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Drug use refers to the act of taking drugs (whether prescribed or illegal) in a way that is intended to give an intoxicating effect, rather than for medical purposes. Drug use can have serious consequences on your health, work and relationships.
This section aims to help you get a greater understanding of the types of drug related problems as well as guidance for what to do if you (or someone else) might have a problem with drugs.


What is drug use (and abuse)?

All of us have to take prescription medications from time to time, or for some they are a lifelong companion, this is not abuse if we take them as prescribed by a doctor.

Drug abuse is a pattern of drug taking that results in harm to your health, relationships and your ability to do your job properly. Drug abuse can include legal drugs or the misuse of prescribed medications - but if you are taking illegal drugs - this can cost you your job. There are no exceptions, this is drug abuse.

Drug use and serving members

For many areas of society, especially where the use of recreational drugs is seen as acceptable, there is a difference between drug use and drug abuse.   However, drug use has much more immediate and serious consequences for serving members than for the general public.

The New Zealand Defence Force has very strict rules about drug use, and even though help and support for drug problems is available within the military, the consequences of admitting to drug use might be discouraging you from seeking help.

If you’re a serving member and using drugs, the most important thing is to consider your safety and the safety of those around you. Don’t take drugs in situations that could put you or someone else in danger. We don’t always realise the effect that our drug use has on other people, but you have a responsibility to make sure that both you and the people who rely on you are safe.

If you need help but worry about seeking help internally, community based services are also available, including GPs.  You can also call the NZDF4U confidential help line 0800 693348.


Even if you don’t feel like your drug use is out of control, it might be causing problems in your relationship, or you might notice you’re also drinking more than usual. Some people use drugs as a way of coping with unpleasant feelings, like anxiety or depression, or to block out painful memories of a horrible experience. Follow the links in the text above for more information about how to manage your feelings without turning to drugs.

There are many types of drugs and they can affect people differently. Here’s a list of the common types to be aware of:

  • Stimulants like nicotine, meth or cocaine
  • Depressants like alcohol, heroin, codeine or common sleeping pills or antidepressants
  • Hallucinogens like LSD or mushrooms

Whatever drug you are taking, if you’re in the military, the consequences can be serious and immediate. However, you should not let the consequences of admitting to drug use discourage you from seeking help, because your own personal safety and the safety of those around you is more important than your immediate military future.

Don’t take drugs that could put you or someone else in danger, you have a responsibility to make sure that you create a safe environment by being in control of your faculties.

If you need help but worry about seeking help, you are encouraged to seek help in the community or call the NZDF4U confidential help line 0800 693348.

What can I do about it?

If you think your drug taking is causing you problems, here are some tips for making decisions about what to do, and ways to start managing your drug use. For some people, these strategies might be all that is needed. For others, they can be a useful addition to getting professional help.

Get motivated

It can be helpful to think about what you’re getting out of your drug use, as well as what you’re missing out on. As with most things, there will be pluses and minuses to your drug use. For example, a plus might be that you feel much more relaxed after smoking a joint, and a minus might be that your girlfriend refuses to speak to you if you've been smoking. Also, you will likely be in serious trouble (career loss and criminal conviction) if you are caught.

Another example might be that prescription valium might take the edge off your anxiety, but you are finding that you want it more and more.

Writing these pros and cons down on paper is a really good way to help you see the big picture and make a decision about whether you want to make any changes to your drug use.

Knowing where you stand will help motivate you to make changes that last.

Make a plan

If you've decided to change, you need to work out what your goal is. Are you trying to cut down a bit, or stop using drugs completely? Your goals should be specific, achievable, and broken down into steps. For example, you might say “My goal is to only take valium three times a week. I’m going to cut back by half a tablet a week until I reach that goal”.

Once you've worked out what you want to do, you can write yourself a contract – this is an important part of starting to change, and will help you stay on track.

Keep track

It’s really important to keep an eye on how much and how often you’re using drugs. This will help you learn more about when, where, and why you use. Keeping a diary is a good way of keeping track of your drug use, including the financial cost and other problems it causes, and is a good reminder that you need to stick to your limits. It’s also a good way of checking your progress towards your goals.

Reward yourself

Don’t forget to reward yourself for making changes! Maybe with all the money you've saved by cutting back you can treat yourself to something you want.

It’s also good to think about other positiveactivities you could be doing, or have started doing, instead of taking drugs. 

Improve your general wellbeing

Sometimes people use drugs more than they should when they’re worried about other aspects of their life. The tools in the Resilience toolkit can help you with strategies to solve problems, build social supports, get more active, change the way you think, keep calm and sleep better.

Get some “muscle” into help

Self-help isn't for everyone. If you've tried the strategies above and you are still having trouble making changes, or if you feel like your drug use is causing serious problems and you need additional support, drug help is a good place to start.