Alcohol and Other Drugs

If you’ve seen one of our Dr YES sessions on being safe with drugs and alcohol, you’ll know that there are lots of different drugs, all with very different effects. Drugs can range from common legal drugs like caffeine and Panadol to illicit drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy.

There are three main categories of drugs:

Stimulants:

Drugs that can increase the work of the body’s nervous system and heart and cause a temporary increase in alertness and energy

Depressants:

Drugs that can slow down the work of the body’s nervous system and heart and cause a decrease in alertness and can lead to a relaxed feeling

Hallucinogens:

Drugs that can change the way in which a person perceives the world, altering some or all of a person’s senses, as well as affecting a person’s thinking, emotions and even sense of time

Alcohol is a form of a depressant drug that is usually ingested.

Is alcohol legal?

Alcohol is legal to purchase and drink after the age of 18 in Australia, however the legal age can vary from country to country. It is legal to drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.05 as long as you are a FULL LICENSED DRIVER. For anyone on their P plates or L plates, it is illegal to drive after drinking alcohol. In order to remain under the legal driving limit, the average female can drink one standard drink every hour, and the average male can drink two standard drinks in the first hour, and one every hour afterwards.

So… what is a standard drink?

A standard drink is exactly 10g of ethanol (pure alcohol) that can be diluted in any amount of liquid. This means that the amount of alcohol drank does not depend on the volume of fluid that has been drank, but the amount of alcohol dissolved in it. Almost all packaged forms of alcohol in Australia have the number of standard drinks written on them.

What are the effects of alcohol?

Short Term:

  • Feelings of confidence
  • Happy and relaxed
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Poor judgement
  • Slow reaction time
  • Potential aggression
  • Memory Loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Hangover

Long Term:

  • Memory loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Reduced school and work performance
  • Brain damage
  • Liver cirrhosis and cancer
  • Cancer of throat, mouth, lips, oesophagus and breast
  • Depression and violence
  • Malnutrition

Tips for staying safe when drinking alcohol

  1. Always make sure someone knows where you are!
  2. Always have a way of getting home!
  3. Always be in the company of friends or people you know!
  4. Eat beforehand! A fistful of carbs is usually enough!
  5. Try to stick to pre-packaged drinks so you know what you’re drinking and how much!
  6. Avoid drinks that can be easily spiked or that are hard to measure alcohol content in!
  7. Space drinks out with water
  8. Watch out for your friends!
  9. Do not mix alcohol with other drugs as the effects can greatly increase or change and  be unpredictable

Green/brown leaves or flower buds that have the texture of herbs and contain THC, which is a depressant. Marijuana is also known as cannabis, weed, pot, or a variety of other street names. Marijuana can be smoked through a joint, through a bong or eaten, often in the form of brownies, cookies, or cake.

Recreational use of Marijuana is not legal in Western Australia. Medical use with a prescription is permitted in certain circumstances.

Effects

Short Term or in Low Doses:

  • Feeling of well-being
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Loss of concentration
  • More talkative
  • Giggles
  • Impaired balance and coordination
  • The ‘munchies’ (increased appetite)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Reddened eyes
  • Dry mouth

Long Term or in High Doses

  • Panicked
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Increased risk of lung cancer and respiratory disease
  • Loss of motivation, energy and drive to achieve
  • Interference with sexual drive
  • Psychological dependence

Tips for staying safe when using marijuana

  1. Smoke in a safe environment, for example, a well-ventilated area away from non-smokers
  2. Do not inhale deeply and do not hold in the smoke for too long
  3. If experimenting for the first time, start small and wait a while to feel effects
  4. Try it with someone who has done it before and knows what to expect
  5. Do not mix cannabis with other drugs or alcohol as the effects can greatly increase or change and can be unpredictable

A stimulant that contains MDMA, which causes the brain to release large amounts of hormones related to memory, pleasure, mood, and sleep functions. Ecstasy is most commonly taken in the form of a tablet or a capsule, but these tablets can also be crushed and snorted, smoked, injected, shelved or shafted.

In Western Australia, it is illegal to possess, use, manufacture, cultivate or supply ecstasy.

