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New legislation: Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment Act) 2017 (SACAT)


The Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment Act) 2017 (SACAT) is new legislation which will provide for the compulsory assessment and treatment of people who are considered to have a severe substance addiction. Compulsory assessment and treatment is a last resort and the Act can only be used after all other options have been tried without success.

SACAT replaced the out-of-date Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1966 (the ADA Act) on 21 February 2018.

The aims of compulsory assessment and treatment are to:

  • Protect the person from harm; and
  • Allow a comprehensive assessment of their addiction; and
  • Stabilise their health (including medically managed withdrawal); and
  • Protect and enhance their mana and dignity and restore their capacity to make informed decisions; and
  • Facilitate continued treatment and care on a voluntary basis; and
  • Provide an opportunity to engage in voluntary addiction treatment.

Having severe addiction and the inability to make decisions about engaging in treatment for addiction are two essential features for using the Act with someone.

What are the specific criteria that must be met in order to use this legislation?

  • The person must have a severe addiction problem which places them in immediate danger of serious harm and severely impacts their ability to care for themselves, and
  • The person must be unable to understand, remember and to make decisions about the treatment options available for their substance use, and
  • All other options have been exhausted and compulsory treatment is necessary, and
  • Suitable treatment is available.

How do I make an application?

  • Anyone over the age of 18 years can make an application. The application can be made by a family or whānau member, or someone like a GP.
  • You can download an application form from the Ministry of Health SACAT information page ( or contact for one.

What happens after you contact us?

  • You are likely to be called back by an Authorised Officer to discuss your concerns and the application process, including support for family and whānau.
  • The Authorised Officer will then consider the information provided, and discuss this with a wider multidisciplinary team.
  • If the person you are concerned about is likely to meet the criteria for the SACAT Act, you will be supported to complete an application and to arrange for the person to see a GP for a medical certificate.
  • An assessment process will follow. You will remain informed and involved throughout this process.
  • Following the assessment, a Compulsory Treatment Certificate will be issued if the person meets the criteria and if this is unavoidable.
  • If the person does not meet criteria, every effort will be made to motivate them to participate in treatment voluntarily.
  • If a Compulsory Treatment Certificate is signed, the person will be taken for a medical examination. This may be in the local hospital and in most cases the next step will be managed withdrawal (or 'detox') over several days to stabilise their immediate health needs.
  • Once the Compulsory Treatment Certificate is signed, the person will be assigned a responsible clinician who will collaborate with family, whānau and other health providers to develop an initial tailored treatment plan. The person will most likely go to a treatment centre that has been specially designated under the Act. Treatment will focus on making the person well enough to make an informed decision about treatment for their addiction problem.
  • Once a person is discharged from the treatment facility, an ongoing care plan will be developed.

If the person can weigh up the consequences of getting treatment versus the consequences of continuing to use alcohol and/or other substances, they are defined under the Act as having capacity. Accepting that someone has the ability to make decisions does not always mean agreeing with those decisions.

For more information on SACAT

You can also get information and support for yourself and your whānau from:

Alcohol Drug Helpline

Al-Anon Family Groups

Kina Families and Addictions Trust

The Familial Trust

Supporting Families

Drug Help

Helpful resources

Last updated 22 March 2024.