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Drugs and your health

drugs; alcohol; cigarettes; heroin; marijuana; cannabis; speed; ecstasy; LSD; inhalants; tobacco; smoking;

You might be thinking about trying drugs because you've seen others do them, because you think you will have fun or because you want to find out what they might do for you. Taking drugs might seem exciting at first, but drugs cause unpredictable changes in your mood and behaviour and can be dangerous. Also you can never be sure of what you are taking. Drugs can also be highly addictive.

The most commonly used mood altering drug in Australia is alcohol and alcohol does lead to major health problems, but this topic also looks at the effects of other mood altering drugs.


Keeping yourself safe

The safest option is not to take drugs, but if you choose to use a drug, reduce the risks:

  • Be aware of what you are taking and what the effects are likely to be. The Australian Government's National Drugs Campaign website has detailed information about drugs and their effects. Also the Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia - Alcohol and Drug Information Service website .

Never share injecting equipment, and always call for medical help when needed. If your drug use starts to get out of hand, seek help from friends, family or a health professional.

Keeping your friends safe

It can be a difficult to see your friends or family members using drugs.

  • Accept that you can't change someone else's behaviour. They are the only ones who can decide to change.
  • Keep yourself safe. Tell someone you trust what is going on and how you feel about it. Talk to someone who you think might be able to help you.
  • Find out about the drug they are using. Perhaps you could give them some information about what their drug is and how it can affect them.
  • Try not to be too judgemental about what they do.
  • Tell them what you are worried about. Try not to blame or put them or other people down. 
  • Inform them of the things they can do to try to keep as safe as possible.

Risks of drug use

  • Behaving in unsafe ways – such as driving while affected by the drug, - Lots of people who go to emergency departments at hospitals have taken a drug, often alcohol or ecstasy.
  • Acute psychosis – which means that the person's mood and awareness of what is happening changes dramatically, and they can harm themselves or others. People can be very frightened when affected by the drug and this can lead to them being angry and aggressive.
  • Vulnerable to abuse by others - because they may behave in ways that do not keep themselves safe, and they may not be able to defend themselves.
  • Death – due to overdose.
  • Damage to body organs - Heavy use of many drugs can hurt the liver, brain, lungs, throat and stomach.
  • Risk of infectious disease - Sharing needles can lead to Hepatitis C or B or HIV, which are spread through blood-to-blood transmission. You can also catch other infections from sharing things like pipes or bongs (eg. colds, glandular fever).
  • Long term mental health problems such as psychosis - A number of drugs can trigger mental health problems such as psychosis, where a person loses touch with reality.
  • Depression - Feeling low after using some drugs including alcohol is common - this could be due to the drug itself or because of things that happened while using. People often use drugs more when they are depressed.
  • Stress – while some drugs cause a person to feel more relaxed for a little while, this does not last. Drugs can cause problems, and do not solve any problems.
  • Relationship problems - Conflict between friends and partners, and family breakdown are more common when drug use is ongoing.
  • Violence - Drugs and alcohol do not cause violence, although their use can make the problems that cause violence much worse. Violence is illegal, and is a choice just like using drugs or alcohol.
  • Dependence - Many people become dependent on a drug, which means that they feel that they can't function without it, they spend a lot of their time and energy finding and using the drug, and they might have withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. They might also need to take increasing amounts to get the same effects.
  • Safety – Taking drugs can make you less safe. Scoring drugs or trying to get the money to buy them can also put a person at risk of harm.
  • Job loss - Drug use reduces a person's ability to work in a job, and reduces their chances of getting a job (see our topic 'Unemployment').
  • Financial Pressures - Using alcohol and other drugs can be a costly business. In the worst cases, funding a habit can lead to crime, or losing everything on gambling.
  • Homelessness - This can result from not being able to pay rent or getting 'kicked out' of home. (See the topic 'Housing/homelessness').
  • Legal issues - Court, jail time or hefty fines are associated with using or selling illicit drugs, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or committing crimes as a result of using drugs (see the topic 'Police, courts and crime').

Legal issues

Check the laws where you live. Some legal consequences of drug use are: fines, court appearances, jail, community service, treatment orders, a criminal record (which can make it difficult to get a job and you may not be allowed to travel to some countries).  
If you sell, supply, manufacture or grow any illegal drug, you can expect very harsh penalties.


South Australia

  • The Youth Health Service
    - Central: 57 Hyde St, Adelaide
    -  South: 50a Beach Rd, Christies Beach
    -  North: 6 Gillingham Rd, Elizabeth
  • Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia - Alcohol and Drug Information Service
    (ADIS) - 24 hour statewide line - Tel: 13 1340
  • Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council (SA) Inc - Tel: (08) 8362 0395.  


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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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