New law could force more drug and alcohol addicts into compulsory rehabilitation

By February 23, 2017 Recent News

Stuff 22 February 2017
More drug and alcohol addicts could be forced into treatment programmes as the result of a recent law change, which has raised questions about whether rehabilitation centres will be able to cope.

The Substance Addiction Act became law last week. It simplifies the process for police, health services and loved ones to force those locked in a cycle of substance abuse into compulsory treatment.

But Wellington addiction clinician Roger Brooking said is was unclear whether the health sector could cope with a spike in rehab patients given there were only four approved centres across the country, and those centres were already full.

“If somebody tried to get someone treated under that act now, I have no idea where they would go.”

The new law allows any third party to apply for a person to have compulsory treatment, but it must be signed off by an approved specialist. The law specifies addicts can only be held up to 16 weeks.

It replaces the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act (1966), which contained provisions for compulsory treatment.

But because addicts could be held for six months under the old law, the option was rarely exercised because it was at odds with the Bill of Rights.


* Any third party can apply for a person to receive compulsory treatment, but it must be signed off by a specialist.

* The patient must have a severe substance addiction and their capacity to make informed decisions about treatment must be severely impaired.

* Appropriate treatment must be available, meaning there needs to be capacity at a detox facility.

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