Drug is a broad label given to any substance that changes the way your brain works. Drugs can be broadly classified into three groups: depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens. Check out this page for more information.

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Drugs 101

There is no doubt that Alcohol and Other Drugs play some role in our lives, whether as a spectator or users and can range from energy drinks, Sambuca to illicit and prescription drugs.

Drugs are used for many different reasons, the list is long and can include socialising, to have a good time, feel part of the group, to escape worries.

They can be used in a multitude of settings from the footie club, nightclub, home and to the uni bar at lunch. Check out this full blog at http://www.tuneinnotout.com/blog/drugs-101

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Provided by Reach Out

We have partnered with Reach Out to bring you the best factsheet information we can on this topic. Reach Out offers information, support and resources to help young people improve their understanding of mental health issues, develop resilience, and increase their coping skills and help-seeking behaviour.

What are drugs?

A drug is a broad label given to any substance that changes the way your brain works. Drugs can be broadly classified into three groups: depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens.


Some drugs have a 'depressant' effect and slow down your reaction to things. Taken in small amounts they may make you feel more relaxed. Taken in large amounts they may cause you to pass out as they slow down your breathing and heart rate or may cause nausea, vomiting and even death. Mixing depressant drugs may be dangerous and increases the likelihood of overdose.

The effect of the depressant you are taking may also be influenced by the amount you take. Taken in large amounts cannabis may cause hallucinations.
Depressant drugs include:


Some drugs have a 'stimulant' effect which make you feel more awake and alert. They increase your heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. Stimulants may make you feel agitated, keep you awake, decrease your appetite and dilate your pupils. If you take a large amount of a stimulant drug you can become anxious, paranoid, aggressive and get stomach cramps.

People who also use amphetamines regularly may be putting themselves at risk of acute paranoid psychosis. Visit our Amphetamines section and the Reach Out's Understanding psychosis and getting help fact sheet for more info.
Stimulant drugs include:


psychedelic imageHallucinogens may change people's perceptions of reality. During this time, people may experience visual or auditory hallucinations.

It is impossible to predict whether your hallucinations are likely to be positive or unpleasant. It is not uncommon to experience anxiety, panic or paranoia during an hallucination. It is also difficult to predict the length and frequency of the hallucinations. You may still be having them for up to 24 hours or for periods after this time. Losing contact with reality and perception changes may cause people to have accidents and take risks they wouldn't normally take.

Some people may develop a drug-induced psychosis as a result of taking hallucinogenic drugs (see Reach Out's Understanding psychosis and getting help fact sheet for more info).
Hallucinogenic drugs include:

  • LSD (acid, trips)
  • magic mushrooms
  • mescaline
  • cannabis may have hallucinogenic effects as well as depressant effects.

The effects of drugs

Drugs have their own individual effects on people, which may result in different experiences and reactions for everyone. Your mood and the environment at the time of taking the substance may affect your reaction to it.

Depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens all have different effects (see information above). You may want to check out the Australian Drug Foundation's website for information about the effects of individual drugs.

Why do people take drugs?

Everyone has a different reason for trying alcohol and other drugs. Some of the reasons as to why people may be taking drugs are:

  • to socialise with friends
  • have fun
  • peer pressure, or the need to feel part of a group
  • relaxation
  • boredom
  • curiosity
  • to forget problems and escape from worries

Illegal drugs

Illegal drugs can be particularly unpredictable, as they are not manufactured in a controlled way. Any time you take an illegal drug you cannot know whether it is stronger or weaker or the same as the last time you tried it which means you may be taking more than intended.

Mixing drugs + alcohol

Mixing drugs can be dangerous. Stimulants can hide the effects of depressant drugs like alcohol. You may feel less drunk than you are which may mean you take more risks, and put yourself in danger.

More information

Phone numbers within Australia

  • NSW Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) - (02) 9361 8000 or 1800 422 599 in rural and regional NSW.
  • Directline (Victorian Based)- 1800 888 236
  • SA ADIS - (08) 8363 8618 or 1300 131 340
  • WA ADIS - (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024
  • QLD ADIS - (07) 3837 5989 or 1800 177 833
  • Tasmanian ADIS - (03) 9416 1818 or 1800 811 994
  • NT ADIS - 1800 629 683 or Alice Springs (08) 8951 7580 or Darwin (08) 8922 8399
  • NT Amity House - (08) 8944 6565 or 1800 684 372
  • ACT ADIS - (02) 6205 4545

Numbers for each state users association

NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA) - 02 9557 1476 or 1800 644 413

Vivaids - 03 9381 2211

Queensland Intravenous AIDS Association Inc. (QUIVAA) - (07) 3252 5390

Western Australian Substance Users Association (WASUA) - (08) 9227 7866

Thanks to the Ted Noffs Foundation for editing this fact sheet.

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