The Helen Clark Foundation together with the New Zealand Drug Foundation proposes pathway to reduce methamphetamine harm

A new report commissioned by the Helen Clark Foundation and the NZ Drug Foundation, co-authored by Philippa Yasbek, Kali Mercier, Dr Hinemoa Elder MNZM, Dr Rose Crossin, and Prof Michael Baker MNZM, makes evidence-based recommendations on how to tackle methamphetamine harm in Aotearoa New Zealand.  The full report is available here.

 Recommendations from Minimising the Harms from Methamphetamine include:

·         Rolling out successful treatment partnership programme Te Ara Oranga nationally,

·         Provide culturally appropriate support and programmes for Māori and other groups,

·         Ensure services are available in the areas with the highest demand, such as in small towns in the Bay of Plenty, Northland, and Hawke’s Bay,

·         Address underlying issues or unmet health needs for groups of people who use methamphetamine, e.g. improve pathways into diagnosis and well-managed treatment for those who suffer from ADHD, given that it is a risk factor for methamphetamine use, especially when undiagnosed and untreated,

·         Funding a pilot programme based on international evidence to provide a stimulant under supervision in limited circumstances, such as to those who have remained addicted despite two rounds of traditional treatment.

Former Prime Minister and Chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy Helen Clark says “the war on drugs has failed.”

We must do what works instead of just trying the same tired old approaches. We must focus relentlessly on harm minimisation rather than just locking people into a cycle of addiction and incarceration.

Expanding Te Ara Oranga nationally is a no brainer. It has been found to reduce offending by 34% and is estimated to return up to $7 on each dollar invested,” Helen Clark says.

Report lead author Philippa Yasbek says the report recommends a pilot to test whether a stimulant substitution treatment model tailored to New Zealand’s unique context could be effective in helping New Zealanders who use methamphetamine.

“A proposed model, based on data from New Zealand, Switzerland, and Canada, suggests it may be helpful for people, who have been through treatment and reduced their use but are not completely able to abstain, by removing them from the cycle of crime and allowing them to stabilise their lives.

It is better to pilot a tightly controlled supply to those who are using the drug, under limited circumstances and keep them safe and engaged with harm reduction services. The alternative is to leave supply to the illegal market which will just profit from sales and try to keep people addicted,” Philippa Yasbek says.

Report co-author and Helen Clark Foundation Board Member Dr Hinemoa Elder says the current approach is failing communities and whānau.

“We must change how we help whānau struggling with methamphetamine use if we want to really make a difference. The recommendations in this report offer the potential circuit-breakers we need to help our whānau who desperately need access to what works. And we know that what works is developmentally and culturally meaningful.” Dr Hinemoa Elder says.

Helen Clark Foundation Executive Director Kathy Errington says reducing methamphetamine harm is crucial for improving equity and whānau wellbeing.

“This can’t go on. We all deserve so much better.

We need tailored support instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. No-one can argue that our current approach based on criminal law is working – we need to discuss what the alternatives are. We have worked with our partners at the New Zealand Drug Foundation – drawing on international research and working with top New Zealand experts – to bring the public a snapshot of what a better system could look like,” Kathy Errington says.

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