SORTED | Youth alcohol and other drugs service Bay of Plenty | Te Whatu Ora | Health New Zealand | Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty

SORTED | Youth alcohol and other drugs service Bay of Plenty

Help and support for parents or caregivers of a young person using alcohol, cannabis or other substances.

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How SORTED can help

SORTED is the youth alcohol and drugs service of Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty.

If a young person (18 and under) wants to seek help or get more information about alcohol or other drug issues then we will respond, in confidence.

Reasons young people may contact SORTED include:

  • getting into trouble because of alcohol and drugs
  • using too much, too often
  • school work being affected
  • causing problems at home
  • using alcohol and drugs to cope with stress or strong feelings
  • possible dependence or health issues
  • just wanting to talk about things or find out more information.

Anyone can approach the SORTED service.

Concerned parents or caregivers of a young person using alcohol, cannabis or other substances are  welcome to contact SORTED.

Your young person will be offered an appointment to see a SORTED worker where and when they feel comfortable. This could be at your home, at school or at their course for example. The initial meeting and everything that happens afterwards is very much led by your young person as they have rights in engaging with services. This is also important to give the best chance for your young person to engage well with our service and have the best opportunity to get something out of this engagement.

Initially the SORTED worker will look to complete an Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) assessment with your young person. This is an interactive process and most often takes place during 2-3 sessions. The purpose of the assessment is to then inform what goals might be agreed to with your young person for work to be done with their SORTED worker. After the assessment, goals will be agreed to between your young person and their SORTED worker and work done to try and achieve these goals.

These goals will be continually reviewed and length of time this work will take will be dependent on a number of things such as the motivation of your young person to engage with their SORTED worker and what the goals are that they are trying to achieve.

It is always our goal to involve family as much as possible when working with a young person and for this to be throughout the process- from assessment, goal setting and through to transition out of service. However, confidentiality is very important to SORTED and for us to have any chance of working effectively with young people we have to take this seriously.

This is explained very clearly with your young person at their first appointment with their Sorter worker.An information sharing plan is agreed at the start of working with your young person so depending on this, information will be shared with family and others accordingly.

The limits to confidentiality are around issues of risk and if there is risk of serious harm (e.g. to your young person from themselves or others, or from your young person to others) then you will be informed immediately. Even if your young person does not want their SORTED worker to share information with others regarding what they discuss, you are still able to talk with their SORTED worker about the process they are working through, without getting into the content of what is discussed.

In, SORTED has no legislative power to make a young person go anywhere for treatment for their substance use. Everything we do is by negotiation and collaboration with your young person, making use of our skills and knowledge as Youth AOD workers and our hopefully positive engagement with your young person.

Evidence tells us that we have to tailor the work we do with your young person according to where they are at in their thinking about their substance use. We call this the Cycle of Change and one of the first things your young person’s SORTED worker will be doing will be assessing where your young person is at in this cycle and pitching the work they do accordingly. Why? Because we know this is what has the best chance of bringing about positive change. See Cycle of Change Explained.

If your young person is motivated to make changes and thinks doing so in the community will be difficult we can support them to attend a Youth AOD Residential Service for a period of time. There are a couple of options for these services:

There can be lots of different reasons for this but deciding when to end work is normally a collaborative process between your young person and their SORTED worker. You will be involved in this collaborative decision depending on consent. Reasons work may stop can be due to the thinking of your young person about their substance use and their stage in the Cycle of Change (See Cycle of Change Explained).

If there has been no shift in where they are in their thinking then it is important that continued engagement with SORTED does not continue unnecessarily. It is of the upmost importance that any engagement with SORTED is a positive experience for your young person so that even if they are not ready to make changes now, they will be more likely to seek support in the future when they start thinking about change. This will inform when your SORTED worker finishes with your young person as will other factors such as whether your young person has achieved goals they had set for their work with SORTED or whether they have further goals they want to achieve for example.

In short... no, your young person’s SORTED worker might call this Co-existing Problems (CEP) which is mental health problems alongside of AOD problems. The relationship between mental health and substance use is complex but put simply there are two ways to think of this:

  • Substance use which has led to mental health problems. E.g. A drug induced psychosis or the negative cycle of withdrawal issues/cravings leading to mood problems (anger, mood swings). In this situation there were little or no symptoms of any mental health problems prior to substance use and so the young person’s substance use has greatly contributed to the mental health problems they are experiencing. NOT helpful.
  • Mental Health problems that have led to substance use problems. E.g. feeling depressed or anxious and so smoking cannabis to relax and feel good. Young people will quite often use these kinds of reasons to justify their use- e.g. “it calms me down”, “it helps me sleep” or “it helps me feel happy”. Unfortunately using substances as a way of coping with these things does not solve the problem, it masks it for as long your young person is under the influence. This then increases the risk that they go back to the substance again and again to cope. This can lead to addiction. It also means that the substance your young person is suggesting is the solution to their problem actually becomes part of the problem, e.g. if they smoke cannabis to calm down, the more you smoke cannabis the more agitated and frustrated you get when you don’t have it. NOT helpful.

