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Body Content 1
19/08/2019 2:21 PMnswdoh\60181432

What's the secret to staying younger for longer? If you don't rethink your alcohol consumption then the benefits of healthy habits, such as eating healthier foods, exercising and keeping the brain stimulated, could be lost.

When we think of harmful drinking, rarely do we think about people above the age of 50. However recent figures from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) show that while young people are more likely to abstain from alcohol than any other time since 2001, people aged 50 years and over are engaging in increasingly risky drinking.

High risk drinking among older Australians is on the rise

The NDSHS refers to very high risk alcohol consumption as drinking 11 or more standard drinks on one occasion at least monthly, with this high risk behaviour on the rise in people aged 50-59 nationally. In NSW, the latest Population Health Survey found that older people in the state are now more likely to drink every day than younger people, increasing their lifetime risk of harm.

According to figures from the NSW Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence, alcohol was responsible for the deaths (disease or injury) of 1,530 people aged 50 and over, compared with 262 for those under 50, in the year between 2015 and 2016.

Why the increase?

Some studies suggest that while people drink for a variety of reasons, there is a link between increased alcohol use and life changes, like entering retirement. As people go through changes to their daily routine and social activity, or they experience events such as the death of a loved one, social isolation, sleep disturbances or mental health problems, they may find themselves relying on alcohol or other drugs to cope.

Although we can't pinpoint exactly why, reports by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, the National Drug Research Institute and NCETA, show risky drinking among older Australians has been on the rise significantly since 2004 and could be related to those big life changes.

The time to act is now

The World Health Organization has said that harmful drinking is a contributor to dementia and early cognitive decline, which includes issues with memory, thinking, judgement and speech. Older people also often have complex health issues or take medications which means that any level of alcohol consumption can pose a range of other serious health risks.

The Australian Medical Association, suggest that general practitioners (GPs) treat alcohol addiction as they would a serious illness and encourage GPs and Doctors to talk with their older patients about their alcohol use so they can incorporate preventive care.

If you're not sure if your drinking is a problem have a chat with your GP or use our online confidential Alcohol Risk Assessment Tool to identify if you're at risk.

Getting active

It's not all doom and gloom - engaging in regular social activity, exercise, eating healthy, mental stimulation and limiting alcohol intake, reduces the risk of falls, injuries and chronic disease.

Where isolation and access to healthy activity may be a barrier, there are some great websites and services that can help people find programs in their area. The NSW Active and Healthy website assists older people and health professionals to find physical activities and fall prevention programs across NSW - there are over 1,000 programs listed.

Getting help to reduce alcohol

The Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol say that, "For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury".

The guidelines also state that older people need to take special care, specifically because alcohol negatively impacts those who are on medications and have physical health problems.

It is important to note that drink serving sizes are often more than one standard drink – National Health and Medical Research Council

Check out our interactive Standard Drink Calculator for measurements.

Get Healthy is a free phone-based service providing personal health coaching to people who need support to reduce alcohol consumption. The program offers up to 10 coaching calls to support people to achieve a healthy weight, eat healthier, increase levels of activity and reduce alcohol consumption by making small simple changes.

The NSW Get Healthy Service is available Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm. To enrol call 1300 806 258 or register online at

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

19/08/2019Staying younger is harder on the drink
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Caring for a newborn baby can be a challenge, especially when mothers have multiple opinions and advice coming at them with often conflicting messages. One thing we know for certain is that smoking, drinking alcohol and using other drugs while pregnant or breastfeeding can harm mothers and their babies.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the chances of a child developing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a type of acquired brain injury that can cause life-long complications for learning, growth, behaviour, memory, language, communication and everyday living.

There's really no such thing as a safe amount of alcohol for anyone. The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol, which were developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, recommend that no alcohol when planning a pregnancy, while pregnant and breastfeeding is the safest option.

No alcohol when breastfeeding is the safest option

A baby's growth and development depends on the food they get. Although there is lower risk in drinking alcohol during breastfeeding, alcohol is concentrated in breastmilk so can cause serious harm to the baby as well as affect the mother's ability to produce milk. Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding requires careful planning, monitoring and specific actions so as to avoid these dangers. The FASD Hub provides information and advice on how to safely breastfeed at

The power of breastmilk

Breastmilk is the quintessential human superfood, it not only feeds but provides protection against disease and infections like sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), 'glue ear' or ear infections, respiratory infections, diarrhea, eczema and allergies.

Breastmilk is also the ultimate transformer, adapting itself to the needs of the baby each time the baby feeds. The first milk, known as colostrum contains high concentrations of antibodies, is nutrient dense and adds beneficial bacteria to their digestive tract.

Throughout breastfeeding the baby's saliva sends messages back to the mother, changing the nutrient makeup of the milk to make the baby's immune system stronger.

Beyond pumping and dumping

Expressing breast milk and throwing it away to help remove alcohol, otherwise known as 'pumping and dumping', does not reduce the amount of alcohol in breastmilk. As it is with blood, only time can bring down the levels of alcohol in breastmilk.

"No amount of pumping and dumping will clear the alcohol from the breastmilk, it's really time and metabolism." – Dr Roslyn Giglia, Alcohol, pregnancy & FASD researcher

According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, a number of factors affect how much alcohol can get into your breastmilk, including:

  • the strength of alcohol in your drink
  • how much you are drinking
  • what and how much you've eaten
  • how much you weigh

The Get Healthy Service

If you're struggling to cut down your alcohol consumption, help is available – and it's free! Get Healthy is a telephone-based coaching service that provides NSW residents over 18 with a free personal health coach to guide and support them on their journey to drink less alcohol, get active and eat well.

The service has a Healthy in Pregnancy module which helps pregnant women be active and healthy during their pregnancy. You can speak to a Get Healthy in Pregnancy Service coach by calling 1300 806 258 or sign up online.

For health information and content about pregnancy, having a young baby and how alcohol during pregnancy can affect a baby's development check out the Stay Strong and Healthy Facebook page.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

1/08/2019Busting the myths on alcohol and breastfeeding
31/07/2019 12:51 PMnswdoh\60181432

The seventh report from the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program has been released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC). The report shows data collected in December 2018 from 50 wastewater treatment plants in Australia, covering 54 per cent of the population or 12.6 million people, and monitors 13 substances.

Tobacco and alcohol remain the highest consumed drugs

Australia vs international estimates

As well as reporting on over half the population, the report compares Australia's estimated drug use with international drug use data.

The Australian wastewater data was compared with similarly available data from 25 countries and shows that Australians are the second highest users for the stimulants methylamphetamine (methamphetamine or ice) after the United States, second highest users of MDMA after the Netherlands and seventeenth in cocaine use.

Methylamphetamine [remains] the highest consumed illicit drug

Snapshot of Australian drug use

Compared with the collection in August 2018 which covered around 56 per cent of the population, the December report shows there was a decrease of approximately 2 per cent coverage, however the trends in the report are fairly consistent with the August findings.

As with previous results from August, this seventh report showed that NSW had "the highest average capital city and regional consumption of cocaine in the country".

Once again regional use of drugs such as tobacco, methylamphetamine, MDMA, oxycodone, fentanyl and cannabis is estimated to be higher than in the cities. Cocaine and heroin use is reported as higher in the city than regional areas.

The ACIC led report has noted an estimated increase in "the population-weighted average consumption of MDMA" in both regional and city areas and an increase in "the population-weighted average consumption of heroin in capital city sites". While the rate of use for these drugs is lower than other illicit drugs, the data appears to show those who use are using more, which if accurate signals a change that warrants some careful examination in upcoming reports.

