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Drug Use

While it’s common for young people to want to try new things, using drugs can affect their lives long term. As such, it’s important to have open, honest and on-going conversations about the risks and consequences of using drugs.

It’s normal for young people to want to experiment, try new things, and push the boundaries. Unfortunately, using drugs – especially at a young age – can seriously affect people's lives. Young people’s brains are still developing, so they are at risk of accidents and injuries, becoming addicted, and having problems with learning and memory.

If young people know about the negative effects of using drugs, and have positive relationships at school and with friends and family, they are less likely to try them. It’s important to have open, honest, and on-going conversations about the risks and consequences of using drugs. Sharing the right information will help young people to make good choices.

Keeping an eye out

If a young person is using drugs, you might notice:

  • They act secretively or lie
  • Money goes missing
  • They change their friends or social group
  • Behaviour changes: staying up late, changes in sleeping or eating patterns or behaving in ways that are unusual for them
  • They seem tired, angry or irritable, or get frustrated or upset quickly
  • Lack of motivation or energy - they stop doing things they used to enjoy
  • They become withdrawn from friends and family
  • They get lower marks at school, don't complete schoolwork or skip class
  • They have drugs or equipment needed to use drugs

Healthy conversations

Talking openly about drug use will mean young people get the right information and can make safe choices.

  • Know the facts: The more you know about the risks and consequences of using drugs, the more prepared you'll be to answer questions and offer advice when talking to young people
  • Have a conversation with them, instead of giving a lecture. That means listening to what they have to say and responding to their comments calmly
  • Let them know about the health risks of using drugs. The more information they have and the more they understand that using drugs is harmful, the more equipped they are to make better choices
  • Be clear that you do not want them to use drugs. The words of parents, whānau and friends have a big impact on the decisions young people make
  • Keep the conversation going. A conversation about drugs doesn’t have to be a one-time event. Let them know that they can come and talk to you whenever they want

If a young person you know is using drugs, ask them about it.

  • Find a quiet space, at a time neither of you are busy
  • You could bring it up by asking about a specific behaviour or any changes you’ve noticed. Ask them what’s going on for them
  • Stay calm throughout the conversation and let them tell you what is going on. Staying calm will let them know you want to hear them out and this will help them open up
  • Explain that you are concerned about them and that you want to help. Tell them you love them and explain that you don’t want them to use drugs
  • Ask about other aspects of their lives. Is there something they’re finding difficult to cope with?

Taking action

  • Be a good role model – don't use drugs around them. Young people are more likely to smoke or do drugs if they see their parents, friends, or family doing the same
  • Spend time together, do fun things and stay connected and involved in their lives
  • Check in with how they are doing at school and with their friends
  • If drug use is a problem for a young person, get them support. This might mean going with them to see a doctor, or helping them book an appointment with a counsellor. You could access some of the services listed below 


Alcohol and Drug Helpline

Confidential Helpline: 0800 787 797 or free text adh to 234

The Alcohol and Drug Helpline offers confidential information, insight and support on any problem, issue or query people have about their own or someone else’s drinking or drug taking.


WellTrust aims to help young people reach their full potential as contributing members of the community, free from the negative effects of alcohol and drug use, by providing quality drug education and intervention services.


PotHelp is a drug information and online support resource for people who are concerned about how pot use is affecting their lives.

Altered High

Altered high youth service works in the wider Auckland region to help young people with concerns about their own, or someone else’s, alcohol or drug use. They provide interventions to reduce the harm from alcohol or drug use and help young people stop using alcohol and/or drugs.


The Buzzed website shares stories about the impacts of alcohol and other drugs, to help people start talking about making positive changes.

Drug Foundation – Drug information

The Drug Foundation provides factual knowledge and education about drugs to reduce risks to the individual and the community.


Confidential Helpline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234

Youthline provides free phone, text, and email counselling support. Its website has great information for youth dealing with challenging situations including information on drug use.

We Are Family

A collection of personal stories about being affected by someone else’s problematic use of alcohol and other drugs, from Matua Raḵi.


Information about the series, how to talk about some of the heavy issues it raises, and how to get support if you need it.

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