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Tragic Case Highlights Dangers of Commercialising Drugs

Tragic Case Highlights Dangers of Alcohol and Fully Commercialising Other Drugs

Addiction health professionals say the tragic case of a two-month-old baby who was likely to have died from alcohol poisoning after drinking breast milk from her intoxicated mother highlights the fact that alcohol is still the number one cause of health and social harms from substance abuse in New Zealand.

“At a time when we are gearing up for a considered debate on the health and societal benefits from decriminalising cannabis its worth remembering that a legal drug, alcohol, causes more harm that illegal drugs,” says the Executive Director of the Addiction Practitioners’ Association Aotearoa New Zealand (DAPAANZ), Sue Paton.

“Addiction practitioners fully support the governments moves to treat abuse of alcohol and drugs as a health issue rather than a legal one but believes we should be very careful about the model we choose to manage the use of these substances."

Commenting on the Coroner’s report that a two-month-old baby died in January 2017 with a high level of alcohol in her system, Ms Paton says that the aroha of all Dapaanz members goes out to the mother of this baby and their whanau.

“It’s a truly tragic case that shows that regulation of a fully commercialised drug like alcohol does not protect those who are vulnerable to substance abuse,” she says.

‘The alcohol industry is a business. It’s profit driven and, unfortunately, some of its best customers are our most vulnerable citizens who are least able to resist the advertising and widespread availability of the drug.

We need to learn from our experience of the commercialization of alcohol, tobacco and gambling and listen to people in recovery from these legal drugs and addictive behaviours.”

In the 2015/16 year, 80% of the adult population reported drinking alcohol once or more - 31% reported drinking at least twice a week.

Around 20% of the population drink ‘hazardously’, defined as a drinking pattern that puts a person at risk of physical or mental harm.

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