Changes in NSW drug use

Comparing the results from the August report with the December 2018 report, the ACIC found the following changes in NSW:

  • Levels of alcohol, cocaine, oxycodone (pharmaceutical opioid) and fentanyl decreased in the city but increased in regional areas
  • Levels of MDMA increased in the city but decreased in regional areas
  • Levels of methamphetamine or Ice and heroin increased in both the city and regional areas
  • Levels of cannabis or marijuana decreased in both the city and regional areas
  • Levels of tobacco increased in the city and remained relatively stable in regional areas

This year the Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program received an additional $4.8 million to continue its work over the next four years, delivering three reports per year.

The full report is available at

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, across NSW call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

31/07/2019Wastewater report provides an insight into Australia’s appetite for drugs
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More than 22,000 people across NSW have been cured of hepatitis C (hep C) using take home treatments since 2016. We’re getting closer to NSW Health’s goal of eliminating hep C within the next 10 years.

“Thanks to groundbreaking medications, the elimination of hepatitis C is now an achievable goal.” - Dr Kerry Chant, NSW Health Chief Health Officer

Hep C is a blood borne virus that causes liver infection; it is slow acting and can cause severe scarring and damage to the liver that creates long-term health problems. You could have hep C for several years without knowing it because symptoms can take years to appear. You also can’t tell that someone has it just by looking at them.

The virus is passed on through blood-to-blood contact and can be transmitted through tiny non-visible amounts. The most common way of passing on hep C is by sharing injecting equipment, which means those injecting recreational or performance-enhancing drugs are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Preventing infection

If you’re sharing or coming into contact with any of the following injecting equipment you are at greater risk of acquiring the virus.

  • Needles and syringes
  • Swabs
  • Spoons
  • Tourniquets
  • Water
  • Filters

Hep C can survive outside the body from around 12 hours to a few weeks, usually no more than four days, so if you’re injecting drugs use sterile equipment every time.

Sterile injecting equipment is available through Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs) across NSW. Use the following map to find an NSP Outlet near you.

NSW NSP Outlets.png

“I might have had it for up to 20 years – I was shocked to be diagnosed because I had no idea at all.” - Jase Bell, Hepatitis NSW community speaker

Signs and symptoms

Liver cells get damaged when the hep C virus reproduces itself. According to the not-for-profit community organisation Hepatitis NSW, hep C doesn’t always make people feel sick however when they do, they might experience the following symptoms:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint aches
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes)

Hep C can now be treated quickly, effectively and with less side effects than old interferon treatments. The cure is available to everyone, the first step is getting tested.

Get the test

You should speak to your doctor about getting a hep C test if you have ever injected recreational or performance-enhancing drugs. Visit your GP or the DBS website to get tested.

The Dried Blood Spot (DBS) is a new, free, easy and private way to test for hepatitis C. Just take a few drops from your finger, mail the test back and get your results by phone, text or email. You don’t need to go to a clinic or see a doctor to do this test. Visit for more information.

Get the cure

This week is Hepatitis Awareness Week, concluding with World Hepatitis Day on Sunday 28 July.

New oral pill treatments available now are proving to be more effective than ever, with a reported cure rate of 95 per cent and less side effects than old interferon-based treatments. They can be prescribed by any GP and can cure the virus within eight to 12 weeks.

“Fortunately, I was able to be treated and cured within a few short months. I would absolutely recommend the treatment to anyone living with hep C. Just do it.” - Jase Bell, Hepatitis NSW community speaker

Hepatitis NSW CEO, Stuart Loveday, said the new oral treatment is “revolutionary compared to the previous combination pill and injection treatments which took longer, had more side-effects and lower cure rates.”

There is an estimated 58,000 people living with hep C in NSW. This week NSW Health and Hepatitis NSW are encouraging those people to seek treatment and cure.

For further information on Hep C prevention, how to get tested and access treatment visit or call the Hepatitis Infoline for confidential information, support and referrals in NSW on 1800 803 990.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

24/07/2019Help us eliminate Hep C
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While most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people do not experience substance dependence, some LGBTQ people can experience significant harms related to alcohol or drug use. When it comes to seeking support for issues associated with alcohol and drug use, partners, friends and family members play a key role in helping LGBTQ individuals.

In partnership with NSW Health, ACON —Australia's leading community-based organisation specialising in HIV and LGBTQ health— has recently redeveloped 'Partners, Friends and Family: A resource to support LGBTQ people affected by drug or alcohol use' (PDF). This important communication tool has been written by and for LGBTQ people and provides information, practical tips and advice for supporting or caring for someone affected by alcohol and other drugs.

Peer networks and chosen families are an incredibly important support system for LGBTQ people, as some people may not have strong relationships with their biological families. In recognising this, ACON has redeveloped their Partners, Friends and Family resource, with additional information published on ACON's Pivot Point website.

"LGBTQ communities have always demonstrated an impressive capacity to care for each other" - ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill

Partners, Friends and Family aims to upskill LGBTQ friendship and peer networks to provide appropriate care for their loved ones experiencing alcohol and drug related issues. The resource provides practical information on how to be an effective support person and important advice on how to exercise self-care.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill says, "LGBTQ communities face a range of specific challenges in relation to substance use and identifying when use becomes problematic.

"LGBTQ communities have always demonstrated an impressive capacity to care for each other. The Partner's Friends and Family resource recognises and encourages this culture of care among LGBTQ people.

"We acknowledge the support of the NSW Ministry of Health in the development of the resource."

In addition to this resource, ACON has developed the LGBTIQ Inclusive Guidelines for (AOD) Treatment Providers (PDF) for health professionals in an alcohol and other drug treatment setting.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

18/07/2019Helping LGBTQ family and friends affected by alcohol and drugs
5/07/2019 3:41 PMROGERS, Peter

NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week, 7 – 14 July, celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is celebrated by Australians from all walks of life.

This year's theme 'Voice. Treaty. Truth.' reflect the three key elements set out in The Uluru Statement, which calls for constitutional change and structural reform including the establishment of a 'First Nations Voice' in the Australian Constitution.

Underpinning the movement is a call for all Australians to come together in support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and towards a better future. Support for the oldest living culture in the world (65,000 plus years old) includes acknowledging and helping to protect language as well as practices, skills and innovations across a range of contexts such as agriculture, science, technology, ecology and medicine.

"With 2019 being celebrated as the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, it's time for our knowledge to be heard through our voice." – NAIDOC, 2019

This year NAIDOC urges us, "Let's work together for a shared future."

NSW Health information for Aboriginal people

In partnership with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council, in 2011 the NSW Government committed to a 10 year Aboriginal Health Plan to achieve health equity for Aboriginal people across NSW by working with Aboriginal people and other government agencies.

To support this commitment NSW Health and St Vincent's Alcohol and Drug Information Service have designed a series of dedicated resources that help Aboriginal people make informed choices about how to reduce the harms caused by alcohol and other drugs. You can access these resources on Your Room at

The Ministry of Health have also developed helpful resources for Aboriginal people that aim to support individuals, families and communities with making heathy lifestyle changes. The Make Healthy Normal website contains videos, recipes and information on free NSW programs like the NSW Knockout Health Challenge and the Get Healthy Information and Coaching Service®.

NAIDOC Week events

The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Here are a couple of events to look out for:

  • 'NAIDOC in the City' is a lunchtime feast held at Hyde Park on Saturday 13 July 11am - 3pm. Check out for details on the ceremonies, performances and activities available on the day.
  • 'NAIDOC at NCIE 2019' is held at the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) in Redfern on Friday 12 July 2019 from 10am-4pm. Head along to see performances, a screening of the 'Treaty Series' documentaries, touch games, 3on3 basketball, story reading in language, a free feed and heaps more!

