Drug Addiction

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:

  • alcohol
  • opiates and opioids, including drugs like heroin, opium, morphine, codeine and methadone
  • cannabis (marijuana, hashish, hash oil)
  • sedatives and hypnotics (including valium and rohypnol) 
  • barbiturates
  • some solvents and inhalants, like petrol, glue, lighter fluids and paint thinners.
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.

Stimulant drugs include:

  • tobacco
  • caffeine
  • amphetamines (eg speed or methamphetamine) 
  • ephedrine (Sudafed)
  • cocaine
  • ecstasy (MDMA).
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.

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.

Illicit Drugs In Australia  Use, harm and policy responses. This is a commissioned report, review of the current state on illicit drugs in Australia, and was published by the NHMRC in 1998.

 Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) is the peak, national, non-government organisation representing the interests of the Australian alcohol and other drugs sector, providing a national voice for people working to reduce the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs. ADCA works collaboratively with the government, non-government, business and community sectors to promote evidence-based, socially just, approaches aimed at preventing or reducing the health, economic and social harm caused by alcohol and other drugs to individuals, families, communities and the nation.

National Drugs Campaign The National Drug Strategy 2004-2009 is the overarching policy framework across Australia for addressing licit and illicit drug issues nationally. Underneath the Strategy initiatives that address the risks of alcohol misuse and tobacco have been developed.

This is where you can find out the facts about illicit drugs. We've also included a list of information and support services if you want to find out about illegal drugs or if you or friends are looking for help and support.

Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) is the principal advisory body to Government on drug policy and plays a critical role in ensuring the voice of the community is heard in relation to drug related policies and strategies.


More information on drugs.

Drug Markets and Chronic Users

Drugs The Straight Facts, Antidepressants

Drugs The Straight Facts, Designer Drugs

Drugs The Straight Facts, Ecstasy

Drugs The Straight Facts, Morphine

Drugs The Straight Facts, Peyote and Mescaline

Drugs The Straight Facts, Sleep Aids