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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Drug information for teens & young adults

Young woman taking a pill in a nightclubDrugs are any substances that, when taken (either by inhaling, swallowing or injecting) enter your bloodstream and change the way your body works. Some drugs are legal such as alcohol and tobacco. Others are illegal such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin. Medical cannabis is legal but only if a doctor prescribed it for you to use. Taking prescription medicines not prescribed for you is also illegal.

Drugs work on the brain and affect your ability to make safe decisions.

Any drug can be harmful. They can have short term harmful effects as well as cause long term problems especially to young people whose brains are still developing.

Even though some drugs are illegal, some people still choose to take drugs. Knowing the facts about drugs and how they might affect you can help you to make better decisions about whether to use them. It can also help to reduce any harm drugs cause you. Read more about commonly abused drugs, including their side effects and risks, and ways to be safer.

Problems with drugs

If you're worried that you might have a problem with drugs, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor about it. Your doctor has to keep all information about your medical care confidential, and is a good person to see because they know you best. But if you would prefer to see another doctor, you can see a doctor for free at Te Tahi Youth, phone (03) 943‑9298.

Manu Ka Rere is free for rangatahi (young people) aged 13 to 24 who may have mental health or alcohol and drug issues. The service provides short-term intervention, which includes assessment, treatment and support. It also coordinates and supports rangatahi and their whānau (families) to get longer term treatment if needed. Rangatahi can refer themselves to the service. A health professional, community agency, teacher or parent can also refer them.

Phone and helplines

It may be easier to talk to someone anonymously first, or if you're worried that someone else may has a drug problem. Try one of these helplines for advice and support:


Youthline is an organisation that works with young people and provides a number of services.

Freephone 0800‑376-633 (any time) or free txt 234 to speak to a counsellor.

You can also chat online using the webchat between 10 am and 10 pm, Tuesday to Friday and 4:30 pm to 10 pm, Saturday to Monday.

Email any time. Counsellors aim to respond to emails within 24 hours.

Alcohol Drug Youth Helpline

The Youth Helpline has dedicated people experienced in working through issues with rangatahi. They offer free, confidential support and guidance.

Freephone 0800‑787‑YTH (0800‑787‑984), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Free TXT 8681 and a counsellor will txt you back for a confidential conversation.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Drug information for parents and caregivers

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed January 2021.


See also:

Alcohol: know the facts

Drug overdose

Page reference: 53199

Review key: HIDYT-53199