People with severe substance abuse and who are placed into compulsory treatment will have more protections and be held for a shorter period, under new legislation.

The Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Bill has been introduced to Parliament by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

The new law provides for the compulsory treatment of people with severe substance addiction and severely impaired capacity, and who aren't in a state to voluntary engage in treatment.

"Most people who abuse alcohol or other drugs do not need compulsory treatment," Mr Dunne said. "However, some people are so unwell that they are not able to make that decision for themselves."

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The new bill will repeal and replace the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1996. Unlike the current law, it will permit only a short period of compulsory treatment.

The new legislation is based on work undertaken by the Law Commission in 2010, and comes after the Wellington coroner in 2007 recommended the law be updated without delay to take into account the Bill of Rights Act.

The coroner's comments came after the death of a woman whose family unsuccessfully tried to commit to an institution for compulsory treatment.