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A new approach to reporting on drug data

4 Apr 2024
Dr Jacek Kolodziej

To coincide with the release of our latest drug use and drug checking reports, the Drug Foundation has launched a new Drug Data tool, which will be an interactive collection of the most up to date data from government agencies and other sources.

The Foundation’s Policy Director Dr Jacek Kolodziej explains the thinking behind the new tool and why we’ve changed our approach to how we report on the latest data.

For many years, the New Zealand Drug Foundation Te Puna Whakaiti Pāmamae Kai Whakapiri has been gathering, synthesising and analysing available data about drug use, drug harm, and how the likes of the justice system have responded in Aotearoa.

Because this data spans many different government agencies and is sometimes only available through official information requests, we think it’s a key part of our role to compile and present this data for New Zealanders.

Some of you will have read our State of the Nation reports that we released between 2018 and 2022. These were large annual reports that covered a broad range of issues, from prevalence of use and criminal justice to medicinal cannabis and responses to substance use in our schools.

From this year, we have decided to take a different approach to make it easier to find information and to be able to dig deeper into specific issues. Instead of a large annual report, we will now be releasing a number of focused reports throughout the year.

The first of these that we released in March 2024 summarised the key information about patterns of drug use in Aotearoa. We are currently working on other reports that will cover topics such as acute drug harm, hospitalisations, and overdose fatalities, as well as criminal justice statistics.

When we release these reports, we will also update the new Drug Data section of our website. This section will hold a collection of data visualisations that will be updated with our releases. We hope that in time, this will grow to be a reliable directory to find information about drug use in Aotearoa.

To visualise the data we use a tool called Datawrapper which allows us to create interactive graphs and charts for complex sets of information. You can download the data by using the 'get data' link below any chart. Here's an example from our recent drug use report. 

Prevalence of past-year cannabis use by age (2012/13 - 2022/23)

View this in the Drug Data section

The information we present in the Drug Data section is either already publicly available information, or information that has been obtained in response to Official Information Act requests. While a lot of critical, timely drug-related data continues to be unavailable in Aotearoa, we must acknowledge the teams who work hard to provide the data that does help us get a clearer picture of the drug use and drug harms.

These include the ministries and health agencies’ data services teams, but also agencies like the National Drug Intelligence Bureau, ESR, the Coronial Office, and university research teams. We take care to acknowledge the source of each of the data pieces in our puzzle. While we do our best to make sure that the data we share is accurate, it really depends on the data that we are provided as well as the different methodologies used to collect it.

I hope that you will find this new section and our new reporting approach helpful. I believe that working together, through gathering and careful consideration of evidence, we can build policies and systems that end drug harm in Aotearoa.

As always, we welcome any feedback. Get in touch via our contact page




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