Drug Education – An Opportunity for the Inquiry, Not the Drug Foundation

Miles Stratford – Director, MethSolutions
19 May 2018
The recent furore around the health education programme Massey High School has chosen to focus on, albeit with a targeted group of students, highlights the inadequacy of drug education in schools.

Children need to be educated around making smart choices in life. This should include drugs and drug use. It should also include making it very clear that just because your parents choose to pick up the pipe, it does not make the act OK and socially acceptable.

For years now, the work MethSolutions does has highlighted the reality that the problems we have with meth in this country are far greater than those suggested by the official statistics. Our statistics show, that in some communities, more than 50% of houses have meth residues present.

This statistic is a clear indicator that, in those communities, meth is an accepted part of life for a great many people. We have not been thanked for it. Indeed, we have received significant criticism from groups like the NZ Drug Foundation, who have historically chosen to hide behind the official statistics that have suggested that meth in this country is not that much of a problem.

Through its work and media commentary, the New Zealand Drug Foundation has made it very clear that while the headline purpose is reducing drug related harm, their principal focus is to advocate on behalf of people who choose to use.

There is a place for educating those people who have chosen to use how to reduce the harm they cause. Only by hiding under a rock would you have missed the fact that people will choose to use. However, that does not mean that as a society we should be accepting of this behaviour.

For years the NZ Drug Foundation has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funding. During this time, the problems with drug use have increased. Whatever they are doing isn’t working when it comes to reducing the numbers of people who are choosing to use. Harm is therefore increasing, and they are failing in their stated purpose.

An organisation like the NZ Drug Foundation that is accepting of drug use cannot credibly be expected to provide the education that is designed to encourage people to choose NOT to use. It is entirely incongruent for the same party to say in one breath that you really shouldn’t use and in the next tell people how to use in a way that reduces harm.

The links between mental health and drugs are well known, if not as clearly understood as they should be. The terms of reference for the Government’s Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry specifically require a focus on prevention of mental health and addiction challenges. It is to be hoped that one outcome of the inquiry is the development of an integrated education programme that encourages young people to make smart choices in life and in particular around drugs.

If this existed, far less people will succumb to the temptation that means they need to pick up a leaflet that tells them how to use drugs more safely. Holding up such a leaflet as an example of the great work that is being done to reduce harm, sends a clear message that our expectation is that people will use and that doing so is okay.

There are many good reasons why methamphetamine is a Class A drug and there are many good reasons why we should have higher expectations of people!

Miles Stratford is a father and husband whose concern about the influence methamphetamine has on our communities led him and his wife to set up MethSolutions in 2012. By helping property owners understand and actively manage the risk presented by people who use and make meth, it is less likely that their assets will be compromised. And by making an illegal activity ‘visible’, it is to be hoped that some people will choose not to use. Miles is actively involved in initiatives that aim to minimise the impact meth has on our communities. This include the Auckland Regional Meth Working Group (ARMWG). ARMWG is an Auckland Council initiative established in 2011 and Miles is a founding member. Miles believes that if more decent people choose to focus on the challenges meth presents to society, less harm will arise, because less people will choose to become involved.

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