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Addiction is now a public health crisis

29 August 2018

Drug And Alcohol Practitioners Support International Overdose Awareness Day, 31 August 2018

In a statement to mark International Overdose Awareness Day, the Executive Director of the Addiction Practitioners’ Association Aotearoa New Zealand (DAPAANZ), Sue Paton, says overdosing on both legal and illegal substances is a public health issue that can no longer be ignored.

“According to a recent Coroner’s Office report 40 to 45 people died in New Zealand in the last year by overdosing on synthetic drugs and that’s just one type of drug.

"This is a huge increase on previous years. If road deaths or industrial accidents had increased at the same rate it would be regarded as a public health crisis.”

Ms Paton says that death or injury as a result of overdose from alcohol and drugs of all kinds would be dramatically reduced if addiction was acknowledged as a health, rather than a moral or legal issue.

“By focussing on specific drugs like methamphetamine or opioids we are missing the bigger picture. If we are going to eliminate drug related deaths, including those from prescription drugs, we need to stop vilifying those that use them and encourage them to seek help for their health issue."

She says that the current punitive approach to drug use is increasing individual, family and community harm in Aotearoa.

“Acknowledging that addiction is a health issue allows those affected by a friend or loved one’s drug use to access accurate information and support. After all, humans are social beings and the essence and meaning in our lives is found in the connections we share with each other, with our family/whanau members and within our communities.

"This is yet another reason why DAPAANZ supports International Overdose Awareness Day’s call to acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or have permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.”

Ms Paton says that addiction is an urgent issue that requires a wide range of compassionate, health orientated responses including harm reduction, early intervention, peer support and community and residential services.

Extensive research and well documented international experience tells us that treating drug abuse as a health issue and resourcing it appropriately greatly reduces harm from drug use,” she says.

ends

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