Wherever you live, you can take part in NAIDOC Week celebrations. To find out about NAIDOC Week activities in your area, visit

NAIDOC Week events for health professionals

  • Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) 'NAIDOC Week Public Seminar' on the 10 July, the HMRI is presenting a public seminar focusing on engagement and empowerment in Indigenous health and medical research. Researchers from HMRI, Dr Michelle Bovill, a Wiradjuri woman from Mudgee and Dr John Towney, a Wiradjuri man from Wellington, will discuss the work being done with communities to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
    When: Wednesday 10 July, 6 – 7pm
    Where: Caves Theatre, Level 4, HMRI Building, Lot 1 Kookaburra Circuit, New Lambton Heights NSW 2305
    Register at
  • 'Good Health - Great Jobs' 2019 Stepping Up Forum. On the 11 and 12 July, join the NSW Health Good Health - Great Jobs 2019 Stepping Up Forum at the International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney. Hosted by Aboriginal Workforce Unit (AWU) and the Workforce Planning & Talent Development Branch in the Ministry of Health, the forum's theme is 'Listen, Learn and Lead' and builds on Key Priority One: Lead and Plan Aboriginal Workforce Development in the Good Health - Great Jobs Aboriginal Workforce Strategic Framework 2016 - 2020.
    When: Thursday 11 July and Friday 12 July, 8am to 4pm
    Where: ICC Sydney Theatre, 14 Darling Drive, Darling Harbour
    Details at

Discover more events happening around NSW in NAIDOC Week at

5/07/2019NAIDOC Week 2019
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​Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Owing to the great deal of variation in the sensitivity of each person, and its potency, fentanyl is a real danger to human health if not used as prescribed or appropriately.

A lethal dose of fentanyl looks and weighs the same as just a few grains of sand

Deaths from fentanyl overdose have been on the rise worldwide. The UK reported a 29 per cent increase in fentanyl-related deaths from 2016 to 2017 and in the same period the US reported an alarming 45.2 per cent increase. In Australia synthetic opioid related deaths (e.g. tramadol and fentanyl) are also on the rise, from 2007 to 2016 there has been a 1,082 per cent increase. In 2016 there were 214 deaths or 1.3 deaths per 100,000 people, an increase from 0.11 per 100,000 in 2007.

Given its potency it's no surprise that the majority of fentanyl-related deaths worldwide are reportedly accidental. Fentanyl has been associated with the untimely deaths of musical legends Prince and Tom Petty, both of whom were prescribed the drug for severe and chronic pain.

The therapeutic indication for fentanyl is severe pain, in particular from cancer in the terminal (palliative) phase. Misuse, unsafe increases in dosage and combining with other medicines that cause sedation, such as sleeping tablets, increase the risk of harm and death from fentanyl. 

How prescription fentanyl overdose occurs

In Australia fentanyl can be prescribed in the form of transdermal patches, lozenges or intravenous injection. Because the difference between a therapeutic dose and a fatal dose is so small, people who self-administer prescribed fentanyl products are at a greater risk of overdose and therefore should use with extreme caution.

Overdose can occur through easy mistakes such as lapses in keeping track of how much and how often it is being taken. Fatal overdose can happen when a patient applies an additional patch without removing the last, applies heat to the patch, or takes too many lozenges too close together. There is also the danger of the products getting into the hands of people without a prescription, for instance access by others in the home including family, friends, or children.

As far back as 2006 the NSW Therapeutic Advisory Group (TAG) alerted health services to a number of safety warnings following reports of deaths and adverse reactions in patients overseas using fentanyl skin patches. An elderly patient died following application of a heat pack over a patch, a child died after applying one of his mother's patches on himself and several children escaping near death applying patches to themselves.

Synthetic opioid overdose in Australia

76 per cent of the Australians who died of an opioid overdose in 2016 did so using pharmaceutical opioids, according to a report released by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW. The NDARC report also shows that the rate of opioid-related deaths has almost doubled over the last ten years. Tragically, 85 per cent of all opioid-induced deaths were considered accidental.

Synthetic opioid deaths in Australia

(Synthetic opioid analgesics include fentanyl, tramadol and pethidine)

Overdose in the illicit drug market

Owing to its potency, illegal drug producers can distribute large quantities of fentanyl which they then mix into other drugs with little to no precision. Meaning, users injecting heroin or inhaling other drugs laced with fentanyl won't know they're taking a lethal dose until it's too late.

Last year celebrity singer Demi Lovato opened up about her alleged near death from consuming a drug laced with fentanyl. This highly publicized event demonstrates the risk to recreational drug users of any economic or social status, and how it's almost impossible to know what's in a drug manufactured illegally.

Although an overdose can occur by any route of administration (dermal, oral, smoked, snorted or injected), it is particularly likely with intravenous use (syringe). Fentanyl can also be particularly dangerous if used with alcohol, sleeping tablets, antidepressants or antianxiety medication (e.g. benzodiazepines) or if already intoxicated with another drug.

Signs of fentanyl overdose

There is a very real risk of overdose from fentanyl when used other than by your doctor's instructions, this is due to its potency and very fast action once inside the body. It is never safe to inject the contents of a fentanyl patch, but if you do so, make sure a friend is always with you.

Signs of overdose may include:

  • Rapid onset of difficult, shallow or slow breathing – fentanyl often makes people stop breathing
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Cold and clammy skin and low body temperature
  • Bluish skin and nails, because of low oxygen
  • Coma and death

What to do in an emergency

Always phone 000 (triple zero) for an ambulance and tell the operator that the person has overdosed.


  • Try not to panic
  • Stay with the person
  • If they are unconscious, put them on their side in the recovery position
  • Check their breathing, clear their airway
  • Do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if they have stopped breathing
  • If available and you have been instructed in how to use it, administer naloxone (Narcan®, Pronexenad®). Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.


  • Inject the person with any other illicit drug (Ambulance paramedics or medical staff may use naloxone)
  • Put them under the shower
  • Put anything in their mouth as it can cause them to choke and stop breathing. Even if someone fits (has a seizure or convulsion), the best thing to do is move things away from them, so they don't hurt themselves.

If the overdose is patch-related, remove all patches from the skin immediately and carefully dispose of it.

There is a risk that opioid patches may be misused by others after their removal, so these need to be disposed of carefully. The used patch should be folded so that the adhesive sides stick to each other, wrapped (in paper for example) and disposed of in the garbage or a sharps medical-waste disposal container - out of reach of children.

For further information on where to get treatment and support for alcohol and other drug use, visit the Support & Treatment page.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

4/07/2019Fentanyl: an emerging public health concern
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NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently announced plans to conduct another review of Sydney's lockout laws. Introduced in 2014 to minimise the harm from alcohol in Sydney's night-life scene, the lockout laws came into effect in the wake of increased alcohol-related violence and injury overwhelming the inner city hospital system, and the one punch deaths of teenagers Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie.

Since the introduction of the laws, Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital has seen a decrease in alcohol-related presentations and admissions. Similarly, research conducted by the NSW Department of Justice found that there's been a 49 per cent reduction in alcohol-related assault in the Kings Cross Precinct and a 13 per cent decrease in the CBD. St Vincent's Clinical Director, Dr Nadine Ezard discusses the case for continuing the lockout laws, while addressing the need to keep Sydney's night-life vibrant.

