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drug information


Alcohol is produced by fermentation - the action of yeast on liquids containing sugars and starches. pure alcohol has no colour or taste. In New Zealand, alcohol is the most widely used psychoactive, or mood-changing, recreational drug.

  1. Health effects

    Short-term effects

    Drinking too much alcohol can affect the body very badly. Effects can vary depending on a person’s weight, metabolism and how long ago they have eaten.

  2. Dependence, addiction and overdose risk

    Dependence and addiction
    As with most drugs, people can develop a tolerance to alcohol over time. This means they need to drink more to feel the same effects. Because they are used to so much alcohol, they might not appear drunk while drinking, but the alcohol will still be damaging their health.

  3. Law and penalities

    Law and penalties
    The sale of alcohol in New Zealand is governed by the Sale of Liquor Act 1989. The act covers things like how old someone must be to buy alcohol, where and when it can be bought, and who can sell it. It also covers 'host responsibility' – rules about selling alcohol responsibly and ensuring people drink safely.

  4. Drug trends

    Alcohol is the most popular recreational drug in New Zealand. While many people use alcohol responsibly there are still many problems and social harm that emerge from its use.  

  5. Reducing the harm

    The Drug Foundation’s message is clear: no drug use is the safest drug use. However, we know there will be occasions when people ignore warnings and use drugs in a dangerous manner. To help keep communities safe we therefore provide information about proven methods of drug harm reduction.

  6. How to get help

    If you feel you or anyone you know needs help, there are a number of treatment organisations you can contact in strict confidence.

  7. Health benefits

    There has been a lot of talk about the possible health benefits of alcohol, but much of this is now in doubt. Some research shows that for men over 45 and women over 55, small amounts of alcohol may reduce the risk of developing some types of cardiovascular disease. But other research has found no such benefit.

  8. Alcohol and pregnancy

    When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby. Alcohol crosses the placenta and is taken in by the developing foetus. Alcohol has been found to cause cell mutations in the foetus. This is especially true at the early stages of development (the first 30 days) but damage can occur at any point before birth.

  9. Links

    A list of relevant links to further information and resources about alcohol: