An early warning system has been launched today to help reduce drug harm in New Zealand communities.
Available at www.highalert.org.nz the system helps identify where drug harm is occurring, provides evidence and understanding of outbreaks of harm, and in some cases anticipates potential harm related to drug use.
Run by the Drug Information and Alert New Zealand (DIANZ) team, the website acts as a central point for all drug related data. It is the joint effort of a network of organisations who regularly encounter and respond to drug related harm.
“We are committed to taking a health approach to drug harm, so I am pleased that the High Alert website and system is now up and running,” said Richard Taylor, Group Manager Addiction, Mental Health and Addiction Directorate.
Alerts and notifications will be published on the website to inform the public and health professionals of any increased health risks of new drug trends or threats, such as contaminated drugs. Information and specific harm reduction advice based on the latest trends or threats will also be available.
“Anyone who has unexpected or concerning effects from drugs can share their experience via the website. This will help to keep others safe. And I’d like to reassure people that all information submitted is entirely confidential and won’t be used to pursue prosecution,” said Mr Taylor.
DIANZ has already been monitoring drug trends in New Zealand to reduce harm, including tracking the impact of COVID-19 on New Zealand’s drug landscape.
“Due to potential drug shortages, people may be more likely to be substituting or modifying their usual drugs. It’s especially important that we are aware of any new substances in the community that people may be turning to, so that we can effectively prevent harm. The High Alert website will be vital to that work,” said Mr Taylor.
“Following the disruptions caused by COVID-19 both locally and internationally, it’s never been more important to ensure frontline health professionals, NGOs and the drug using community have access to information about any immediate or future risk for use of new, potent or contaminated drugs and any new or emerging trends in harm from drugs. I have no doubt that this initiative will save lives,” said Mr Taylor.
Background on DIANZ
DIANZ is located within the National Drug Intelligence Bureau, a joint operation between the Ministry of Health, Customs and the Police. DIANZ is responsible for gathering relevant information, analysing that information to determine the need for a drug harm alert, and disseminating alerts appropriately.
Some comment and footage from Ben Birks Ang, Deputy Executive Director – Programmes at the New Zealand Drug Foundation and Wendy Allison, Executive Director at KnowYourStuffNZ is available via Dropbox.
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