The following is an edited version of an opinion piece by Dr Nadine Ezard, Clinical Director, Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent's Health, first published in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Five years ago, the impact of alcohol-related violence and injuries on the hospital, in terms of presentations and admissions, was nothing short of severe. From our perspective, the lockout measures have been a success.

The number of alcohol-related injuries at St Vincent's have plummeted, including a reduction of serious facial fractures of more than 60 per cent. There have also been no alcohol-related deaths at the hospital since the measures were introduced.

But in continuing to support the measures, St Vincent's isn't unwilling to consider, and be a part of, a debate about efforts to inject further vibrancy into Sydney's night life. We're happy to examine other cities around the world, such as Amsterdam, and discuss what experiences they've had that might translate to Sydney.

Having just returned from the International Conference on Nightlife, Substance Use and Other Related Health Issues in that city, I saw plenty of non-alcohol-related initiatives that have successfully invigorated night life around the world.

Our view is that increased vibrancy shouldn't simply equal turning the beer taps on for longer.

Furthermore, when looking for inspiration overseas, we shouldn't forget that plenty of international cities – such as Los Angeles – have 2am closures for licensed venues. I'd hardly consider LA a retirement village.

It's also clear that the last-drinks measures have become a useful scapegoat for a range of challenges that have far more to do with a music and cultural scene in flux and the changing way in which Sydneysiders seek entertainment.

While clearly there are opportunities to improve the vibrancy of Sydney's nightlife, reports of its death are greatly exaggerated. Employment and revenue in the Sydney night-time economy have not decreased since 2011.

St Vincent's welcomes a discussion about the potential benefits of establishing a night mayor of Sydney; we equally welcome initiatives that further distribute opportunities for entertainment outside the CBD and Kings Cross, which is still the most concentrated night-time economy in Australia.

The longer you serve alcohol and more easily accessible it is, the more alcohol-related harms we will see

But in engaging in those debates, we won't be forgetting that alcohol remains one of our greatest health burdens. NSW alone sees 137 alcohol-related hospitalisations a day. And many of our state's worst venues for alcohol-related violence are in regional centres, such as Coffs Harbour, and in suburbs far away from the CBD, such as Penrith. What's to be done about them?

We also won't hesitate to remind members of the parliamentary committee, or those critics of the lockout laws, of the evidence: the longer you serve alcohol and more easily accessible it is, the more alcohol-related harms we will see, be they assaults, falls, or domestic violence.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

4/07/2019Lock out laws – a view from the coalface
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The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) have released their 'Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015' which shows that more than half of all Australians are living with a chronic illness and that  38 per cent of those are preventable.

At the recent Public Health Prevention Conference 2019 in Melbourne, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt highlighted the report as a challenge to be solved through innovative preventative health solutions and announced the government's plan to develop a new "long term" National Preventive Health Strategy.

Leading cause of disease

The AIHW report gives us a snapshot of who is at the greatest risk of disease and injury in Australia.  The data shows us that young and middle aged men, older women and people experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage are experiencing the greatest risk factors for preventive health issues.

“Alcohol use contributed to the burden of 30 diseases and injuries including alcohol use disorders, 8 types of cancer, chronic liver disease and 12 types of injury— predominantly road traffic injuries and suicide & self-inflicted injuries”
- Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015, AIHW

Key findings

  • Tobacco is the leading risk factor for disease across all age groups, including infants and young children exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • Tobacco use is linked to 39 individual diseases including: 19 types of cancer, 7 cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.
  • Alcohol is the 6th leading cause of disease across all ages.
  • Men in their mid-twenties to 40s are more at risk from alcohol than any other risk factor including smoking, poor physical exercise, and poor diet.
  • Men are more likely to be dependent on alcohol and have alcohol-related self-inflicted injuries and suicide.
  • Women aged 65 and above are at the greatest at risk of alcohol-related diseases like coronary heart disease, breast cancer, liver cancer and chronic liver disease.
  • Illicit drug related disease and injury has increased by 18 per cent since 2003.
  • Men are experiencing the most illicit drug-related disease, in fact they are experiencing more than twice the amount of drug-related disease than women.
  • People from the most disadvantaged socioeconomic communities are experiencing 2.3 times more drug-related disease than people from the least disadvantaged communities.

Action on prevention

The results from the 'Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015' demonstrate the need for effective prevention and widespread health promotion programs, particularly when it comes to preventable alcohol and other drug related disease, injury and death.

At the Public Health Prevention Conference 2019, Minister Hunt said "Preventive health is one of the four pillars of our long term national health strategy." He continued, "Whether its drugs and alcohol, whether it's the work in relation to diet, whether it's other elements, we are developing with you a long term national preventive health strategy."

Minister Hunt committed to inviting representatives from the health sector to a roundtable: "I'll be looking forwards to a roundtable with you at some stage in the near term, to have your views, your advice, your comments, frank and fearless as always." He explained, "The work you do is appreciated and my task is to now take that forward with a national strategy."

In an official statement CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, Terry Slevin said, "Any national strategy must focus on those with the greatest need and those at greatest disadvantage because we know that poverty and minority vulnerabilities have a profound impact on health outcomes."

The announcement by Minister Hunt comes just days after he told the Australian Associated Press (AAP) that he expects to release a national alcohol strategy "within the next four months". A key focus of the strategy is expected to be on improving public education as a response to results from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) annual public poll. The poll showed that less than a 3rd of Australians surveyed were aware of the link between drinking alcohol and several cancers.

Stay tuned to Your Room for highlights from the National Preventive Health and Alcohol strategies as they are released by the commonwealth government.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

3/07/2019Burden of Disease in Australia and a call for ‘fearless’ prevention
5/07/2019 3:31 PMGREEN, Jessica

Dry July is here again and tens of thousands of Australians are ditching the booze this month to raise funds for those affected by cancer. Giving up alcohol for one month may sound easy but with social drinking so heavily engrained in our culture it can be quite a challenge for some.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), one in six people consume alcohol at levels that put them at lifetime risk of alcohol-related disease or injury. Unfortunately there is still little public awareness of alcohol-related harm, in fact the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) 2019 annual alcohol poll showed that just under half of all Australians are aware of the link between alcohol use and cancers like mouth, throat and breast cancers.

Whether you're giving up alcohol all together or cutting down, forgoing the booze or 'social lubricant' for an extended period can actually do you a lot of good, particularly when it comes to lowering your risk of disease. Plus you get to enjoy added health benefits! Here are a few reasons to go dry (or reduce) and keep you motivated while you give up the booze this month:

Long-term benefits

There are many health benefits from abstaining from alcohol or reducing the amount you drink in the long-term. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) suggest that even reducing your alcohol intake to two or less drinks per day significantly lowers your risk of alcohol-related injury or disease. Drinking less frequently, like drinking on one occasion per week rather than daily, and drinking less on each occasion, also reduces the lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm.

In the 'Australian Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol', the NHMRC report that the lifetime risk of death from alcohol-related disease more than triples when consumption increases from two to three standard drinks a day. So each day that you decide not to drink alcohol, you're potentially avoiding or preventing serious life-long health concerns.

Learn more about the relationship between alcohol and cancer in our article What is the link between alcohol and cancer?

Better sleep and improved wellbeing

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), drinking alcohol is associated with a risk of developing health problems such as mental and behavioural disorders. As a depressant, alcohol often amplifies mental health issues putting people in more of a negative frame of mind than they normally would be.

Professor Steve Allsop at the National Drug Research Institute, says in the short-term, taking a month off drinking can improve your sleep, "Whilst alcohol sends you to sleep fairly quickly, you tend not to get very good quality sleep when you're drinking … so you wake up not feeling as rested as you should."

