Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Education Centre

"Turning Lives Around"

Drug Information

Drug Information

What is a drug?

A drug is any substance (with the exception of food and water) which, when taken into the body, alters the body's function either physically and/or psychologically.

Drugs may be legal (e.g. alcohol, caffeine and tobacco) or illegal (e.g. cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin).

What is a psychoactive drug?

Psychoactive drugs affect the central nervous system and alter a person's mood, thinking and behaviour.

Psychoactive drugs may be divided into four categories:

  • Depressants: Drugs that decrease alertness by slowing down the activity of the central nervous system (e.g. heroin, alcohol and analgesics).
  • Stimulants: Drugs that increase the body's state of arousal by increasing the activity of the brain (e.g. caffeine, nicotine and amphetamines).
  • Hallucinogens: Drugs that alter perception and can cause hallucinations, such as seeing or hearing something that is not there (e.g. LSD and 'magic mushrooms'). Other: Some drugs fall into the 'other' category, as they may have properties of more than one of the above categories (e.g. cannabis has depressive, hallucinogenic and some stimulant properties).

Why do people use drugs?

People use drugs for a variety of reasons.

Young people often use drugs for the same reasons that adults do.

Some of these include:

  • to have fun
  • to relax and forget problems
  • to gain confidence
  • to socialise
  • out of curiosity
  • as a form of escapism
  • to lessen inhibitions
  • to remove personal responsibility for decisions
  • to celebrate or commiserate
  • to relieve boredom and stress
  • self-medication to cope with problems

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Friends, parents, older brothers and sisters and the media can also have some influence over a young person's decision to use drugs.


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LSD, Acid, Trips, Mushies, Tabs


Hallucinogens describe a class of drugs that produce hallucinations. A hallucination is an illusion of seeing or hearing something that is not actually there.

Es, XTC, Eccies, Pills, Bickies


Ecstasy is the name given to methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Ecstasy is a derivative of the amphetamine group and has both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. It is sometimes referred to as a psychedelic amphetamine.

Coke, Freebase, Crack, Charlie, C, Rock


Cocaine is a stimulant drug which affects the central nervous system by speeding up the activity of certain chemicals in the brain, producing a feeling of increased alertness and reduced fatigue.

Hammer, H, Smack, Horse, White, Beige


Heroin is a depressant It affects the body's central nervous system by slowing down the activity of certain chemicals in the brain This slows down the whole body, including breathing and heart rate.

Mull, Pot, Weed, Leaf, Gunga, Marijuana


Cannabis is difficult to classify pharmacologically because it has a variety of effects. It is primarily a depressant drug, however, it can have hallucinogenic and some stimulant properties.

Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. This chemical affects a person’s mood and perception. Marijuana, hashish and hashish oil come from the cannabis plant.

Amphetamine users may use other drugs such as minor tranquillisers, cannabis, alcohol or heroin to cope with some of the undesirable effects of amphetamines. These users may develop a rollercoaster dependence on several drugs. For example, some people may need amphetamines each day to get them going and minor tranquillisers each night to get them to sleep. This type of dependence can lead to a variety of very serious physical and psychological problems. Using more than one drug (poly-drug use) increases the harm associated with drug use.

Amphetamines are a group of drugs commonly known as Speed, Whizz, Ice, Uppers


  • Amphetamine Sulphate
  • Dexamphetamine
  • Methamphetamine - chrystal, meth, or rock.


  • Stimulant drugs that speed up certain chemicals in the brain.
  • Dexamphetamine is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

How Amphetamines are Used:

Amphetamines can be swallowed, injected, smoked or inhaled (snorted). The effects of amphetamines can last from four to eight hours.
Sometimes a person may experience a hangover effect that can last up to three days.

Health Effects of Using Amphetamines:

Medications should be used as prescribed by a doctor and only by the person for whom they are prescribed. It is safer not to use illegal drugs. For those who choose to use illegal drugs, the following should be remembered:

  • As using illegal drugs can have harmful and unpredictable effects, a person may find themselves in a dangerous situation. If noticeably affected, they should not be left alone.
  • If you suspect bad effects, call an ambulance immediately. Don't delay, you could save a life. The ambulance officers are there to help you. Be sure to describe what drug the person has taken. If the person is unconscious and you know first aid, place them in the recovery position and ensure the airway is clear. If they have stopped breathing, provide Expired Air Resuscitation (EAR). The police are not required to attend unless a death has occurred or the ambulance officers are threatened.

Drugs can affect an unborn child. It is safer not to use any drugs during pregnancy unless under medical supervision. Psychoactive drugs cross the placenta (the barrier between the mother's and the baby's blood) so a baby is exposed to the same chemicals as the mother. These chemicals can affect the growth and development of the baby and cause miscarriage, premature birth and birth defects.

Drug use can lead to social and emotional problems and affect relationships with family and friends. Drugs affect people in different ways. Some people may become depressed, angry, aggressive, sleepy, unmotivated, paranoid, anxious or talkative.

These reactions will affect how they relate to other people, such as friends, parents and siblings and may have negative effects on these relationships.

With regular use, tolerance to and dependence on drugs can develop. Withdrawal symptoms may also be experienced if the drug is reduced or stopped.

The experience that a person has when using alcohol or other drugs will be affected by the:

  • Individual: Mood, physical size, gender, personality, expectations of the drug, whether the person has food in his/her stomach and whether other drugs have been taken.
  • Drug: The amount used, how it is used and the strength and purity of the drug.
  • Environment: Whether the person is using it with friends, on his/her own, in a social setting or at home, at work, before or while driving.

Poly drug use occurs when two or more drugs are used at, or near, the same time. Mixing drugs can also occur when a manufacturer combines different drugs to achieve a specific effect or to save money by mixing in cheaper chemicals. This can result in a person combining drugs unintentionally.

Watershed acknowledges the traditional custodians of country and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future.

Watershed holds accreditation with the Australian Council on Health Care Standards (ACHS).

Formerly: Wollongong Crisis Centre

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