June 30, 2023
Synthetic cannabis killing Māori
The New Zealand Drug Foundation says action needs to be taken to address a fivefold increase in overdose deaths over the past decade.
There were 171 overdose deaths in 2021, putting it ahead of national drownings and over half the road toll from the same year.
Between 2016–2021, Māori drug overdose rates were almost twice as high as those among people of European ethnicity.
Foundation executive director Sarah Helm says synthetic cannabis was a major cause of Maori deaths, and Maori users are more likely to be homeless and suffering from a range of mental health issues.
She says our drug laws increase harm, because people are reluctant to call for help if a fellow user overdoses.
“So you call 111 and you might not just get an ambulance, you might also get some police involvement and in most other countries there is a good Samaritan provision that protects people form criminalisation so they aren’t reluctant to seek help and whether it stops people of just delays them, that can be the difference between life and death,” Ms Helm says.
The foundation wants to see a mortality review committee looking at all drug deaths so policymakers can understand what is happening and take steps to address it.
a previously proposed overdose prevention centre in inner city Auckland particularly for street people, which has the backing of Ngati Whatua is desperately needed.
While there also needs needs to be an overdose response centre which follows up on non-fatal overdoses people to help them make small risk reducing changes in their lives because this is one of the biggest predictors of fatal overdose in the future.
A mortality review committee of drug death is also needed so they can see whats actually happening with Sarah Helm predicting that its only time before New Zealand a major upsurge in deaths from prescription medication fentanyl which is wrecking havoc around the world.