Drug use discussed
A NEW approach is needed to deal with the consequences of drug abuse in young people, youth organisations say.
Ben Birks Ang, of addiction centre Odyssey House’s youth programmes Stand-Up and Amplify, says he hears from people who have been using drugs from as young as eight years.
‘‘We are noticing that there are less people saying they use regularly but that the age at which people start using is getting progressively younger.
‘‘A lot of our services are set up for older age groups but if we’re getting 8-yearolds and 10-year-olds then we will need a very different service to deal with that.’’
The New Zealand Drug Foundation is hosting an International Drug Policy Symposium in Auckland city this week to explore the science around cannabis and health.
Mt Eden’s Odyssey House will be among the organisations stepping up to speak about the way drug use in young people is approached.
‘‘What I’m seeing is that we need to be a lot more proactive around early intervention and a lot broader with the approach we take,’’ Mr Birks Ang says.
Professor Wayne Hall will be leading discussions at the symposium.
He say studies have found strong associations between daily cannabis use by adolescents and poor psychosocial and mental health outcomes in young adulthood.
Youth organisation JustSpeak is calling for a change in the way the criminal justice system deals with young people who face charges relating to or stemming from drug and alcohol abuse.
‘‘If young people commit drug-related offences we would like to see a response that asks why they are committing these offences and how we can help to deal with these issues rather than just punishing the offending itself,’’ volunteer Sacha Norrie says.
She will be discussing the broader challenges of having a youth jurisdiction system only covering those up to 17 years of age.
‘‘The system needs to reflect science around at what point young people’s brains develop in a way that they can analyse risk,’’ she says.
It is 20 years since the New Zealand Drug Foundation held its last cannabis and health symposium.
A lot has changed in that time in our understanding of its health effects, the foundation’s executive director Ross Bell says.
‘‘We’ve always had a focus on cannabis for the simple reason it’s our most used illegal drug. So we’ve decided to try to shed a light back on this drug that people kind of take for granted or simply ignore.’’
Drug talks: It’s 20 years since the drug foundation last held a cannabis and health symposium. Use of the substance has continued to rise during that time despite police efforts to cut supplies through national busts like Operation Linda, depicted here in 2011.
Natural focus: Cannabis has always been the New Zealand Drug Foundation’s focus as it is our most used illegal drug.