Increased calls for drug use to be treated as health issue

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Monday, 21 January 2019, 8:07AM
Non-court options can include therapy and warnings as well as other drug treatments.  Photo / Getty Images

There are calls for more a lenient approach to low-tier drug crimes, including 'non-court options' for crimes like possession, personal use and use of drug utensils. 

Non-court options can include therapy and warnings as well as other drug treatments. 

Drug and addiction services worker, Darryl Wesley told Mike Hosking, in general, treating drug addiction as a health issue, not a crime is a good approach.

"What is being recognised more and more is that people with a drug problem need help rather than a slap over the hand."

"In terms of seeing drugs and their misuse as a health problem is a good idea. I think we want to treat it more a health thing rather than a criminal thing."

However, he said that doesn't mean the law is being ignored.

"If you're a dealer or a supplier or someone who is involved in organised crime, to address that with the law, I don't believe any of that should stop and I don't think that's the position that New Zealand currently finds itself in."

When asked about the difference between someone with a drug problem and someone who is a recreational drug user, Wesley said it all depends on personal circumstance.

"It comes down to how you define it. If it's causing them to get into trouble, if it's causing problems in their relationships and their families, if it's causing them to not reach their potential, I would say they have a problem with drugs."

Last year 13 per cent fewer people were offered 'non-court options' when facing drug charges. 

However, Wesley said the there is a deliberate approach to treat drug addiction as a health problem.

"I think even the police going down the path of wanting to see people wanting to get help rather than a conviction for personal use."

He said from his experience people who receive help through non-court actions do better in the long run.

"It does work because you do see people wanting to seek help. We are never short of work put it that way, we have always got people self-referring or people being referred to us via their contact to police more and more, which I have to say is a good thing."

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