Effects:

Immediate Effects:

  • Over confident
  • High body temperature
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Jaw clenching
  • Teeth grinding
  • Increase in pulse
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea

Effects of Larger Doses:

  • Irrational behaviours
  • Agitation
  • Convulsions
  • Urinary retention
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Excessive thirst

Long Term Effects:

  • Depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of concentration
  • Irritability

TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE WHEN USING ECSTASY:

  1. Drink plenty of water as ecstasy combined with dancing or a hot environment can cause the user to overheat and dehydrate.               TRY TO DRINK ~250-500mL EVERY HOUR
  2. Make sure also to not drink too much water, as this can lead to the opposite effect and can lead to headaches, changes in heart rate and changes to breathing.
  3. Remember to have chill-out times away from dancing and the sun
  4. Dress light, find a cool spot
  5. Never be alone while on ecstasy
  6. Don’t mix ecstasy with other drugs or alcohol as the effects can greatly increase or change and can be unpredictable

Dexamphetamines, along with other drugs like Ritalin and Adderall are known as pharmaceutical stimulants that are usually used to treat people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). For people who do not have ADHD or have not been prescribed these drugs, they can cause a state of hyper-alertness. These drugs are often seen as small, white, round tablets and can be swallowed, crush and snorted, or injected.

In Western Australia, it is illegal to use or supply pharmaceutical stimulants such as dexamphetamines without a valid medical prescription.

Effects:

Effects of Low Doses:

  • Increased alertness
  • Increased confidence
  • Talkative
  • Reduced appetite
  • Inability to sleep
  • Increased breathing rate, pulse rate, and blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Suspiciousness

Effects of High Doses:

  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Teeth grinding
  • Temporary state of psychosis
  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Overdose

Long Term Effects:

  • Malnutrition
  • Reduced resistance to infection
  • Violent behaviour
  • Incoherence
  • Though disorders
  • Periods of psychosis
  • Dehydration
  • Irregularities in heartbeat
  • Tremor
  • Hallucinations

Tips for staying safe while using Dexies:

  1. Don’t take dexies unless they have been prescribed to you
  2. Be aware that Ritalin contains talc, meaning that it cannot be injected  
  3. Dexies strongly suppress appetite, so remember to eat and drink plenty of water
  4. Never be alone while on dexies
  5. If injecting, always use clean needles and equipment, and only use a needle once, in order to avoid risk of HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C
  6. Don’t mix dexies with other drugs or alcohol as the effects can greatly increase or change and can be unpredictable

Cocaine is a type of stimulant drug that is made from the coca plant. Pure cocaine is a white crystalline powder, but it is important to remember that no street drug is pure, so cocaine is usually seen as a slightly yellowish powder, owing to the cocaine being cut with other substances such as glucose or amphetamines.

In Western Australia, it is illegal to possess, use, manufacture, cultivate or supply cocaine outside of valid medical uses.

Crack Cocaine

A type of ‘freebase’ cocaine that allows the drug to be purer and be in a smokeable form, meaning that the effects will occur more rapidly and strongly. Crack cocaine appears as small, white or yellow, oily rocks or as crumbly white flakes.

Effects:

Effects of Low Doses:

  • Increased confidence and energy
  • Euphoria (extreme happiness)
  • Talkative
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased breathing rate, pulse rate, temperature, and blood pressure
  • Reduced appetite
  • Feeling of wellbeing
  • Inability to sleep
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Anxiety, irritability, suspiciousness
  • Local anaesthesia

Effects of High Doses:

  • Intense anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Cold sweats
  • Uncontrolled tremors
  • Aggressive behaviours
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Induced psychosis
  • Sudden cessation of breathing
  • Heart seizures
  • Coma and even death

Long Term Effects:

  • Aggressive and/or violent behaviour
  • Respiratory failure
  • Heart failure
  • Malnutrition
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Severe weight loss
  • Hallucinations

Tips for staying safe while using Cocaine:

  1. If injecting, always use clean needles and equipment, and only use a needle once, in order to avoid the risk of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C
  2. Never be alone while on cocaine
  3. Don’t mix cocaine with other drugs or alcohol, as the effects can greatly increase or change and can be unpredictable  

Both of these drugs are a form of hallucinogen, meaning that they alter the user’s senses and emotions, changing the world around them. Magic mushrooms are usually seen as whole mushrooms, mushroom food or white crystals, while LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) is often seen in the form of absorbent paper or tabs, sugar cubes, or tablets. These hallucinogens are most commonly swallowed or placed underneath the tongue.

