A new website aiming to reduce drug harm has launched as the country approaches two weeks under Level 4 lockdown.
The Level, developed by the NZ Drug Foundation, is a straight up, trustworthy and judgement-free space where people who use drugs can access accurate information, share experiences and get support if they need it.
NZ Drug Foundation Deputy Executive Director, Ben Birks Ang, says the organisation accelerated the launch of the site to respond to the current lockdown.
“Right now, everyone will be feeling the stress and uncertainty that Covid-19 brings,” says Birks Ang. “Many people will be using alcohol and other drugs to help them cope, or possibly even using this time to reduce their use. The Level is designed to be a place where people who use drugs can get nuanced, judgment-free advice from experts to reduce harm and help them be safer.”
Even without a lockdown, more than one million New Zealanders are estimated to be at moderate to high risk of problematic substance use, according to the New Zealand Health Survey, yet nearly half of those will experience no clear symptoms to indicate they may be at risk.
Birks Ang says The Level is about reaching those people, along with people who need more urgent support.
“If we only start the conversation about drug use when people are in crisis, we miss most people who use drugs. At the moment, most people are only offered support once their use is heavily impacting their life. Starting these conversations and providing information early can prevent people's use from getting to that point.”
“At the moment a lot of people rely on the likes of Reddit for drug information because it is anonymous and doesn’t judge people for using. We want The Level to be a trustworthy and thoroughly researched alternative.”
“Initiatives like drug checking at festivals show that when people are given accurate information, they make safer and healthier decisions. The Level is much the same.”
Birks Ang says the site’s focus on straight up, non-judgemental language was informed by research that found a major barrier to people accessing and trusting accurate drug information was the perception of an agenda or judgement from the source.
People can access the site at thelevel.org.nz
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