Frequently asked questions
- What does 'drug use' mean?
- The spectrum of drug use ranges from 'no use' to dependent use of one or more drugs. A person can move along the spectrum or 'rest' at any point or move backwards. One stage does not necessarily lead to the next - the 'one hit and you're hooked' belief is a myth.
- Experimental use - A person 'tries out' a particular drug. Experimental use refers to 'once off' or very short-term drug use.
- Recreational use - A person uses one or more drugs in a deliberate or controlled way. Sometimes called social drug use, recreational use can occur very occasionally or every weekend or several times a week.
- Situational use - A person uses drugs to cope with the demands of particular situations.
- Intensive use - A person consumes a heavy amount of drugs over a short period of time, or use is continuous over a number of days or weeks.
- Dependent use - With dependent use the person has little or no control over their drug use. They feel compelled to use in order to feel normal or to cope. Often called addiction, dependency is the result of prolonged, regular use of increasing amounts of the drug.
- Do drugs have the same effect on different people?
- The effects of any drug vary from person to person. This is due to a number of reasons which relate to the type of drug being used, the person who is taking the drugs (sex, age, weight, state of mind), how much and how the drug is taken, whether the person is used to taking it and whether other drugs are taken. The effect that drugs may have on a person will also depend on the environment in which the drug is used - such as whether the person is alone, with others or at a party.
- What is the impact of drug use on pregnant women?
- It is recommended that women who are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy avoid all drugs, including alcohol, tobacco and especially illicit drugs. There is no known safe level of drug use during pregnancy, however drug use during pregnancy may cause miscarriage, foetal distress, low birth weight, premature labour and numerous other complications.
If a pregnant woman is using drugs, including prescription medications, it is important that she discusses this with her health professional.
- What is a 'harm minimisation' approach to drug use?
- Harm reduction or 'harm minimisation' strategies aim to reduce the harm associated with drug use. The emphasis is on reducing harm or preventing problems. It does not necessarily mean stopping drug use. Stopping use is one way to reduce harm, however some people in our community are not ready or able to cease their drug use. The harm minimisation approach ensures that the harms to both drug users and the general community are minimised.
- What are the laws relating to drug use?
- In Australia, there are laws governing the manufacture, possession, distribution and use of drugs, both legal and illegal. There are four main types of offences relating to illegal drug use in Australia such as:
- Use - smoking, inhaling fumes, injecting, ingesting.
- Possession - the most common offence and means having control or custody of a drug.
- Cultivation - is the act of sowing, planting, growing, tending, nurturing or harvesting a narcotic plant - any of these constitute the offence of cultivation.
- Trafficking - is a very serious offence and includes preparation of a drug of dependence for trafficking, manufacturing a drug of dependence, or selling, exchanging, agreeing to sell, or offering for sale, or having in possession for sale, a drug of dependence.
- What is drug prevention?
- There are various levels of prevention from community drug education, to drug specific information for at risk groups, to peer education, all of which aim to minimise drug use and associated harm.
- Dependence - There is general community concern that young people who use drugs will become dependent. Most young people who experiment with drugs do not go on to engage in regular or dependent drug use. First use of a drug does not lead to immediate dependence. However, regular use of a drug can lead to dependence.
Dependence can be psychological, physical or both. Psychological dependence is usually much stronger and more difficult to overcome than physical dependence. Physical dependence occurs when a person's body adapts to a drug. The body gets used to the drug and needs it to function 'normally'.
- Withdrawal and Detoxification - The terms detoxification and withdrawal are often used interchangeably. Detoxification ('detox') is part of physical withdrawal. It literally means 'un-poisoning' and refers to the process of eliminating the drug from the body. Withdrawal symptoms are the effects felt when regular drug use stops. The range of symptoms a person experiences is called a withdrawal syndrome.
Physical withdrawal or detoxification from most drugs takes from four to ten days. Many people find psychological withdrawal much harder to cope with than physical withdrawal. Going through physical withdrawal is often just the beginning of the process. Psychological and emotional issues will often surface and need to be addressed.