Reducing alcohol and drug harm

Over the summer, many of us will decide on whether to use alcohol or other drugs. Choosing to use alcohol and other drugs always involves risk of harm; it’s important to stay mindful of what can go wrong and what can help you to be safer. The NZ Drug Foundation has put together the following ‘Six Ways to be Safer’ for people choosing to use drugs or alcohol.

    1. Know your stuff

The risk of harm from drug use is greatly increased when you are not sure what you are taking. In recognition of this safety issue, you might have heard that New Zealand’s Government has recently passed a bill to legalise drug checking and offer harm reduction advice at festivals this summer. Organisations such as KnowYourStuff or the New Zealand Drug Foundation offer this free service. You might also want to check out HighAlert, an early warning system for dangerous drugs known to be in circulation.

    2. Avoid mixing

Using more than one substance greatly increases your risk of harm. Drug interactions can be unpredictable. Be aware that prescribed medication can also interact with alcohol and other drugs.

    3. Choose the safest method

If choosing to take drugs, ensure you do it in the safest way possible. You can find more information on the effects of different methods of use via the NZ Drug Foundation.

    4. Only take as much as you need to get the effect you want

Using a small amount can help to reduce negative effects; start with a small amount and wait for at least an hour to see how it affects you.

    5. Use with other people who can look out for you

Only use around people you trust and who can help you out if something doesn’t go according to plan. Let them know what you are taking, and that you are happy for them to call for medical assistance or an ambulance if needed.

    6. Take time to check that you are living the life you want

Keep an eye out for signs that alcohol or other drug use is having an impact on the rest of your life. If there are signs it is affecting your life negatively, it might be time to make changes or ask for help. You can call the Alcohol and Drug Helpline (0800 787 797) 24/7 for confidential, non-judgmental expert advice. You could also speak to the University’s Alcohol and Drug Counsellor based at University Health and Counselling.

You can find more information on understanding alcohol use in our ‘Habits for Health’ section of the website.