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Report shows addiction a major driver of crime

Report shows addiction a major driver of crime

Addiction Practitioners’ Association of Aotearoa New Zealand media release, 13 December 2016

The Addiction Practitioners’ Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (dapaanz) says the latest Arrestee Drug Use Monitor (NZ-ADUM) paints a stark picture of just how New Zealand’s approach to drug use needs to change, and the price we will keep paying if it doesn't.

The 2010-2015 NZ-ADUM was released by Police in late November. It monitors levels of alcohol and other drug use, and related criminal offending among police detainees in Whangarei, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

It says 85 percent of detainees in 2015 said at least one problem had resulted from their substance use including charges for assault, theft and/or wilful damage – as well as car accidents, job losses and overdoses.

Of particular concern to dapaanz is the reported “surge” in meth use, with those attributing their crime to meth having risen by as much as 29 percent since 2012 in some regions. The proportion who felt dependent on meth has increased from 22 percent in 2011 to 34 percent in 2015.

Dapaanz Executive Director Sue Paton said, “There will always be people who commit crimes regardless, but we can see from this report that if we removed addiction from the equation, crime figures would be much lower and drug-related harm to New Zealanders would be dramatically reduced.

“However, we are poorly equipped to deal with the problem. Far too many of those wanting help with their addiction don't get it or are too scared to come forward. We also have very little available for early intervention which would identify people with developing problems early so they could get help before their problems escalate to offending.

“We also have to remember that these figures are already more than a year old. The real and current story could be even worse.”

NZ-ADUM 2015 says 37 percent of police detainees “felt they had a problem” with alcohol or other drugs. However, 29 percent said they had wanted help to reduce their use but did not receive it. Among the most common reasons for this were not knowing where to go, social pressure to keep using and fear of what might happen if they put their hand up.

Ms Paton said this shows New Zealand’s attitudes towards drug use are not changing quickly enough and that a high level of harmful “stigma” around addiction remains.

“A person with addiction primarily has a health problem and we need to deal with it as such. If people are too fearful of the legal consequences of seeking help they will keep on using and their slide into crime will become almost inevitable.

“Other countries realising this, such as Holland and Portugal, are seeing substantial declines in addiction and resulting crime because people are getting into treatment and then back into society.

“It’s time for addiction treatment to stop being Health’s poor cousin, which has left our services struggling to meet demands. The money invested in improving treatment availability would be paid back manyfold in terms of reduced social costs, and in very little time.”

Dapaanz is the member association representing the professional interests of people working in the addiction treatment sector and has more than 1600 members.

Funded by New Zealand Police, NZ-ADUM is intended to inform strategic decision making and policy direction concerning drug use among the arrestee population, such as the provision of drug treatment services and early intervention among at risk groups.

The report is available at the New Zealand Police website: http://www.police.govt.nz/about-us/publication/new-zealand-arrestee-drug-use-monitoring-nz-adum-report-2010-2015


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