After a few hours the sedative effects of alcohol wear off, meaning you're more likely to wake up prematurely. Alcohol can also make existing sleep problems, like sleep apnoea and snoring worse.

With a month's worth of good night's sleep under your belt and no hangover, you can look forward to more energy and better mental health.

Get healthy

Want to cut down on booze but need guidance and help? Take advantage of the free NSW telephone-based coaching service Get Healthy. The Get Healthy Alcohol Reduction program is designed to support you to make healthy lifestyle changes and reduce your alcohol consumption.

Health coaches assess your current drinking habits and provide support and motivation to help you reach your health goal. The program uses the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), an internationally validated screening tool to screen for alcohol risk.

The NSW Get Healthy Service is available Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm. To enrol call 1300 806 258 or register online at

Save money

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Australians spend $14.1 billion on alcohol every year. It is estimated that a single person under the age of 35 spends on average $22 per week on alcohol or $1,144 per year, and families spend on average $2,444 per year.

How much do you spend on alcohol each week? Swapping your average beer, wine, cocktail or cider for an alcohol-free option means you'll have more money in your pocket at the end of the month and just imagine how much you could save…


Help people affected by cancer

Every year, Dry July participants fundraise to improve the comfort and wellbeing of people affected by cancer. The foundation provides wellness programs, comfort items, transport services, accommodation projects, refurbishments, information resources, hospital furnishings and entertainment items for cancer patients.

Give your liver a rest! Go dry this July.

Want to know whether your drinking habits are putting you at risk? Find out by using our Alcohol Risk Assessment Tool.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. For help with reducing your alcohol consumption, contact the Get Healthy service on 1300 806 258 or online at

Note: For some people, suddenly stopping drinking can make them feel physically and emotional unwell. If you feel you cannot stop or experience sweatiness, nausea or shaking within days of not drinking – you may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms and should see your doctor.

2/07/2019Why you should give up the booze this Dry July
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This World No Tobacco Day 31 May, WHO asks smokers worldwide to ‘Choose Health. Not Tobacco’. 

Tobacco smoking is the lead cause of preventable death in Australia. The last National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) showed that tobacco smoking contributes to more hospitalisations and deaths than alcohol and illicit drug use combined. Although daily smoking nearly halved from the 1991 (24 per cent) to 2013 survey results (12.8 per cent), there’s been little change from 2013 to 2016 (12.2 per cent).

“Tobacco kills one person every four seconds.” - World Health Organisation

Smoking tobacco causes cancer. This statement is a shocking but undeniable fact supported by evidence collected since the 1930s. But despite the overwhelming evidence from studies worldwide, some spanning 50 years or more, global tobacco use is still killing over 8 million people every year. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports, “The pace of action to reduce tobacco demand and related death and disease is lagging behind global and national commitments.”

Tobacco deaths in Australia

In 2016 tobacco smoking was responsible for 24 per cent of all deaths in Australia. In the same year the Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence reported that in NSW alone, on average 6,850 people died of smoking attributable deaths (58 per cent male and 42 per cent female).
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimate that 80 per cent of lung cancer and 75 per cent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a collective of lung diseases) are caused by smoking cigarettes.

Who’s still smoking? 

The 2016 NDSHS showed: 
  • The daily smoking rate for teenagers has declined by approximately 80 per cent since 2001
  • There were was no decline or improvements in daily use amongst people aged 40–49, this age group were most likely to smoke daily (16.9 per cent). 
  • Little to no improvement in daily use amongst people aged 60 or older. 

Lung facts

How smoking affects the lungs:
  • Smoking tobacco paralyses the structures of your lungs that are responsible for sweeping away mucus and dirt from your airways.
  • Your lungs continue to grow well into adulthood, but inhaling the toxins in cigarette smoke slows this process and causes potentially irreversible lung damage.
  • The harmful effects of smoke on the lungs are almost immediate.
  • Babies born to mothers who smoke, or to women who are exposed to second-hand smoke during pregnancy, are likely to suffer reduced lung growth and function.
Find out more about how smoking affects the body through the interactive iCanQuit body chart.

Why quit now?

The good news is your health improves from the moment you quit smoking. Within 2 to 12 weeks of quitting, the risk of heart attack is lowered, circulation is better, exercise is easier and lung function is improved. Even within 12 hours the level of carbon monoxide in your blood has decreased dramatically and oxygen levels are improving. Evidence also suggests that quitting can reduce anxiety. Your wallet will also get a rest! Saving money is a substantial benefit of quitting too. 

It will still take you at least 10 years of quitting to lower your risk of lung cancer to less than half that of a continuing smoker, so it’s important to maintain your resolve and or help others who are quitting. Using the help offered by services like Quitline throughout your quit plan will help you keep on track. In fact, according to WHO “Tobacco users increase their absolute quit rate by 4 per cent using quitlines.”

Help to quit

Call Quitline on 13 7848 (13 QUIT) for information and advice about quitting, assessment of your nicotine dependence, strategies on preparing to quit and staying quit.
The Aboriginal Quitline is also available on 13 7848 (13 QUIT). Run by Aboriginal Advisors, the Aboriginal Quitline is a telephone-based confidential advice and support service.

My QuitBuddy is an app for iPhone, Android and Windows developed by Quitline. The app helps you set goals, celebrate quit milestones, track the money you’ve saved from cutting cigarettes and games to distract you from cravings. The My QuitBuddy app is available free for download.

Join a supportive community to help you quit for good at and for more information on Tobacco and it's effects visit the A-Z of Drugs | Tobacco page.
31/05/2019Australia's largest preventable health threat
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To highlight World No Tobacco Day, NSW Health is reminding the public of the dangers of smoking while pregnant.

Dr Jo Mitchell, Executive Director Centre for Population Health said the latest data shows 14.8 per cent of adults aged 16 years or older were smokers last year - a significant decline from 18 per cent in 2009, but relatively stable since 2015.

“Latest figures show 10.3 per cent of adults in NSW last year smoked daily and 4.5 per cent, occasionally,” Dr Mitchell said.

“There has also been a steady decline in smoking among pregnant women in NSW, from 10.4 per cent in 2012 to 8.8 per cent in 2017.

“However, that still means 8000 women smoked during pregnancy, which poses a significant risk to their own health, as well as their unborn babies.”

Tobacco smoke contains over 7000 chemicals, including compounds known to cause cancer and other toxins which are potentially toxic to a developing foetus.

Clinical Professor Michael Nicholl, Senior Clinical Advisor of Obstetrics said smoking during pregnancy has been associated with poorer pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage and premature births.

“The potential health impacts on infants include restricted growth, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and stillbirth,” Clinical Professor Nicholl said.

“Even when a mother wants to quit, it can be a struggle. Pregnant women who  smoke and need support to help quit, should talk with their doctor, midwife or a trained adviser at NSW Quitline.”

Family, friends and others living with a pregnant woman are advised to quit smoking to support a woman’s attempt to quit and the health of the unborn baby.

Across NSW, health care professionals provide advice and support to assist  pregnant women to quit smoking, as part of routine antenatal care.

The Quitline provides a confidential, telephone based service to help smokers quit. Pregnant women and their household members who smoke can call 13 78 48 for caring, professional support.

 In 2018-19, the NSW Government is investing more than $13.5 million on tobacco control, including quit smoking support, compliance and enforcement of smoke-free laws, targeted programs for vulnerable groups and public awareness education campaigns.

