NZ should introduce meth inhalation rooms: Aus addiction expert

NZ should introduce meth inhalation rooms: Aus addiction expert

An Australian drug addiction treatment expert says New Zealand should introduce supervised meth inhalation facilities.

Speaking to TV3's The Nation, youth addiction sector worker Matt Noffs said New Zealand's innovative approach to treating drug addiction has worked in the past and should continue.

Mr Noff and Dr Alex Wodak are opening Australia's first supervised meth-smoking room in Sydney, which would provide clean pipes and encourage the use of addiction services. No drugs will be offered to users.

Mr Noffs said since introducing supervised injection facilities, Australia has seen a huge reduction in crime and overdoses.

He said New Zealand could "absolutely" benefit from adopting the approach.

"They are a conduit into treatment. They capture populations that had so far been unreachable."

Mr Noffs said New Zealand has seen an incredible reduction in meth use since the early 2000s, and the country's adoption of innovative approaches to drug addiction should continue.

Australia's rate of meth use is at around 2 percent. According to the 2014/15 New Zealand Health Survey, New Zealand's amphetamine use is at 0.9 percent for 16-64 year-olds. That's a third of the 2003 rate, which was at 2.7 percent.

Mr Noffs says you can't arrest your way out of a meth problem, and what works is treatment and compassion.

However, Ross Bell from the New Zealand Drug Foundation said he didn't think inhalation rooms were necessary.

"I think we should do whatever we have to do to make the door's very widely open to people who are using methamphetamine to get them whatever help," Mr Bell told Lisa Owen on The Nation.

"I'm not sure that supervised inhalation rooms [are] quite what we need yet, but all options should be on the table."

Dr Vanessa Caldwell said it was a good discussion to have.

"People are desperate, families are desperate. We do know what works, we just need to do more of it. Opening the conversation to have other things on the table is always a good idea."

Mr Bell said reducing waitlists for addiction treatment should be a goal for the Government.

The Nation spoke to a treatment centre this week that had waiting list of 70. The facility had 48 beds.

Dr Caldwell said the Government should back up health-approach rhetoric with funding, and that the split between the spend on drug enforcement and the spend on drug treatment was 80:20.