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Maori are more at risk of developing drug addictions than other ethnic groups, an addiction expert says.

National Addiction Centre director Professor Doug Sellman said today that after considering variables such as age, gender, education and household income, Maori were twice as likely to have lifetime substance use disorders than other ethnic groups.

"Even though the reasons for this result are not yet fully understood, it does serve to underscore the pressing need for effective services for Maori in the area of addiction," Prof Sellman said.

He will present his study at the Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association conference in Auckland tomorrow.

Conference co-organiser and chief executive of addiction treatment centre Odyssey House in Auckland, Christine Kalin, said the findings were no surprise to her.

"At Odyssey House ... we see the results of this over-representation of Maori in substance abuse statistics first-hand," she said.

"We believe making addiction services accessible for Maori is of huge importance."

Prof Sellman said that while complete recovery from severe addiction was relatively rare, recovery of a worthwhile life was achievable.

"But to achieve this, people must be retained in treatment for longish periods of time to consolidate behaviour change and skills acquisition," he said.

New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone said the Government should provide effective addiction services for Maori.

"Results of the recent study showing Maori are at least twice as likely as non-Maori to develop drug addictions and to suffer higher rates of mental illness are clear signs that help is needed."

He said the over-representation of Maori at or near the bottom of most social indicators was the root of the problem.

"Make no mistake, the languishing of Maori at the bottom of the heap is a problem for all of us.

"We cannot hold our heads up as a progressive democratic society in the face of these statistics," Mr Paraone said.

- NZPA