The Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 2017

In February 2018, the Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 2017 came into effect.

About the Act

People with a severe substance addiction and severely impaired capacity to make decisions about engaging in treatment for that addiction to be assessed and treated by order of the Act.

The Act outlines the processes to be followed, and the rights of anyone placed under the Act.

The intention is to protect them from serious harm, stabilise their health, protect and enhance their mana and dignity, and restore their capacity to make informed decisions about further treatment and substance use.

The Act replaced the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1966.

Criteria for compulsory treatment

The Act will only apply to people who are severely unwell due to their alcohol or other drug addiction.

The legal test is that if someone can show they have the capacity to make an informed decision about treatment then they cannot be committed under the Act, even if the family or health professionals disagree with the decision the person makes, including the decision not to be treated.

Most people who use alcohol or other drugs problematically do not need compulsory treatment, and can do well when they choose to engage in a treatment programme.

Should someone not want to be treated, and they have the capacity to decide, then the Act cannot apply. However, doing nothing should not be an option, and there should be ongoing efforts made to assist the person to voluntarily engage in treatment.

Understanding the Act

Health professionals and Services need to know and understand the Act. They need to be prepared to assess someone as to their suitability or not to come under the Act. In all circumstances they need to be prepared to work with family, whānau, and caregivers to consider a suitable plan to address the person’s alcohol or drug issues.

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