Find out more about Tobacco smoking and pregnancy and how to get help to quit on the A-Z of Drugs | Tobacco page.

31/05/2019World No Tobacco Day
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The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District have produced a series of videos in community languages that provide information on where and how to get help for drug and alcohol use, for yourself or for someone you care about.

The 'Where can I get help when alcohol or drugs are a problem?' videos are now available on YouTube in Arabic, Burmese, English, Farsi, Karenni, Kirundi, Mandarin and Swahili.

NSW drug and alcohol services welcome people from all cultures and provides support and treatment to people from a range of backgrounds.

The video is available in the following languages:
For further information on where to get treatment and support for alcohol and other drug use, visit the Support & Treatment page.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.
24/05/2019New videos: Where can I get help?
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In effect from 20 May 2019, new penalties apply for people in NSW caught driving over the legal limit or driving with the presence of an illicit drug in their system.

Even if it is your first offence, if you’re driving above the legal blood alcohol limit or on-the-spot tests show the presence of illicit drugs, your licence will be suspended and you’ll be required to hand it to Police immediately. An immediate suspension is effective for three months, along with an on-the-spot fine of $561.

Among the other changes to the NSW drink and drug driving penalties are new alcohol interlock laws (an electronic breath testing device connected to the ignition of a vehicle) for mid-range offenders and vehicle sanctions for high-risk drink drivers.

Blood alcohol limits for drivers

Zero for:
  • Learner drivers or riders
  • Provisional 1 drivers or riders
  • Provisional 2 drivers or riders
  • Visiting drivers or riders holding an overseas or interstate learner, provisional or equivalent licence
Under 0.02 (equivalent to approximately one standard drink) for:
  • Drivers of vehicles of "gross vehicle mass" greater than 13.9 tonnes
  • Drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods
  • Drivers of public vehicles such as taxi or bus drivers
Transport for NSW advises, “Drivers subject to a 0.02 limit should not drink any alcohol before driving”.

Under 0.05 is the legal limit for most drivers.

Do you know what a standard drink looks like?
Test your knowledge with the Standard Drink Calculator

Alcohol concentrations vary between drinks and can affects people differently according to their size, weight, gender, liver function and overall fitness, therefore it’s not always possible to accurately calculate your blood alcohol concentration. Alcohol concentration can also continue to increase for up to two hours after you have stopped drinking. Meaning its best to not drink alcohol (or take any drugs) if you plan to drive.

The NSW Government’s priority is to reduce road fatalities by 30 per cent by 2021. The new penalties announced this week are designed to deter drivers from putting themselves and others at risk of harm or death.

Getting help

Want to know whether your drinking habits are putting you at risk? Find out with the Your Room Alcohol Risk Assessment. You can also get free one-on-one personal health coaching and support to reduce alcohol consumption by accessing the NSW Health Get Healthy service.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs 24 hours, 7 days a week, call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.

21/05/2019New drink and drug driving penalties in NSW
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​Have you heard your kids talk about nangs, caps, bath salts or blue nitro? Or does it sound like they’re talking in code? Between having FOMO (fear of missing out) and living like YOLO (you only live once), sometimes it can feel like you need a translator to talk to your kids, especially teens.

In spite of your feelings of being out of the loop, it’s important to work on maintaining open lines of communication with your kids. Being able to talk openly about alcohol and other drugs will help you maintain a good quality relationship and allow them to feel safe and make informed choices about their health.

“Although it may not feel like it, parents can have the biggest influence on their teenager, by being a positive role model and providing lots of love, boundaries and clear expectations.”

Dr Bronwyn Milne, specialist in Adolescent Medicine at The Children’s Hospital Westmead provides the following advice: “The teenage years can be really challenging not only for young people but also their parents. Although it may not feel like it, parents can have the biggest influence on their teenager, by being a positive role model and  providing lots of love, boundaries and clear expectations. When it comes to drugs and alcohol, a good relationship and open communication, can help young people make positive choices and reduce their risk of harm”. 

If you think your child is using drugs, it's important not to panic.  Try to approach the issue with a calm, non-judgemental attitude and at a time that is good for both of you to talk. It may help to think about why your child may want to use drugs and work on solutions together.

Deciphering the code

Depending on where you live and the time at which you’re reading this, a lot can change in the drug slang / street name landscape. Some names may change to refer to two types of drugs or names may also refer to non-drugs, therefore it’s important not to jump to assumptions.

The method of intake may be part of the conversation which can apply to multiple substances, for example ‘lines’ can refer to cocaine, speed or any powdered drug that is snorted. ‘Shots’ may refer to any drug that is injected into the bloodstream, but also refers to a 30ml alcohol shot or ‘shooter’. ‘Caps’ can relate to drugs that are sold as a pill or capsule such as MDMA/ecstasy or magic mushrooms. ‘Tabs’ may refer to small squares of paper that contain a dose of LSD or acid (varying in strength), they might also be called ‘blotters’. If you don’t know what your child is talking about, simply and calmly ask them to explain it to you.

You don’t have to learn all of the street names and become a drug expert to help your child.

The following isn’t necessarily an exhaustive list but is a start to understanding and approaching an open conversation.

The A-Z of drug slang or street names

  • Alcohol – booze, drink, goon, juice, liquor, piss, sauce, grog, plonk
  • Amyl Nitrite / alkyl nitrites – amyl, climax, heart-on, jungle juice, aroma, nitrate, nitro, poppers, quicksilver, rush, thrust, DVD cleaner, leather cleaner
  • Anabolic Steroids – andro, arnies, a's, balls, bulls, caseys, gear, gym candy, hgh, juice, performance & image enhancing drugs, pumpers, roids, stackers, steroids, vets' drugs, weight trainers
  • Benzodiazepines – benzos, downers, moggies, normies, roofies, rowies, seros, sleepers, temazzies, tranks, tranquillisers, v, vals, Xanax, zanies
  • Cannabis – bhang, bud, choof, dope, ganja, grass, hash, hashish, hemp, home grown, hydro, kif, marijuana, many jane, mull, oobie, pot, resin, skunk, wack weed, yarndi, zero, cones
  • Cocaine – blow, charlie, coke, cola, crack, dust, freebase, llello, nose candy, snow, toot, white
  • Ecstasy / MDMA – adam, ck, disco biscuit, e, caps, eccy or ecky, pills, scooby snacks, x, xtc, pingers, sweets, lollies
  • Fentanyl – china girl, china white, dance fever, goodfella, murder 8, TNT, Tango and cash
  • Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) – blue nitro, fantasy, g, gamma hydroxybutyrate, gbh, ghb, gina, grievous bodily harm, liquid e, liquid x, liquid soap, GBL, gamma butyrolactone, bute, 1, 4-BD, 4-butanediol, georgia home boy, soap-e
  • Hallucinogens / LSD – L, acid, blotter, cid, microdot, tabs, doses, trips, zen, lucy, lucy in the sky with diamonds, california sunshine, window pane, battery acid, dots, looney toons, superman
  • Hallucinogenic mushrooms or psilocybin - liberty caps, liberties, magic mushrooms, mushrooms, sacred mushrooms, shrooms, gold tops, boomers, mushies, blue meanies, cubes, buttons
  • Heroin – china girl, china white, dragon, gear, h, hammer, harry, horse, junk, opioids, opium, skag, smack
  • Inhalants – bagging, chroming, gas, glue, huffing, inhaling, poppers, rush, snappers, sniffing
  • Ketamine – cat tranquilizer, ket, ketaset, ketalar, kitkat, lady k, special k, super k, vitamin k, K
  • Methadone – physeptone, biodone, done
  • Methamphetamine / Stimulants – amphetamine, methamphetamine, base, crank, crystal, crystal meth, eye openers, glass, go-ee, ice, meth, oxblood, paste, rev, Ritalin, shabu, speed, tweak, uppers, wax, whiz, zest, gas, tina, T
  • Nitrous Oxide – laughing gas, nitro, N2O, NOS, Nangs, whippet, whipits, hippy crack, buzz bomb, balloons
  • Other synthetic drugs – bath salts, spice, spice gold, zombie, flakka, n-bomb, K2, fake weed, bliss, black mamba, smiles, scooby snacks (can also refer to diazepam and a type of mushroom), gypsy herbs, herbal ecstasy

