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We've gathered together some important data, to help give an overview of how New Zealanders use drugs.

Alcohol and other drugs have been used by people throughout history, and New Zealand is no different. Almost half of our adult population (49.0 percent) has used recreational drugs at some point in their lives, and 93 percent of New Zealanders will try alcohol. One in five adults (19.9 percent) drinks in a way that could pose a risk to their health [NZ Health Survey 2020/21].

People use alcohol and other drugs for many reasons – recreation, spiritual discovery, performance enhancement, peer pressure, or to medicate physical or emotional pain. Most people who use substances will not experience long-lasting negative effects - In fact, according to the Ministry of Health, four out of five New Zealand adults who used an illicit drug in the past year reported no harmful effects.

However for a small group, drug use - whether legal or illegal - can cause significant harm. The harm these people experience can be wide-ranging, from injury and disease through to social, financial and legal problems. It can also affect their whānau, friends and the wider community.

About 50,000 people receive support for alcohol and other drug use each year in New Zealand – and that’s estimated to be only a third of those experiencing problems. The current legal prohibition of some drugs in New Zealand also means that we spend a great deal on enforcement – including Police, courts and prison beds.   

According to Ministry of Health figures (obtained under the Official Information Act), Māori, Pacific people, and people living in the poorest neighbourhoods are more likely to experience harm from their own alcohol or drug use. They are also most likely to want help with their drug use but not receive it.


$ total estimated drug-related harm in NZ each year (source NZ Drug Harm Index 2020)

Figures have been taken from the most recent data available in the Ministry of Health’s New Zealand Health Survey,  the Health Promotion Agency’s Health and Lifestyle Survey,  the NZ Drug Harm Index,  Youth 2000,  and the National Drug Policy.


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