Class A Drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine, get a lot of press. Why are class A drugs so dangerous and what do parents and teenagers need to know?

What are class A drugs?

Class A drugs in New Zealand include – Methamphetamine, Magic Mushrooms, Cocaine, Heroin, LSD (Acid).

If a person is caught in possession of a Class A drug they face up to 6 months imprisonment. Supply or manufacture of these drugs can result in life imprisonment.


Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. It is also known as speed, whiz, crystal meth, shabu, pure, base, rock, crank and crack. The nickname “P” is unique to New Zealand. When it is in its purest and strongest form it is crystallised and known as ice.

Users feel euphoric, hyperactive and can stay awake for a long time. They feel more energetic and confident, but also may be aggressive and irritable, particularly during the come down.

Physical effects include:

  • Sweating, headaches and blurred vision
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing
  • Decreased appetite

Regular use may therefore have serious health consequences and long term use can cause amphetamine psychosis which makes the user difficult to live with due to aggression, and paranoia.

It is taken by smoking it, injecting it, snorting it, inserting it like a suppository (shelving) or swallowing it in pill form. Due to the highly addictive properties of ‘P’ it is a big problem in New Zealand today and is associated with violence and antisocial behaviour.

Users are advised:

  • To drink water to prevent dehydration, although drinking too much can also be harmful (more than a 600ml bottle an hour would be too much)
  • To avoid the risk of disease such as Hepatitis B and AIDS by not injecting, or by using the needle exchange programme
  • Not to take methamphetamines for a long period
  • To avoid in pregnancy, due to harmful effects on the unborn baby
  • To not mix methamphetamines with other drugs as this increases the chance of complications of overdose – coma, convulsion and seizure.


Heroin is a well known dangerous drug, although its usage in New Zealand is relatively low compared to other illicit drugs. It is an opiate drug, which is a depressant – like alcohol it slows down the reactions in the brain.

It is also known as H, smack, morph, gear, scag, dope and homebake.

It can be smoked, snorted or injected.

Opiate drugs have been used for centuries. They are derived from the poppy plant and are known for their pain reliving effects – they are used worldwide after operations and for pain relief in cancer patients.

In New Zealand pure heroin is rare, so it is produced from ‘homebake’ – derived from morphine tablets therefore other substances they are cut with could be toxic. The problem therein lies – users do not know how pure the drug is, therefore although they may have built up a certain tolerance to the drug a more pure supply could lead to overdose.

The side effects and complications of opiate drugs are:

  • Heroin and opiate drugs are very addictive and withdrawing from heroin use is difficult and painful and craving from the drug can last for weeks, months, even years.
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Reduced sexual urge and appetite for food (which results in the often depicted image of the thin, pale drug addict)
  • Decreased breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure – which can lead to coma and death.

Opiate users are advised:

  • Never to take opiate drugs alone
  • Never to inject due to risk of harmful blood borne diseases, such as HIV/AIDS
  • To use a needle exchange programme if you are injecting drugs
  • Opiates should be filtered or boiled to reduce contamination
  • Dial 111 if a relative or friend is found collapsed after taking opiates, meanwhile place them in the recovery position

LSD (lysergic acid)

  • Small squares of paper or tiny tablets called ‘microdots’
  • A psychedelic drug – it changes perceptions of the world – this can be terrifying to some people.
  • LSD can take anything from 30-120 minutes to take effect
  • After effects can leave people anxious and depressed and people may re-live the tripping.

Magic Mushrooms

  • Magic mushrooms are wild fungi and are hallucinogenic
  • They are usually eaten, although they can be dried and smoked
  • Users can feel giggly, happy and euphoric – the effect lessens with habitual use
  • Bad trips can be frightening and people can feel paranoid and have memory problems.
  • Some mushrooms can be extremely poisonous, so care is needed when picking mushrooms – they can also vary greatly in their strength.
  • Take care around safe sex and avoid driving whilst taking magic mushrooms.


  • Cocaine can be smoked, injected, snorted or swallowed
  • It is a white powder, also known as crack, C, white lady, snow, coke and nose candy.
  • It causes feelings of arousal and well being
  • It is a highly addictive stimulant and can cause unpredictable, violent behaviour
  • Cocaine is not widely available in New Zealand and its use is very limited, therefore although known to be a dangerous and addictive drug it is not a big problem in this country.

Class A drugs are listed this way because they are harmful and often dangerous. The only safe way to use drugs is to avoid them altogether!

Where can I get help if with drug addiction?

Help is available for parents, teenagers, young people and others concerned about their own drug abuse or that of others. Schools often have school counsellors who are specially trained in drug issues, as do local police departments and local hospitals.

For help and advice regarding possible drug abuse contact:

The Alcohol Drug Helpline 0800 787 797

Or check out their website www.addictionshelp.org.nz

To find out about the needle exchange programme in New Zealand, visit www.needle.co.nz

Useful articles

For advice about staying safe around Alcohol at Parties, visit our Kiwi Families article

Quitting Smoking gives good advice on quitting the habit.

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Paula Skelton is a qualified NZ nurse and midwife, a midwifery & childbirth educator and the mum of three lovely girls.

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I found the article to be largely misleading in the content and advice offered. The only accurate information on hand was the list of Class A drugs which even then is incomplete. It may have been better represented if the author had mentioned where she sourced the information from and then offered a disclaimer which would have relieved her of all responsibility of posting what can only be described as inaccurate, selective, subjective and potentially harmful information. P.S. While I am no Doctor or Scientist what I can claim is a (very unfortunate I might add) 36 yr history of… Read more »

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