person can’t. It’s very complex.

    Tolerance can only go so far-anyone who has known an alcoholic well will know that being tolerant can be the worst thing for them. One of the greatest academics whom I have ever known was carried and covered for by his fellow academics and picked up by his friends.Everyone made excuses for him, and by so doing unwittingly helped to sign his death warrant as he had no reason to stop drinking. Someone else would take his lectures and tutorials-someone would pour him into their car when he rang up needing to be collected.

    In another case in which I was involved rather than just knowing about, the friends and family who knew agreed to just let the person go until they realised that they were on their own, we weren’t going to bother with them and basically enable them to drink because we would always be there any more, and they sought help and overcame the alcoholism. We knew that we were taking a risk-they might have drunk themselves to death-but they were going to, anyway. They had to want to stop FOR THEMSELVES, and they did.

  5. As always, for me, its all about MC, what happens when the illicit drug is being used to improve a patients health?? last one in the papers still got community service despite it being a legitimate medical complaint. It seems so long as you go on TV about using MC, the cops wont touch you, I don’t see them knocking down Helen Kelly’s door for possession of Class B drugs after all………….


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