Drugs – Reducing the Risks

The New Zealand Government’s drug policy is based on harm minimisation. This is aimed at reducing drug-related harm to the community and individual drug users. Ways of doing that include encouraging nonuse, through to providing the means for users to use drugs with fewer risks.

Remember: there is no safe level of illegal drug use.
The New Zealand Police aim at reducing the supply of illegal, harmful drugs. Dealing in and using such drugs is illegal, and it supports criminal activity. If caught, you can be prosecuted and convicted. A conviction could make life awkward for you if you try to enter another country. That’s the least that can happen. Supplying and dealing a class A drug could result in your being locked up for 25 years.
New Zealand is the only country in the world that has laws covering the import, sale, and possession of drugs paraphernalia.

Legal implications

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1975), illegal drugs are in three classes.
Class A drugs include heroin, homebake, Speed, P, cocaine, LSD, and Magic Mushrooms. The penalties for importing, supplying and dealing in these drugs include life imprisonment. Possession can get you six months jail or a $1000 fine, or both.
Class B drugs include methadone, morphine, GHB, and Ecstasy. Some class B drugs become Class A when prepared for injection. The maximum penalty for dealing, supplying or importing Class B drugs is 14 years, for Class C drugs, eight years. All drug profits, including cash, car and your property, can be seized.
Class C drugs include cannabis, and prescribed drugs such as benzodiazepines or those that contain pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in locally made Speed. Ketamine and amyl are controlled under the Medicines Act. Possessing Class B and C drugs can earn three months imprisonment or a $500 fine or both. Possession also covers letting your car or house be used for using, selling or making drugs.
Dealing is “possession for the purpose of supply or sale”. Sharing with friends technically makes you a dealer. You don’t have to profit or get money to be a real dealer. Giving a pill to a friend, say for their birthday, is dealing.

Parents have rights

As parents you have rights. It is important to emphasise that.
You have a right to know what is going on in your teenagers’ lives. You have a right to know how they are getting their drugs, because, for example, they might be engaging in petty crime to pay for their habit. And you have a right and a responsibility to look after their welfare.
Drug use does not always mean addiction. Only a few teenagers who use drugs will get addicted to them. It is important for parents to think about why teenagers might want to use drugs. Mainly it’s because they are curious. They continue because it makes them feel good for a while.
If you suspect drug use, listen to what your teenager has to say. By listening you can determine if they are using at all, experimenting or doing it to solve a problem. Trust your intuition. If you feel something is not quite right, have a frank and open discussion about drugs and the young person’s opinion about drugs in our society.
It is important to stay calm and show a willingness to listen regardless of how concerned you might be feeling. If you are confrontational the young person is likely to clam up, say nothing, and turn more towards their peers and drugs for comfort.
Try to be honest about your own drug use. If you drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, acknowledge that these are also drugs. Denying your own drug use will only make you seem hypocritical and you will lose credibility in the eyes of your teenager.
Some of the signs and symptoms mentioned here are normal behaviour for young people and need not to be related to drug use. Experts working in the drug field say that parents and caregivers should be concerned if a young person shows a sudden change to uncharacteristic behaviour or moods.

Signs and symptoms

Possible behavioural signs and symptoms of general drug use: personality changes (moodiness, bursts of anger, withdrawal); getting frustrated quickly (restless, agitated, aggressive); becoming unreliable; behaving unexpectedly; cancelled appointments; blaming others; secrecy; lying; missing meals or other family activities; absence from school, especially after a weekend; wagging school; less respect for authority; sudden changes in school interest and achievement; changes in sporting interest and achievement; altered or delayed emotional development; lack of energy or drive; inability to get out of bed in the morning; not up-front about friends and where they have been; a sudden change in friends; money of other family members starts disappearing; can’t explain how they have spent their money; frequent illness (colds, flu); can’t concentrate for long; less aware or less common sense (especially while intoxicated); unable to sleep; bruises; unkempt appearance; acne of the face; staggering walk; and slurred speech.