Getting advice or help

If after talking you're still worried or you think drugs are impacting their learning, friendships or physical safety, please seek professional support. The following organisations offer free and confidential advice:

  • Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) NSW. Our help line is open 24 hours a day to provide support to people who are having issues with alcohol or other drugs, are concerned about someone else's alcohol or other drug use. Phone: 1800 250 015
  • Family Drug Support (FDS) is a caring, non-religious and non-judgemental organisation that provides support and assistance to families throughout Australia who are dealing with a family member who is using drugs. Phone: 1300 368 186 | Web:
  • ReachOut Parents is a service that provides parents with one-on-one support, self-help resources and an online discussion forum.
  • Parent Line is a telephone and online counselling service for parents and carers. Phone: 1300 130 052 | Private online chat:

10/05/2019A parents' guide to drug slang
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Modern teenagers are changing Australia's reputation for excessive drinking with new research from the Australian Secondary Students Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD) showing that secondary school students are drinking and smoking less than ever before.

Smoking amongst teens

In 2017, 82% of all secondary students in Australia had never smoked up from 77% in 2011. Not only are fewer students smoking then in 2011 but students are smoking fewer cigarettes with those reporting smoking over 100 cigarettes down to 2%.

Most-secondary-students.png Source: Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD)

Alcohol use

Although any alcohol consumption is risky for teenagers, teen drinking statistics from the report show an encouraging trend. Fewer secondary students are drinking alcohol with 66% students reporting having ever tried alcohol down from 74% in 2011.

Risky drinking was lower among both male and female 16 and 17 year olds in 2017 than in 2011. For older teens who are current drinkers, risky drinking levels were also lower in 2017 than in 2011. This suggests that while the percentage of older students that used alcohol in these time periods has declined slightly, these older students were consuming less alcohol when they drank.

One of the key findings from the report was that young people who drank consumed more alcohol per week if they drank at a party, than if they drank at home or at a friend's place.

Fewer-secondary-students.png Source: Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD)

What teenagers think

In terms of attitudes, 70% of all the teens surveyed saw themselves as non-drinkers and 38% of young drinkers reported that they intended to get drunk most or every time they drank.

While older male teens reported being more likely to drink alcohol to get drunk than their female counterparts.

More female students than male reported negative experiences after drinking alcohol, negative outcomes were also more common for older teens rather than young.

According to the report the most common negative events after drinking alcohol were:

  • vomiting 39% 
  • trying a cigarette 33% 
  • trying drugs 23% 
  • having an argument 21%

Of the students who drank, 28% overall reported doing things they regretted while drinking.

Illicit drug use

The study also looked at illicit drug use in secondary students. Contrary to what parents may perceive with recent media coverage, the study showed that the vast majority of students had never tried drugs.

Cannabis was the most commonly used illicit substance among secondary students with 15% of students having tried the drug. 2% of all secondary students had tried Methamphetamine or Cocaine and 5% had tried MDMA and Ecstasy

98-percent-never-used.png Source: Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD)

Need help? Get the support your family needs through the Family Drug Support service. Or to talk to someone about your own alcohol or other drug use, you can call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) NSW on 1800 250 015.

23/04/2019Are today’s teens creating a new culture of sobriety?
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​Each year Australians and New Zealanders stop work and gather on 25 April to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in World War I and all current and past service women and men. It’s considered that the events in Gallipoli in WWI forged an Australian and New Zealand national identity. The spirit of Anzac is synonymous with heroism, mateship, courage and good humour.

Observing Anzac Day shouldn’t be about getting blind drunk and gambling, but at times it has, often with negative effect. Inspired by the Anzac spirit, instead the day should be about enjoying mateship and respectfully honouring those who’ve served or serve, whilst looking out for our health.

So let us remember, reflect and lest we forget – without the hangover!

Tips for another way to enjoy Anzac Day

If you do plan on drinking this Anzac Day here are a few tips on reducing the effect on your health and wellbeing.

  • Slow down. It takes time for alcohol to reach the brain. You may be drunker than you think.
  • Keep track of your intake. Before you start drinking decide how many drinks you’ll have and monitor your intake. Also wait until your glass is empty rather than topping it up when it’s half full.
  • Eat and eat well. Have something healthy and substantial before you drink and during (but avoid salty snacks.)
  • Alternate. Between alcoholic drinks have water or other non-alcohol drinks.
  • Don’t mix drinks or alcohol with other drugs. Using alcohol at the same time as any other drug can be dangerous. This includes drinking while using medicines from the chemist or doctor. One drug can make the negative effects of the other even worse or stop your medication from working all together.
  • Don’t drive. Never drive if you’ve been drinking, or accept a ride with someone you know or suspect has been drinking.

If you’d like some help with cutting back on drinking and getting healthy, visit for free personalised health coaching.

What is a ‘standard’ drink?


Find out how much alcohol is really in your average wine or beer glass with our Standard Drink Calculator.

Stay safe

Alcohol misuse is a major contributing factor in assaults and other violent crimes. Additionally, binge drinking can be incredibly dangerous as it increases the likelihood of acute harm such as accident and injury.

Drinking a lot of alcohol rapidly can also lead to headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, passing out and alcohol poisoning – among other symptoms.

If you are out and about on Anzac Day and see a mate or someone else in distress please be sure to take action. If you can’t wake them up or you are concerned that they may have sustained a head injury from an alcohol related fall – call an ambulance immediately – dial Triple Zero (000).

Use our interactive body map to find out about the full effects of long and short term alcohol use at Alcohol | A-Z of Drugs.

Want to know whether your drinking habits are putting you at risk? Find out with the Your Room Risk Assessment.

23/04/2019Another way to honour Anzac Day
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New South Wales continues to report the highest average cocaine consumption in both capital city and regional sites of all locations tested nationwide, following the release of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission's sixth National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report.

Based on the wastewater findings for August 2018, New South Wales also reported the highest regional MDMA and heroin consumption in Australia.

$9.3 Billion spent on four drugs

Using data from the program, more than 9.6 tonnes of methylamphetamine is estimated to be consumed in Australia each year, as well as more than 4 tonnes of cocaine, 1.1 tonnes of MDMA, and more than 700 kilograms of heroin. At street prices, the estimated value of this quantity of drugs for the four drugs is in the region $9.3 billion, underlining the size of the black economy that relates to drugs alone.

wastewater snapshot.PNG

Why test the water?

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Chief Executive Officer, Mr Michael Phelan APM said wastewater data increases our understanding of drug consumption in Australia including drug use patterns across states, territories and the nation.

"Cannabis consumption has been included for the first time, showing regional average cannabis consumption exceeded capital city average consumption in August 2018. Its inclusion in the program provides further insight into one of the largest illicit drug markets in Australia," Mr Phelan said.

"On a national level, of the drugs measured by the program with available dose data, alcohol and nicotine remain the highest-consumed substances.

