Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jan 2013
Source: Sunday News (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2013 Fairfax New Zealand Limited
Author: Neil Reid
Page: 2


A UNITED Nations report has highlighted the extent of drug abuse in
New Zealand, including " growing concern" over the misuse of
prescription drugs.

The 22-page document, entitled "World situation with regard to Drug
Abuse" states: " The highest prevalence of opioid use was estimated to
be in North America and Australia and New Zealand, which in fact
reflected the misuse of prescription painkillers."

The UN's report stated prescription drug misusers were often "young
adults, women, elderly patients and healthcare professionals".

It said prescription drugs were "also thought" to be misused by
regular users of drugs such as cocaine or heroin, who were using
prescribed medication in combination with illegal substances "to
enhance its effects".

Some were also misusing prescription drugs due to the "temporary
disruption of supply" of their banned drugs.

Opioids - including some prescription drugs - were one of the "major
substances" that required rehab treatment among users in New Zealand.

The UN report said that cannabis is the "most widely used substance"

New Zealand also had a "high prevalence of cocaine use", it

Australasia was the region with the highest reported use of
amphetamines, the report said.

Ecstasy use was also high in the region, it said.

The UN's paper was compiled after officials from 84 member countries
and territories of the international organisation responded to its
annual drug survey.

It concluded that internationally, "An increasingly multifaceted
picture of illicit drug use is emerging, with the use of synthetic
substances and non-medical use of prescription drugs such as opioids,
tranquilisers and prescription stimulants replacing the use of
traditional drugs."

Responding to the UN report's assertion that prescription drug
misusers included healthcare professionals, the Medical Council of New
Zealand said it takes a proactive stance in treating doctors battling
drug dependency.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Medical Council said:
"Doctors, like the general population, can suffer from various
afflictions including drug and alcohol dependence, psychiatric
problems and a wide range of physical disorders, all of which can
affect their performance.

"In the case of a doctor using prescription drugs, concerns are
typically raised when prescribing irregularities are noticed or there
are issues surrounding the accounting for the use of a particular drug.

"The referral of a doctor with a drug dependence issue is usually made
directly to the council. Our health committee ensures the doctor
receives expert treatment, support, and follow up."

When a doctor was being treated for "a drug and alcohol dependence,
the council's primary concern was public health and safety".

The Medical Council said that "depending on the circumstances",
doctors could be stopped from working. Conditions could also be placed
on their practice to ensure the medical professionals received extra
treatment and support.

It said its processes were "deliberately rehabilitative" with the
objectives of getting the doctor well, and safe to practise again.
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