New Zealand Drug Foundation calls for urgent action to tackle drug overdose crisis

The New Zealand Drug Foundation is calling for urgent action to prevent drug overdose deaths in Aotearoa.

A growing number of Kiwis have been dying from drugs like opioids in recent years. So it has released a plan to save lives.

David Collinge runs Red Door Recovery, a drug rehabilitation service in Wellington.

"About 45 percent of our clients would use meth as their primary substance of abuse," he said.

He sees first-hand the impact of drug abuse - he lost a client only weeks ago.

"He relapsed and overdosed on cathinones, bang, his heart stopped and so it was all over and that hit all of us really hard," Collinge said.

The Drug Foundation says urgent action's needed to address what it calls a crisis.

In 2017, 111 people died of a drug overdose. That climbed to 171 in 2021.

The Drug Foundation doesn't have updated figures for last year but believes it's getting worse.

"We're really concerned, we're losing far too many New Zealanders to overdose," executive director Sarah Helm said.

Most of those deaths are linked to opioids - which have taken many lives in North America.

Twelve people ended up in hospital in Wairarapa last year after taking fentanyl, sparking an urgent conversation.

But Helm says nothing has happened since then.

"We need a decent plan to prevent this, you do not want your child to be one of those statistics, we badly need a plan in place," she told Newshub.

So the Foundation has released a plan to end overdose deaths. It includes setting up an overdose prevention task force and funding overdose reversal medicines like naloxone.

It also wants a provision in the law so those seeking help for an overdose don't face charges.

Health Minister Ayesha Verrall has met with the Foundation and told Newshub in a statement she's committed to making changes.

Helm just hopes that change comes soon.

"Take action so lives aren't lost in vain, no more fatalities," she said.

So people like Collinge don't have to see another life claimed by drugs.