Although your role may not include providing clinical treatment, or diagnoses, nevertheless, a basic knowledge of commonly used drugs is necessary for any parent, loved one, or friend. Knowledge of the effects of various drugs and the signs of intoxication or withdrawal will help in understanding the immediate needs and behaviours of those affected by mind altering substances.
Psychoactive Drugs & Classification
The term “psychoactive drug” is used to describe a chemical substance, natural or synthetic, that alters mood, perception or consciousness as a result of changes in the way the central nervous system functions.
• Psychoactive drugs may be classified according to their effect on the central nervous system, or chemical structure.
• Psychoactive drugs may be classified as depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens or psychiatric medications.
Drug Fact Inserts
To download fact sheets with information on the side effects of alcohol, cannabis, speed, ecstacy, cocaine, heroin, and hallucinogens click on the link below each classification.
Slow down the central nervous system. eg, alcohol, heroin, cannabis (low doses), heroin, and other opiates.
• Depressant drugs affect concentration and co-ordination, and slow the person's response time.
• In small quantities, depressants such as alcohol can cause people to become relaxed and lower their inhibitions.
• In larger quantities, depressants can cause unconsciousness and even death.
Depressant Fact Sheet
Increase the activity of the central nervous system. eg, nicotine, amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine, Ecstasy (MDMA).
• Stimulants speed up the messages going to and from the brain to the body.
• Stimulants speed up the body's activity. Heart rate, breathing and blood pressure increase.
• Other effects including wide awake and alert, restless and excited, and having difficulty sleeping.
Stimulant Fact Sheet
Distort how things are perceived (hallucinations) eg LSD, “magic mushrooms”, mescaline, MDMA, cannabis (high doses).
• Hallucinogens affect all the senses, altering a person's thinking, sense of time and emotion.
• They can cause a person to hallucinate - seeing or hearing things that do not exist or are distorted.
• Hallucinogens can also make a person feel they are detached from their body, as though their mind "leaves" the body.
Where to go for support
Australian Drug Information Service (ADIS) - For more information on counselling services or about drugs call the alcohol & drug information service Info Line on 1800 250 015 (freecall) and ask for the ADIS in your State or Territory.
LIFE LINE - A national 24 hour phone counselling service, who are there to help you through any problem no matter how big or small, call 13 11 14 (local call) or go to www.lifeline.org.au
Illicit Drugs in Sport
Illicit Drug and Alcohol Prevention
ARU Drug & Alcohol Educational Resources
Illicit Drugs Policy (pdf - 195kb)