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Useful Stuff for Young People

Every young person is going to make a decision about using substances and most young people will try them.

Young people will often say that when they start using a substance generally there is little downsides to their use. Often it is quite the opposite- they have a good time, they like the feeling it gives, the distraction it provides and the time with mates. If this is you it is important you know know about the substance you are using so that you can minimise any harm using this substance might cause, as well as help yourself and your friends stay safe.

It is important to realise that there is no safe level of use when it comes to any substance, only not using is the safest. Substances affect people differently and the same substance can affect the same person differently at different times. This can for example be because of how the person felt before using or because of what they were using- there is no quality control on illegal drugs.

However, it is important to note, that some substances carry more serious risks than others. For example any use of Inhalants (i.e. huffing) can result in death, whether you are a first time user or more experienced.

These fact sheets contain helpful tips for stopping and staying safe. Some young people do have bad experiences when using a substance- like doing something they regret, feeling sick or unwell, having a contact with police. If you have an experience like this it might be time to think about reducing or stopping your substance use.

The following information will help you understand the effects of substances:  

Alcohol Cannabis Inhalants Synthetic

Check out these videos which are also quick and helpful:


What a few young people will find is that over time what they like about the substance or substances they are using gets them using more regularly. It might be the high or who they hang out with or what it helps them to deal with or all of these things, but whatever it is it means their use starts to become more regular.

The more regularly someone uses the more of the substance they need to achieve the same effect. More cones to get high, more drinks to feel drunk. This is called tolerance.

The downside of this is that if you are needing to use more it can:

  • cost more
  • take up more of your time to access and use and recover
  • start to take over your thinking (cravings)
  • Make you feel worse when you aren't using (withdrawals)

All of this has the potential to start impacting on things like attendance or performance at school or other activities, disconnecting from relationships you used to value and after a while you start to use to 'not feel bad' rather than using to feel better or have a good time.

At some point it might be that the downsides to using start to become more important than the things you like about using.

Click here to complete an activity where you can look at this more closely.

Sometimes things can change and there might be an opportunity you have like a course or a job or a new relationship which means more to you and could be put at risk by your substance use.

If this is you and you want to make changes but aren't sure how then try this:

  • Decide on a date you are going to stop.
  • Get rid of your bong and other drug apparatus.
  • Make sure you don't have a stash.
  • Tell your family and friends that you are going to stop and ask for their support.
  • Avoid people who aren't going to support you, at least in the early stages of quitting.
  • Avoid places where you have been buying from or accessing your substance.
  • Plan your time! Make sure you keep busy- distraction is your friend during the first few days.
  • Remember the reasons you are wanting to stop, these are the things to hold on to when the going gets tough!
Pot-Help-logo Check out www.pothelp.org.nz as a good example of working through a Programme for making change.

If you are worried about your drinking and want to do so more safely then try these:

  • Don't drink alone.
  • Eat before and while you are drinking.
  • Drink water in between alcoholic drinks and/or drink low alcohol drinks.
  • Slow down. Finish one drink before the next and sip instead of scull.
  • Avoid rounds (or shouts).
  • Take it in turns to stay sober so that one of you can drive everyone else home safely. If not, keep enough money for a cab.
  • Look out for your mates. Keep an eye on them if they get sick, make sure they are okay to get home and don't let them get into risky situations.
  • Try having days and weekends without drinking.
  • Avoid drinking if you have school, uni or work the next day.
Last updated: March 23, 2017