Asking the question

As we head into summer party season, you may be thinking about using a substance for the first time. There are a few things to keep in mind before you do.

First time drug use can be especially risky, and not knowing the risks can make it more likely someone will need to seek emergency medical treatment.

While the safest option is always not to use drugs, if you’re going to be trying a new substance for the first time, there are a few things you can look out for. It’s not a guarantee you’ll stay safe, but it can help manage the risks.

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What can you do to stay safer when taking something for the first time?

Find out as much as you can about the substance before you take it. Do some research to find out the basics like what the effects are, what a standard does is, how long the effects will last, and what the comedown will be like.

You can never be sure the substance you have is what you think it is, which is particularly problematic for drugs with small dose variance as it’s easy to accidentally take too much. You can get an idea of what your drugs are made from through reagent tests and drug checking services.

The risks are likely to be higher if you are on your own. As with all drug use, it’s better to have friends around you that you trust and who have knowledge of first aid.

Tell someone what you’re taking, so they can get the right help if something goes wrong. Always tell emergency responders what someone has taken – you won’t get in trouble, and it could save a life.

Avoid mixing drugs – and that includes mixing with alcohol. The combined effects can be unpredictable and increases the risk of something going wrong.

Take care with dosing – it can vary from pill to pill, and batch to batch. People also react differently to different doses, so just because a certain amount is good for your mate doesn’t mean you’ll react the same way. A low dose is the safer option.

Avoid re-dosing as this increases the chance of overdose. If you can’t feel any effects from what you’ve taken, don’t take more. It may take time for the effects to kick in, and you could end up taking too much and overdosing. 

Where you are matters. Make sure you are in a familiar, safe and calm environment. You don’t know for sure how you’re going to react to a substance, and familiarity with the environment can give a sense of reassurance when things get weird. Make sure you know the address of where you are and have a plan to get home safely.

Immediately tell someone if you start feeling unwell, and always call 111 in an emergency.

Ultimately, no drug use is the safest drug use, but having a plan and doing your research can help you manage some of the risks.

You can find out more about staying safer through the NZ Drug Foundation.

If you have any concerns about your own drinking or drug taking, get in touch with the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, or text 8681. You’ll be able to speak with a trained counsellor who can provide you with helpful information, insight and support. They’re available 24/7, all calls are free and confidential. You can also chat to the team through their website.