In Western Australia, it is illegal to possess, use, manufacture, cultivate or supply hallucinogens such as LSD or mushrooms containing the active ingredient psilocybin.

Effects:

Immediate Effects:

  • Altered view or surroundings
  • Seeing imaginary objects
  • Distorted senses – louder, brighter, bigger, etc.
  • Distorted sense of time
  • Pupil dilation
  • Increase in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety that turns into panic
  • Paranoia
  • Lack of coordination
  • Muscle weakness and twitching
  • Bad Trip – The user has such intense feelings and distortions that they are unable to cope, usually occurs with disturbing hallucinations and can lead to depression, anxiety, and panic

Long Term Effects:

  • Flashbacks – a recurrence of a previous drug experience even while not on the drug
  • Heightened risk of developing a mental illness in those who are predisposed
  • Impaired memory
  • Lack of concentration

Tips for staying safe while using Hallucinogens:

  1. DO NOT pick and eat wild mushrooms, as magic mushrooms look very similar to wild poisonous mushrooms
  2. If you or a friend encounters a BAD TRIP, stay in a quiet, safe place with constant supervision
  3. Never be alone while trying hallucinogens
  4. Be around someone who is not on hallucinogens so that they can help and calm you down if necessary
  5. Don’t mix hallucinogens with other drugs or alcohol, as the effects can greatly increase of change and can be unpredictable

Opioids are derived from opium poppies, and heroin is just one form of opioids. Another common opioid is morphine, which is often prescribed for pain relief. Heroin is a depressant and is often seen as a white crystalline powder, but can also be seen as a brown powder or a rock and street heroin is usually cut with other substances such as glucose or talcum powder. Heroin can be injected, snorted, or smoked.

In Western Australia, it is illegal to possess, use, manufacture, cultivate or supply heroin and other opioids.

Effects:

Effects of Low Doses:

  • Slows breathing and heart rate
  • Painkiller
  • Low energy
  • Feeling of comfort or euphoria
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Decreased concentration

Effects of High Doses:

  • Breathing becomes even slower
  • Pupillary constriction
  • Cold skin
  • Sedation and drowsiness
  • If taken in extreme amounts, the breathing rate and heart rate can become so slow that the heart and lungs stop, which can be fatal

Long Term Effects:

  • Very addictive – dependence occurs rapidly
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lower resistance to diseases
  • Pneumonia and other chronic chest infections
  • Chronic constipation
  • Heart and lung problems
  • Low blood pressure
  • Decreases sex drive and infertility in women

Tips for staying safe while using Heroin or other Opioids:

  1. Heroin purity is extremely unreliable, so be careful not to take too much at any one time
  2. If injecting, always use clean needles and equipment, and only use a needle once, in order to avoid the risk of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C
  3. Never be alone while trying heroin
  4. Heroin is extremely addictive so be wary of the effects of dependence and withdrawal
  5. Don’t mix heroin with other drugs or alcohol, as the effects can greatly increase or change and can be unpredictable

First Aid

It’s important to know how to help out a friend who may have had too much of any kind of drug, including alcohol. Signs that someone may need help include being out of control, severe vomiting or inability to walk, being unconscious, or appearing to have adverse reactions to any form of drug, including having a ‘bad trip.

In a medical emergency call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Drug and Alcohol Office

Run by the Health Department of Western Australia, this website has up to date  information about drugs in WA. They also have links to a wide variety of alcohol and drug services. Including confidential 24 hour phone services.

Counselling Online

The Leavers WA website is a great resource for planning your Leavers week. It has info on staying safe, what to do in an emergency, providing advice to your parents and most importantly: How to have an AWESOME leavers!

Leavers WA

The Leavers WA website is a great resource for planning your Leavers week. It has info on staying safe, what to do in an emergency, providing advice to your parents and most importantly: How to have an AWESOME leavers!

Leavers WA

Somazone was built specifically to answer YOUR questions. Our favourite feature is the online anonymous Q&A service, that allows you to ask questions about any issue and have a team of health professionals answer it for free.

Alcohol Think Again

The Alcohol Think Again Campaign aims to decrease alcohol-related harm by reducing short-term and long-term harmful drinking.