Op STAND- A safer STAND on substance use
Hōtaka TŪNGA - he TŪNGA haumaru ārai i te rongoā whakawairangi

The NZDF is improving its response to harmful substance misuse

Dry July 2024

WODF, our Op STAND Champion, is encouraging your participation in the Dry July challenge! Take a break from alcohol over the month of July and join  the NZDF Dry July Team for 2024.
We have set up a NZDF team and anyone can join, so grab your mates or do the challenge as a unit. The money raised by being alcohol-free during July goes towards cancer support organisations.
To join the team, donate and show your support, please go to NZDF Dry July.
Thanks in advance for your support!


A new substance harm minimisation framework is being implemented to reduce and prevent harm from substance misuse in our armed forces.

Under the banner ‘STAND’, the framework is aimed at creating a safe and rewarding place to work, and supporting those who need it.

STAND is a long-term culture change programme that involves everyone in the NZDF, and draws on our values-based culture to ensure better modelling of behaviour. A sailor, soldier, airman, or civilian should all understand the NZDF’s position on substance misuse and its expectations. There will be consequences for those personnel who choose to partake in illegal activity or who breach our values and cause harm.

We acknowledge that there is a tension between being supportive and compassionate, and holding each other accountable when expectations are not met. STAND is about ensuring we show each other support and compassion, without changing the high standards that are expected of all of us.

The STAND substance harm minimisation framework will:

  • Place a greater emphasis on promoting health, preventing impairment, and providing support for those who need it.
  • Improve responses, streamlining help and support services, and removing barriers to access.
  • Improve monitoring and evaluation, with better data and analysis to target responses.

NZDF has an interest in the misuse of substances across our organisation as they can cause harm, create security risks, and damage trust, morale and our reputation.

Why use the word 'substance'?

We are using the word 'substance' to highlight that drugs are not the only things that have the potential to cause harm, and misuse of alcohol can do a lot of damage.

The term ‘substance’ is intentionally broad to cover compounds that can cause impairment. It includes - but is not limited to - legal substances such as alcohol and over-the-counter supplements; prescription only medicines including steroids; those not intended for recreational use such as volatile substances; and illegal drugs including cannabis, methamphetamine, synthetic substances and many others.

Not all substance use is misuse

People sometimes use substances for reasons that are unlikely to cause problems such as pleasure, bonding, or performance enhancement. This can include moderate use of alcohol and approved performance supplements.

However, the nature of work for the Defence Force provides additional risk factors for substance use. This can result in people using for escape, to cope with trauma, or self-medication.

Misuse is when it is illegal, harmful, or causes impairment while at work

Misuse is any substance use that:

  • Is an offence against the Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971 - this includes being unfit for duty because of intoxication from alcohol or drugs and/or any breach of civilian law, and/or
  • Causes impairment in a Defence work environment, and/or
  • Results in harm to themselves, others and/or the reputation of the NZDF

Examples include hazardous use of alcohol, use of a drug controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, use of medication without a prescription, and use of any unapproved psychoactive substance – whether on duty or not.

Doing things differently to get a better result

STAND was developed through a partnership between the New Zealand Defence Force Health Directorate and the New Zealand Drug Foundation using a co-design process. Co-design ensures we match the best evidence with the experience and insights of people who work for the Defence Force.

The Drug Foundation also joined Health Directorate staff in visiting all camps and bases to hear what works locally and where improvements can be made.

Op STAND messaging

Op STAND will continually communicate messages about substance use to personnel. These messages will aim to clarify expectations, build knowledge and promote behaviour that supports health, our values, goals and policies. Communication channels and tools will include (but will not be limited to) training, videos, emails, posters, printed documentation and social media.

The key message of each communication will be on one or more of the following: