Taking a Stand for a Safer Defence Force

11 October 2018

A smarter approach to tackling substance misuse

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is introducing a new, smarter approach to tackling substance misuse in the armed forces.

Director of Defence Health Brigadier Andrew Gray said under the banner “STAND”, the NZDF’s new substance harm minimisation framework was aimed at preventing impairment in the workplace and providing support to those who needed it.

The NZDF, like other organisations dealing with this issue, had experienced harm from incidents resulting from the misuse of substances such as alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription medicines or supplements, Brigadier Gray said. Impairment from substance misuse was a significant risk to the health and safety of NZDF members.

The NZDF has partnered with the New Zealand Drug Foundation, international leaders in this field, to research and implement the new and better way of responding to the issue, and look at the whole organisational response, from prevention to enforcement.

Ross Bell, Executive Director of the Drug Foundation, said his organisation had been working with the NZDF since 2016 to investigate and design solutions to the challenges it faced around alcohol and drugs.

“Their courage to commit to long-term culture change and have a person-centred focus is what all organisations with safety critical work should be doing. We applaud the leadership shown by the Defence Force,” Mr Bell said.

Brigadier Gray said work on new ways of managing the serious issue of substance misuse started about two years ago. 

“We’ve recognised there must be a comprehensive organisational response through prevention, support, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration, deterrence, detection and enforcement,” he said.

“Substance misuse is incompatible with service and there will always be consequences. But we’ll be placing a far greater emphasis on promoting health, preventing impairment and improving access to support services to those who need help.”

STAND is a long-term approach to the issue of substance misuse, and the components of the new framework were being rolled out over the coming months, he said.

“STAND recognises that the whole NZDF has a part to play in the solution of substance misuse. It’s a smarter, more comprehensive approach without changing the high standards that are expected of everyone in the NZDF.”

This page was last reviewed on 7 February 2019.