6 October 1999
DRUG ADDICTION ‘SHOOT UP’ NO SURPRISE
Gael Donoghue, Christian Heritage Party’s Health Spokesperson, was not surprised by today’s revelation by a Christchurch
drug worker that as many as 40,000 New Zealanders may be addicted to hard drugs.
Nor was she surprised by the figure from the Health Ministry that 26,000 New Zealanders are addicted to opioid drugs,
such as heroin. “This figure is apparently based on a 1996 report. If you add the annual increase over the last three
years, the Christchurch figure is probably closer to reality,” she said.
Mrs Donoghue, herself a pharmacist, has witnessed the explosion of drug addiction in the country through the Methadone
and needle exchange programmes in use. “For the last few years this country has sold hundreds and thousands of needles
and syringes to anyone who wishes to purchase. Originally the scheme was limited to pharmacies in a carefully supervised
manner. Now they are available from many outlets, from prostitute collectives to specific needle exchange programme
“Whilst there are warning messages on the containers, I believe the programme adds ‘fuel to the fire’,” she said. “A
parallel can easily be seen with the so-called ‘safe-sex’ message. Abortion figures, teenage pregnancies and sexually
transmitted diseases, especially in the young age groups of both male and female, have escalated alongside the wholesale
use of ‘free’ pills and condoms.
“Of particular significance in the report is the observation that alcohol and drug use are leading causes of premature
death, preventable ill health and social harm throughout the population. The spread of HIV and Hepatitis B and C among
drug users who share needles is of particular concern but is again of absolutely no surprise. Many turn to crime to
support their $1000 per week habit.
“Anyone involved with alcohol and drug addiction will tell you that these are symptoms arising from multiple problems –
from youth experimentation and peer pressure to psychological, emotional and spiritual problems. Much of this can be
laid at the break-down of the family that we have seen over the last 20 years in New Zealand,” she said. “Successive
Governments have continued to throw money at these problems instead of addressing the root cause. This report shows $48
million spent in 1998/99 and requests $29 million more.
The Christian Heritage Party wants to address the failing rehabilitation services, but believes that a different
approach in public policy is desperately needed. Support for families, especially in the children’s early years,
encouragement in strengthening marriages and much more education in the perils of drug and substance abuse and misuse,
together with education in self esteem, self worth and self control at an early age in the family and at school, will go
a long way in the preventative area.
“The latest Government response to these figures is deeply unconvincing, given that professional advice has been
ignored, in preference to pressure from small but politically powerful lobby groups. It is time for common sense and
decent value systems to take precedence in public policy decision making,” Mrs Donoghue concluded.