Issue

Vol 132 No 1497: 21 June 2019

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Issue Summary

SUMMARY

The New Zealand Government Inquiry Into Mental Health And Addiction's recommendations on substance use: some reflections from the science perspective

The publication provides comments on the substance use-related recommendations included in the recent New Zealand Government Inquiry on Mental Health and Addiction s final report from a science perspective, provided by two senior scholars with relevant (international) experience in the alcohol and drugs fields. The authors emphasise the need for joint consideration and addressing of addiction and mental health issues, given that these commonly co-occur especially in individuals with severe problems. Effective reductions in alcohol-related harms will require strengthened supply and marketing controls. A fundamental shift in the control of personal drug use from criminalisation to a health-centred approach is strongly advised; however, such a shift centrally requires corresponding reforms to and enshrining in core parts of the drug law. Decriminalisation measures for problematic drug users, while often well-intended, should be evidence-based and consider important experiences from elsewhere, yet also need to ensure that they do not bring un-intended adverse consequences (eg, increased police or judicial discretion, net-widening or shifts rather than reductions in punishment). New Zealand urgently requires improved interventions and resources for the treatment of problematic substance use; at the same time, an overall concerted and integrated approach to policy and regulations across different areas of substance use is required. This is especially important with possibly impending cannabis legalisation, where use and supply regulations should be meaningfully coordinated with corresponding regulations for other drugs (eg, alcohol, tobacco).

SUMMARY

The New Zealand Government Inquiry Into Mental Health And Addiction's recommendations on substance use: some reflections from the science perspective

The publication provides comments on the substance use-related recommendations included in the recent New Zealand Government Inquiry on Mental Health and Addiction s final report from a science perspective, provided by two senior scholars with relevant (international) experience in the alcohol and drugs fields. The authors emphasise the need for joint consideration and addressing of addiction and mental health issues, given that these commonly co-occur especially in individuals with severe problems. Effective reductions in alcohol-related harms will require strengthened supply and marketing controls. A fundamental shift in the control of personal drug use from criminalisation to a health-centred approach is strongly advised; however, such a shift centrally requires corresponding reforms to and enshrining in core parts of the drug law. Decriminalisation measures for problematic drug users, while often well-intended, should be evidence-based and consider important experiences from elsewhere, yet also need to ensure that they do not bring un-intended adverse consequences (eg, increased police or judicial discretion, net-widening or shifts rather than reductions in punishment). New Zealand urgently requires improved interventions and resources for the treatment of problematic substance use; at the same time, an overall concerted and integrated approach to policy and regulations across different areas of substance use is required. This is especially important with possibly impending cannabis legalisation, where use and supply regulations should be meaningfully coordinated with corresponding regulations for other drugs (eg, alcohol, tobacco).