A history of New Zealand's recreational drug use

In New Zealand, we do heaps of drugs. Nearly half of us have used illegal substances at some point in our lives.

In fact, a few years ago, a British medical journal's study found New Zealand and Australia had the highest rate of cannabis, meth and ecstasy use in the world.

So how did we get here?

Before Europeans arrived, Maori didn't really use drugs. However, when the colonists did arrive, they had plenty.

In the 19th century, drugs marketed as "pain killers" were everywhere. Most popular was chlorodyne - a hodge podge of opiates, cannabis and alcohol.

Without any drug laws yet, these were New Zealand's first legal highs.

Despite drugs laws being introduced in 1901 and 1927, by the 1940s New Zealand had the highest per capita rate of heroin use in the world.

In 1975 the Misuse of Drugs Act targeted dealers - and there were none bigger than the Mr Asia syndicate.

The drug cartel industrialised the process with a system of importers, packagers, distributors and enforcers.

As stories like this often end, the result was either death or imprisonment for nearly everyone involved.

The '80s and '90s saw our first designer drugs, while in the late '90s methamphetamine got shoved into a glass pipe - we called it 'P'.

In 2000, BZP party pills came onto the scene and within two years a quarter of the adult population had tried them.

Legal highs became available in New Zealand in 2013, before being banned again in May 2014.

We still top the world for our marijuana use, though.

A 2015 Global Drug Study found that in the previous 12 months, more Kiwi respondents had smoked pot (32.5 percent) than tobacco (30.1 percent).

These days, drugs like cocaine and heroin aren't big here, because they're hard to get into the country.

But that may be changing. Recently, customs Minister Nicky Wagner warned that old people, young people and vulnerable people are being targeted as drug mules.

Globally, the war on drugs is widely considered to have failed.

Some campaigners say that's because drug problems should be seen as a health issue, and no health issue has ever been solved by the criminal justice system.