Drug use dis­cussed

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

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.

Photo: REUTERS

Nat­u­ral fo­cus: Cannabis has al­ways been the New Zealand Drug Foun­da­tion’s fo­cus as it is our most used il­le­gal drug.

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