Get in touch

Or to contact us immediately:


Call us on 07 557 5052 or 0800 229 7678 (0800 BAYSORT)


Call us on 07 308 8803 (Monday - Friday, 8am-5pm) or 0800 486 947

In a crisis or after hours call 0800 774 545

Resources for young people

Every young person is going to make a decision about using substances and most young people will try them.

Young people will often say that when they start using a substance generally there is little downside. Often it is quite the opposite - they have a good time, they like the feeling it gives, the distraction it provides and the time they are spending with mates. If this sounds like you, it is important you know about the substance you are using so that you can minimise any harm it might cause while helping yourself and your friends stay safe.

It's important to realise there is no safe level of use when it comes to any substance - it's safest not to use.

Substances affect people differently and the same substance can affect the same person differently at different times. This can be because of how the person felt before using or because of what they were using- there is no quality control on illegal drugs.

However, some substances carry more serious risks than others. For example, inhalants (huffing) can cause death whether you are a first-time user or more experienced.

These fact sheets contain helpful tips for stopping and staying safe. Some young people do have bad experiences when using a substance - like doing something they regret, feeling sick or unwell, or having contact with police. If you have an experience like this it might be time to think about reducing or stopping your substance use.

Understanding the effects of substances
Alcohol - SORTED
Cannabis - SORTED
Inhalents - SORTED
Synthetic Psychoactive Substances - SORTED

Effects of regular substance use

Some young people find that the things they like about the substance they are using makes them want to use it more often.

It might be the high, the people they hang out with, how it helps them to deal with problems, or all of these things.

The more regularly someone uses a substance, the more they need to achieve the same effect - more cones to get high, more drinks to feel drunk. This is called 'tolerance'.

The downside is that needing to use more it can:

  • cost more
  • take up more of your time to access, use and recover
  • start to take over your thinking (cravings)
  • make you feel worse when you aren't using (withdrawals)

This can start affecting things like attendance or performance at school or other activities, and disconnecting from relationships you used to value. After a while, you start using to 'not feel bad' rather than using to feel better or have a good time.

At some point, the downsides can outweigh the things you like about using.

How is cannabis affecting your life? Visit for a survey to see how much you may be affected.

Sometimes things can change - there might be an opportunity for a course, job or new relationship which could be put at risk by your substance use.

Some tips and advice to make positive changes

  • Decide on a date you are going to stop.
  • Get rid of your bong and other drug apparatus.
  • Make sure you don't have a stash.
  • Tell your family and friends that you are going to stop and ask for their support.
  • Avoid people who aren't going to support you, at least in the early stages of quitting.
  • Avoid places where you have been buying or accessing your substance.
  • Plan your time! Make sure you keep busy - distraction is your friend during the first few days.
  • Remember the reasons you are wanting to stop, these are the things to hold on to when the going gets tough!

Check out as a good example of working through a Programme for making change.

If you are worried about your drinking and want to drink more safely then try these:

  • Don't drink alone.
  • Eat before and while you are drinking.
  • Drink water in between alcoholic drinks and/or drink low alcohol drinks.
  • Slow down. Finish one drink before the next and sip instead of scull.
  • Avoid rounds (or shouts).
  • Take it in turns to stay sober so that one of you can drive everyone else home safely. If not, keep enough money for a cab.
  • Look out for your mates. Keep an eye on them if they get sick, make sure they are okay to get home and don't let them get into risky situations.
  • Try having days and weekends without drinking.
  • Avoid drinking if you have school, uni or work the next day.

Advice for parents and caregivers

As adults it is our role to understand the developmental stage young people are in - they will experiment, they will push boundaries, they often think they know best.

It is our role to help them get through this stage and participate in these and other important aspects of identity formation and self-discovery whilst doing our best to protect them from possible long-term harms.

Substances can create a lot of different views and beliefs about where they fit into a young person's development journey.

