A Northland doctor, and former New Zealander of the Year, is backing calls to decriminalise drugs and treat their use as a health issue.
The United Nations General Assembly will meet in New York for a special session on the world's drug problems.
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne will be there and said he would be pushing for a more compassionate approach to low-level users, but not the decriminalisation of drug use.
Northland doctor Lance O'Sullivan told TVNZ's Q + A that drug use should be decriminalised so people could get the help they needed to deal with addiction.
"We can actually make sure that the P-addicted mother that's got three or four kids has got significant support that we currently can't offer to ensure that she can be the mum she's capable of being.
"So 40 years ago we got it right, it was a health problem, I think we lost our way over the last 40 years and we've made it a criminal problem."
Dr O'Sullivan said at the moment the only options were sending people to court, or to an overworked drug counsellor who was not resourced to deal with underlying mental health problems.