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Drug education

Drugs are substances that have a mental or physical effect when introduced to the body. Illicit drug use is the use of illegal drugs (like cannabis or cocaine) and/or the misuse (ie. not using as intended or directed) of legal drugs or substances, including over-the-counter and prescribed medications and inhalants like petrol or glue. Illicit drug use in Australia most commonly includes the use of:

llicit drug use can cause illness, injury and premature death and have a significant impact on individuals, families and the community.

Mixing drugs is common, especially with alcohol. However, the effects of mixing drugs, including illegal drugs, alcohol and/or medications is unpredictable and can be very dangerous. Call an ambulance (000) immediately if someone overdoses or has an adverse reaction. Paramedics are not obliged to involve the police.

Injecting drugs

Injecting drugs is very risky and can lead to long term vein damage or even gangrene and amputation.

When you’re injecting yourself, it’s difficult to make sure it’s done safely. Hands can carry tiny particles of blood that you cannot see and can transfer a virus from one person to another. If the equipment or substance used is not totally clean, you could get an infection in your bloodstream and become very sick. Even the smallest amount of infected blood that gets into your bloodstream could be enough to give you a virus that can make you very seriously ill, like HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

There are things that you can do to try and make it safer but you can never be sure that you are not doing harm to yourself.

If you do inject drugs:

  • use sterile equipment every time
  • never share any equipment
  • wash your hands and all preparation services.

If your drug use is causing problems, talk to someone at the Needle and Syringe Program or your GP.

Learn more about safely injecting drugs.

Methamphetamine - including ice

  • Meth/amphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant.
  • In powder form, this drug is often called 'speed', 'goey' or 'whiz', and the paste form is often called 'base' or 'paste', among other names.
  • ‘Ice’ is a common name for crystal methamphetamine and is particularly potent.
  • All forms of methamphetamine are synthetically made.
  • Methamphetamine can be smoked, injected, swallowed, snorted or shafted (rectal administration).


  • Cannabis is a drug that comes from the plant Cannabis sativa.
  • The main active chemical in cannabis is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the part that gives the high when consumed.
  • It comes in 3 main forms
    • marijuana (dried flowers and leaves)
    • hashish/hash (resin)
    • hashish oil
  • It is known by a number of names, including 'grass', 'pot', 'weed', 'dope', 'mull' and 'ganja', among many others.


  • Ecstasy is a man-made drug that has both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. It is often called 'E', 'pills' or 'eccy'.
  • The active ingredient in ecstasy is MDMA (3,4-methylene-dioxy-methamphetamine).
  • It is usually impossible to know exactly what chemicals are contained in ecstasy as manufacturing changes constantly and is not controlled. Ecstasy may or may not contain MDMA, and/or a range of other substances.


  • Hallucinogens are also known as 'psychedelics'.
  • They change the way a person perceives the world, affecting the senses, altering thinking, sense of time and emotions.
  • There are many kinds of hallucinogens, including LSD and magic mushrooms.


  • Cocaine is a stimulant made from processing leaves of the coca plant and usually comes in powder form.
  • Cocaine can be 'cut' or mixed with other substances, including glucose, lactose and baking powder.
  • Cocaine is known as 'coke', 'Charlie', 'snow', 'blow' and other names.


  • Analgesics, also known as 'painkillers', are medicines which relieve pain. Most analgesics are safe to use when taken as prescribed or instructed by your doctor or pharmacist, in conjunction with the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging.
  • Some people misuse analgesics by intentionally taking more than the recommended dose.
  • The effects of mixing analgesics with other drugs, including alcohol, prescription medications and other over-the-counter medicines, are often unpredictable.


  • Inhalants, also known as volatile substances, have a range of effects depending on the substance used.
  • The vapour of volatile substances when inhaled through the nose or mouth can cause a person to feel high or intoxicated. 
  • They can also cause confusion and disorientation, nausea, drowsiness and a range of other symptoms.
  • Common volatile substances inhaled include petrol, lacquers, spray paints, glues, aerosols, paints and cleaning fluids.


  • Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants and are commonly prescribed by doctors to relieve stress and anxiety, and to help people sleep.
  • Common benzodiazepines include Valium, Serepax, Mogadon, Normison.
  • Chances of overdose can be increased if taking benzodiazepines with other depressant drugs, such as alcohol.

Heroin and other opioids

  • Heroin is one of a group of drugs called 'opioids'.
  • Other opiods include opium, morphine, codeine, pethidine, oxycodone, buprenorphine and methadone.
  • Opioids are depressants, which means they slow down the body's central nervous system. 
  • Opioids are made from the resin of the seedpod of the opium poppy. 
  • Many forms of opioids are used for medical purposes, mostly for pain relief.
  • Heroin is an illegal opioid made from morphine or codeine by a chemical process. The potency and purity of heroin varies.

Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)

ADIS provides information, advice, counselling and referral for alcohol and drug issues. Phone: 1800 177 833

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated
23 September 2015

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