Sunday, January 13, 2013

Drugs? You're soaking in them, NZ

Contrary to what this article implies, NZ has had a long history of women hooked on prescription stims and tranqs. Here's the Law Commission on the Blake-Palmer Commission from around 1971 (pg. 43):
The [Blake-Palmer ] Committee was particularly concerned at the growing reliance on a range of new hypnotics and tranquillisers marketed as Mogadon, Valium and Librium. A detailed analysis of the prescribing of hypnotics and stimulants by New Zealand doctors between 1958 and 1971, revealed that the use of these drugs doubled over this 13 year period. The analysis also revealed that “married women” (a category which included women who had been divorced or widowed) were by far the largest consumers of hypnotics and stimulants. As highlighted earlier, the researchers estimated that on a typical day in New Zealand in 1971, 8.3 per cent of “married women” took a tranquilliser and 11.6 per cent took a hypnotic, a tranquilliser, or both.
But its main conclusion was that in many instances doctors were resorting to prescribing these drugs because they did not have the time or resources to deal with the underlying patient issues:

Hypnotics being used at double the level of 13 years ago; tranquilisers disappearing down our throats to the tune of $2.3 million a year; what excuse can there be for such a situation in a country like New Zealand? – except shortage of doctors and lack of time to spend on sorting out psychological troubles.
One thing seems to be clear. For many women in New Zealand marriage is a stressful occupation, which is getting worse instead of better. Hypnotics and tranquillisers are not the answer.

The risk of addiction associated with the prolonged use of benzodiazepines such as Valium and Librium was not well understood at the time of the Blake-Palmer review, but the Committee was concerned about both the cost to the health budget and the potential for doctors to be influenced by the “overzealous promotion” of new prescription drugs by competing pharmacological companies. 

The more I research drug use in NZ, the more the laws seem moulded solely due to drug snobbery. Harms, real and imagined, have absolutely no bearing on legal status.

UPDATE: It was a high old time for the generations of Kiwis before that too. From the Law Commission Discussion Document Controlling and Regulating Drugs (pp. 47-8):
It should be noted here also that many of the drugs regulated under the Dangerous Drugs Act had medical uses and, despite the restrictions, were readily available on prescription. Health records from this period suggest that various drugs covered by the Act were liberally prescribed, particularly once prescriptions were publicly funded after 1941. Heroin was, for example, readily available on prescription in an oral dose form and was used widely in linctuses until the mid-1950s in New Zealand. Regulations made under the Dangerous Drugs Act during the 1940s permitted doctors to prescribe up to 16 oral doses of heroin in one prescription. By the end of the 1940s New Zealand was one of the highest users of heroin per capita in the world.