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Acute drug harm community of practice

Acute drug harm is a sudden surge or increase of intense harms associated with drug use. A harm incident might be nationwide, or occur in one region.

Acute drug harm can vary widely, from New Zealand’s ongoing problems with methamphetamine, to mass hospitalisations from toxic synthetic cathinones at festivals. 

While we can’t stop all acute drug harm, we can prevent and reduce as much harm as possible by transforming our response. Some harm reduction measures are already in place:

  • New Zealand’s early warning system, High Alert, collects a broad range of drug-related data and can provide a national alert or warning if a particularly harmful substance is circulating.
  • Drug checking is a free, confidential service in New Zealand that helps people find out what’s really in their drugs and provides people with tips to stay safer.
  • We also partner with key agencies to run a community of practice. Together, this group supports innovative responses to acute drug harm, building best practice and sharing the latest drug trends.

About our Acute Drug Harm Community of Practice

The Drug Foundation Te Puna Whakaiti Pāmamae Kai Whakapiri established a community of practice (COP) in mid-2018 in response to the country’s synthetic cannabinoid crisis. 

We have since expanded the COP and broadened the scope from a focus on synthetic cannabinoids to acute drug harm. The Acute Drug Harm COP has over 200 people from over 90 health organisations across Aotearoa, and includes people working in the areas of addictions, health, housing, youth services, research, and frontline emergency services. Our network is wide-reaching and provides a strong knowledgebase to tap into when there are incidents of acute drug harm. 

We work closely with Te Whatu Ora and the National Drug Intelligence Bureau to share trends and insights around drugs and drug harm with members of the COP. It is a great forum for services to connect, share ideas, and work collaboratively during drug harm incidents and crisis situations.

The trusting relationships fostered and nurtured in the Acute Drug Harm COP are a crucial part of New Zealand’s response to acute drug harm – enabling fast information-sharing when incidents occur. This work helps to build knowledge and coordinate actions to respond to acute drug harm across the country. 

Get involved

If you are working in the addiction or social sector and would like to be involved in this kaupapa, please email adhcop@drugfoundation.org.nz