Tiki Taane started huffing glue at age 11 and soon after sold "tinnies" in the classroom - now he has spoken out to warn others of the consequences.
The Papamoa musician shared his story through Buzzed, an Auckland Council campaign that aims to raise awareness of alcohol and other drug-related harm.
In a video Taane said music had given him an "extremely colourful life", which he was reflecting on now that he was a father.
Taane's first experience with drugs was when he was 11 and found his best friend huffing glue.
He ended up doing it himself just weeks later.
Taane said his experiences of trying drugs and alcohol had come about through people telling him to give it a go.
"I started smoking marijuana at, like, 13. All the artists I was influenced by were all, like, drug-taking wasted musicians and that was my inspiration."
Marijuana was a gateway to harder drugs for him and he became involved in the gang scene.
"Of course when you're, like, selling tinnies and selling that kind of stuff, you know, you sell to the kids in your classroom and word gets around and you sell to the older kids and then of course you start meeting other dudes who are, like, prospecting for gangs and then eventually you start knocking around with full gang members."
Taane said he knew he needed to step away from that world and focus on his music.
"I was like, 'I need to make this work. This is the only thing I'm good at, it's the only thing I love, it's the only positive thing in my life'."
By the time he was 18, music was becoming a viable business for him. He joined Salmonella Dub but described drugs as "part of the job description of being a musician".
For 17 years he took drugs, partied, saw the world and made music. He said there were amazing times as well as extremely low times.
"It was starting to effect my relationship with friends and family who wanted to see me and catch up with me.
"When you start making up excuses and lies for that, that's when things are pretty bad."
He said his music started suffering and he was making bad decisions.
At 29 he decided to get away from that scene.
He said a good friend took him to a forest in "the middle of nowhere" where he lived for six to eight months.
He said he cried every night after stopping drugs and alcohol.
That was part of the process of getting back to himself.
Taane made a record called Past, Present, Future during that process. He started re-branding himself and stepping out as Tiki Taane the solo artist.
Taane said he had hurt people over the years and lost friends.
He now wanted to be straight up with youth and tell them about his life.
Taane said he didn't want to tell them what to do but to warn them to be conscious of the fact there were repercussions to physical, mental and spiritual health of going down the drug path.
Buzzed is a social media campaign that launched this week in response to an Auckland Council report, "Knowing Someone Cares", about the city's most vulnerable young people and their experiences with alcohol and other drugs.
Buzzed also features music industry professional Marcus Powell and comedian Mike King along with a number of young people.
Community Action Youth and Drugs (Cayad) manager Brian Taylor said they would share their stories on the Buzzed website and Facebook page so young people were inspired to create positive change for themselves or in their community, he said.
The campaign was set up by the Cayad team at Auckland Council, and funded by the Ministry of Health.