Think of it this way...
  • Every young person will decide whether or not to use substances and most will revisit this decision many times.
  • Many young people will try substances.
  • Some young people will use substances regularly, with some short-term harms.
  • A few young people will use substances regularly, and potentially develop long-term patterns and associated harms.

If you are concerned that your young person may be using these are some possible signs to look out for:

  • Having bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils; using eye drops to try to mask these signs.
  • Skipping class; declining grades; suddenly getting into trouble at school.
  • Missing money, valuables, or prescriptions.
  • Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, angry, or depressed.
  • Dropping one group of friends for another; being secretive about the new peer group.
  • Loss of interest in old hobbies; lying about new interests and activities.
  • Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around.

Unfortunately this can describe most adolescent's right? This can make it tricky so be careful not to jump to conclusions…

If you are worried about your young person's substance use here are some tips:

  • Lay down rules and consequences: Your teen should understand that using drugs comes can come with specific consequences. But don't make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce. If you have a partner make sure they agree with the rules and are prepared to enforce them.
  • Talk with your teen about their activities: Talk with your teen about where they are going, who they are going to be with and what they are doing to stay safe.
  • Encourage other interests and social activities: Expose your teen to healthy hobbies and activities, such as team sports or interest clubs.
  • Talk to your child about underlying issues: Drug use can be the result of other problems. Is there underlying issues and while they may not want support for their substance use (because they think it helps them), they might be willing to get support for their mood, grief or other issue/s.
  • Get Help: Teens often push against their parents boundaries but if they hear the same information from a different adult, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, family doctor, or youth AOD worker.

When thinking about how you talk with your young person and what type of message you will want to give them it is important to be non-judgemental, try to keep lines of communication open and emphasise staying safe for them and their mates.

See our frequently asked quesitions above for some useful questions parents have for SORTED or see our useful explanation about the Cycle of change [PDF, 436KB] and how this relates to your young person.

Any other questions please get in touch.

Problem gaming

Like most things in youth culture things in the gaming world have moved fast in recent years and this has in most cases lead to a gap in knowledge and values between adults and young people about this issue.

This means gaming, whether on PC, console or mobile device, can often be a point of conflict in a lot of homes. So if you have ever heard your parent say something like "just pause it or turn it off and get outside and do something" or if you have ever heard your young person say something like "I can't just pause it, I don't want to go outside and my mates are online" or if you want to know more about this industry and issue keep reading!

The gaming industry is bigger than the music or film industries and professional competitive gaming, known as esports, is a rapidly growing global phenomenon worth almost a billion dollars, with professional players earning potentially millions of dollars a year while tens of millions of viewers log-in to watch them train, play and compete.

As well as this the weapon-skin gambling industry grown out of such games is also worth billions of dollars and furthermore free-to-play games earn sometimes more than a million dollars a day despite being 'free to play'.

Even in New Zealand we have national high school esport competitions developing from which players have already been drafted to overseas teams to play professionally. For more information about the gaming industry and some of these facts, please see our resources below about esports, Massively Multiplayer Online games and the Monetisation of Gaming.  

Games are awesome. They are fun, challenging, immersive, and interactive, and can be incredibly social. Some franchises have developed amazing worlds and detailed characters with in-depth and interesting stories.

As well as these things games can provide:

  • A sense of purpose and goals - games provide clear milestones and tracks for progression. They create a sense for players of having a meaningful impact on the game world.
  • A sense of achievement and mastery - games provide competition and challenge, and give clear feedback about achievement and success.
  • A sense of belonging and community - games create a sense of being needed and valued by others in the game world, including opportunities for leadership and team work.
  • A sense of freedom and escape - games are fun, and also enable players to become fully immersed in the game and escape difficult feelings such as stress.
  • A sense of identity - games provide players with an alter-ego, and the opportunity to create a new identity for themselves without judgement.

None of the above needs games can meet are wrong or bad but it can become a problem when gaming becomes the ONLY or primary way to meet these needs. This is when more and more time is often spent gaming, people can become disconnected from any face to face friendships or activities, commitments such as school begin to suffer, sleeping patterns can change and all of this can impact on mood and relationships as well as behaviour when not gaming.

Games themselves are designed to keep you playing for longer and often also designed to try and get your $ through micro-transactions in the game (through loot-box mechanics for example or other psychological techniques). To learn how to keep your gaming in balance and to be aware of the crafty tricks game developers use to hook us gamers, have a look at the Being Game Savvy resource below.

If concerned

If you are concerned about your own or someone else's gaming please get in touch or complete the My Gaming Questionnaire [PDF, 100KB] to have a conversation or a think about this issue.