Tips & Info
Tips & Info

Drugs and Alcohol – The Facts

What are drugs?

A drug is any natural or synthetic substance that can be used to treat illness or to enhance or alter your physical and psychological states. Drug types include:

    • everyday substances such as coffee or prescription medication
    • legal recreational drugs such as cigarettes and alcohol
    • illegal drugs like speed or cocaine

Drugs and alcohol are familiar to most of us and are common place in Australian culture. Less than one quarter (23.8%) of teenagers had ever used an illicit drug, while 22% report drinking at risky levels in the last month. Most young people will be exposed to issues relating to alcohol and drug use at some stage and need to make decisions about these matters.

Common concerns about drugs and alcohol

Young people contact Kids Helpline about a range of concerns relating to alcohol and other drugs, including:

  • feeling that they need to use drugs to cope with difficult things that have happened in their lives
  • concern about drug use and looking for help to cut back or give up
  • concern about another’s drug use
  • considering trying drugs or have just started using drugs

How can counselling help?

Kids Helpline works with young people dealing with drug and alcohol concerns every day. Counsellors at Kids Helpline believe it is important for young people to be able to talk freely about these concerns without feeling judged. Counselling can be a way to help you:

  • clarify your concerns
  • explore the impact of alcohol or drug use in your life
  • understand your motivations
  • assist you to access information and resources to help you be informed
  • minimise risks
  • support you to reduce your drug and alcohol use and/or find healthy alternatives
You are not alone. Give us a call...James, Kids Helpline Counsellor
Considering change

Counsellors at Kids Helpline think it’s important to explore a caller’s situation and other circumstances that may affect their decision or concerns about drug and alcohol use.

At Kids Helpline counsellors like to get a good idea from callers of what all the risks and benefits are with respect to each different drug or substance they may be using. This helps get an understanding of what makes that particular person decide to use and how this may impact on them.

The following are the kinds of questions counsellors sometimes ask callers who are wanting to change their use of substances, you might like to start considering these questions.

What do you get out of alcohol and drug use?

People usually use alcohol and other drugs because they feel it benefits them in some way.

For example:

  • smoking might help a person relax and stop being bored even though it can be really hazardous to their health
  • drugs might help a person temporarily get away from emotional pain that they feel or help them feel confident or have fun

Identifying the ‘benefits’ of using any particular substance can help you understand more about yourself and your motivation.

What are the ‘not so good things’ about using?

We’ve talked about some of the positive effects of drug or alcohol use, however, it is also well known that alcohol and drug use has negative consequences. Statistics show that one in every four hospital admissions of 15 – 25 year olds happen because of alcohol. Also, one in every two young people aged 15 -17 have done something they regret when drunk. Furthermore, some drugs have serious health consequences and can be highly addictive.

Other consequences to consider include:

    • What is the impact of alcohol or drugs on friendships or other relationships?
    • How does it impact on school work or employment?
    • What are some of the physical side effects coming down off drugs or alcohol?
    • Have you ever done or said anything you regretted when using?
    • Could drug use get you into trouble legally?
    • Do you rely on drugs or alcohol help to get by in certain situations?

It helps to understand the effect substance use has on all areas of your life and to be realistic in weighing up the negative consequences against the benefits.

What do you want your future to look like?

When you think about what you want in life either in the short or long term, how does alcohol or drug use fit in? Does your use impact in any way on things you want to achieve? You might want to get a job, go to university or start a family. How does alcohol or drug use impact on these dreams and goals and is there anything you’d like to change?

There are always risks involved in taking drugs and alcohol. By now you may have considered what these are and their impact, as well as the reasons why you choose to use them. Understanding this is very helpful.

Minimising the risks of drug and alcohol use

If you decide that you are not going to change using for now, below are some things you can do to help minimise some of the risks associated with using:

      • inform and educate yourself about the physical effects and risks of any particular drug of substance
      • consider the context and environment in which you use that drug and take steps to make this as safe as possible
      • understand the factors that might trigger alcohol/drug use or too much drug use
      • take precautions to use a drug in a safe and limited way to avoid accidental overdose
      • avoid combining more than one substance on any one occasion
      • make yourself aware of the effects using alcohol or illicit drugs may have in combination with any prescribed medication you may be taking at the time
      • consider who is around to support you to help if anything goes wrong
      • seek health checks and access clean injecting equipment if you are using needles
Talking with us can help.Danielle, Kids Helpline Counsellor


Chikritzhs, T. and Pascal, R. (2004) Trends in Youth Alcohol Consumption and Related Harms in Australian Jurisdictions, 1990 - 2002. Bulletin No. 6. National Drug Research Institute.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2008. 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: first results. Drug Statistics Series number 20.Cat. no. PHE 98. Canberra: AIHW.

Last Reviewed March 2015

Share this post with your friends!