"As the program continues to build long term drug consumption data, fluctuations in consumption are evident. Understanding local drug consumption patterns assists law enforcement, policy, regulatory and health agencies develop targeted supply, demand and harm reduction strategies."

Want to know more about the effects of a particular drug? Head to our A-Z of drugs at

26/02/2019Wastewater shows highest cocaine use in NSW
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​Every year the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras attracts hundreds of thousands of people who descend on Sydney to enjoy the most colourful night of the year. From the parade through Sydney's Darlinghurst, the beating heart of Sydney's gay scene, to the numerous after parties and special guest appearances, Sydney's Mardi Gras is the highlight of the Sydney queer social calendar. 

Make your Mardi Gras experience one to remember with these top tips to party safely:

  • If you're drinking alcohol, keep track of how many drinks you've had to avoid injury or making yourself sick. Consider having a water between each alcoholic drink.
  • Using illicit drugs like ecstasy, GHB or methamphetamine comes with risks. You don't know the purity, what other things have been added to them, the strength or how it will affect you. Avoid mixing alcohol with other drugs.
  • Mixing alcohol with GHB can cause you to lose consciousness, check out ACON's Avoid the Drop Zone campaign for more information.   It's important to tell someone you trust what you've taken, and to get help immediately if it's needed.
  • If you feel like you need some support, look out for the ACON Rovers, a much loved team of volunteers who provide support and information at major LGBTI parties and events to make sure partygoers are kept safe. You'll find them wearing bright pink vests and looking out for people who might need a helping hand.
  • Remember if you do need to seek help from a medical professional, they aren't interested in getting police If you need medical attention, a paramedic will not call police unless there is a threat to safety. It is vital that you or someone you know tells a paramedic what you have taken, so they can provide the best possible care,
  • involved. If you end up partying harder than you intended, ACON and other organisations have support and programs related to sexual health, alcohol, drugs and counselling available. For details visit or for more information on substance support and a self-diagnosis tool that can be used to identify problematic use.

Eat, hydrate and stay cool

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if you're drinking alcohol.
  • Mardi Gras can be a big weekend with multiple parties, so make sure you eat during the evening and if you are kicking on through the night, try and have some small snacks to keep yourself going.
  • Alcohol and other drugs can affect your body's ability to regulate temperature. If you find yourself feeling overheated while partying the night away, take regular breaks away from the crowds and allow yourself to cool down or seek help.

Take care of your mates

  • You're a mate, not a doctor so don't be afraid to seek help for someone who is unwell.   
  • It's a good idea to stay close to your mates. Agree on a place and time to meet, in case you get separated. Don't rely on your mobile phone – your battery could go flat or the network coverage could be overloaded.

Take care of your mental health

  • Large crowds can become overwhelming. If you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, tell a trusted friend how you feel and move away from loud music and crowds. Find a calm place to chill out.
  • Some drugs can enhance negative feelings like anxiety or bad thoughts. Avoid alcohol or drugs if you are already feeling emotional, depressed or anxious. Don't make any important decisions about life or relationships under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

 Practice Safe Sex – Now There Are 3 Ways To Do It!

  • Condoms play a vital role in preventing the transmission of HIV and other STIs, and with 60,000 free ACON condom safe packs at LGBTI venues and events during the Mardi Gras season, it's the cheapest and easiest way to stay safe.
  • If a person is HIV negative, they can now take PrEP, an antiretroviral drug that prevents HIV negative people from becoming infected, If a person is HIV positive.
  • It's now proven beyond doubt that HIV treatments can help reduce that person's viral load to an undetectable level, making it almost impossible to transmit the virus.
  • There's no longer a one size fits all approach to safe sex. We can now choose from a range of strategies – condoms, PrEP or UVL – to maximise sexual pleasure while protecting ourselves and our partners from HIV. To find out more visit
  •  Make sure you and whoever you hook up with are both into it. Check for consent and make sure that you are both okay with what is happening

Think About How You Will Get Home

Before Mardi Gras, plan your way home and make sure you have enough money to pay for transport.
Remember that it's illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or any illicit drug and it's not safe to drive until you are sober and not under the influence of any drugs. 
Never get in a car with someone who has been drinking or taking illicit drugs drugs – it's just not worth it!

CTA: Visit the ACON website to find out everything you need to know about safe sex and consent.

For accurate information about commonly used party drugs check out the Your Room A-Z Drug listing here.

26/02/2019Party Safe: Top tips to stay safe at Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
25/02/2019 8:20 AMnswdoh\60175707

​It's Australia's most widely used drug but many of us can't tell fact from fiction. Drinkers may be basing their drinking habits on misconceptions or out-dated beliefs, so here's a few sobering facts.

Myth 1: Coffee will help to sober you up. 

Fact: Sobering up, or getting the alcohol out of your body, takes time. Just about 10% of alcohol leaves the body in breath, sweat and urine, but most is broken down by the liver. The liver can only get rid of about one standard drink per hour. Nothing can speed this up – not black coffee, cold showers, exercise or vomiting.

Myth 2: The worst thing that can happen if you drink too much alcohol is a hangover.

Fact: While the media often reports that small amounts of wine can be beneficial for your heart, there is little research to support these claims. There is sufficient evidence that ethanol - the chemical present in all alcoholic beverages - is a carcinogen (this falls into the same group as asbestos, arsenic and benzene). In other words, alcohol is a cause of cancer and any level of consumption increases the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education's alcohol poll also found Australians have a low awareness of the long-term health conditions associated with alcohol. Fewer than half of Australians are aware of the link between alcohol misuse and stroke (38%), mouth and throat cancer (26%) and breast cancer (16%).

Myth 3: Drugs are a bigger problem than alcohol.

Fact: Despite the media attention on drugs, it is still legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco that cause most harm in the community. The total disease burden of alcohol - that is life lost from early death, as well as years of healthy life lost due to living with diseases or injuries caused by alcohol - is 4.6% and well as alcohol being responsible for almost one-third of road traffic injuries. On its own illicit drug use is responsible for 2.3% of Australia's disease burden. (AIHW 2016)

Myth 4: It's ok to drink while taking other drugs

Fact: Using alcohol at the same time as any other drug can be dangerous. This includes drinking alcohol while using prescribed medicines from the chemist or doctor. One drug can make the negative effects of the other even worse. Alcohol can also stop medicines from working properly. Mixing alcohol with other drugs that slow down the body (e.g. sleeping pills, heroin, cannabis, methadone, buprenorphine) can:

  • make it harder to think clearly
  • make it harder to properly control how you move
  • stop your breathing and cause death

Myth 5: It's young people who drink the most.

Fact: This is not true. Research shows that the rates of underage drinking are decreasing.  Data shows teenage drinking is at a new low, with 82% of 12-17 year olds abstaining from alcohol up from 72% in 2013.

However, rates of drinking are increasing in the older Australian adults with 24% of 55-64 year olds reporting they have never had alcohol down from 29% in 2015. Older Australians are also drinking slightly more with 42% of 55-64 year olds in 2017 reporting they drink weekly up from 36% in 2015.

Myth 6: Alcohol is not a drug.

Fact: Alcohol is often not thought of as a drug because it is legal, however, alcohol is the most widely used drug in Australia and belongs to a class of drugs called depressants. Alcohol slows down the central nervous system and is second only to tobacco as a cause of drug related deaths and hospitalisations in Australia.

Myth 7: Different types of drinks can make you feel different drunk

Fact: No matter what the drink, alcohol is alcohol and the alcohol that is getting you drunk is ethanol. Scientists have looked at specific alcohol related beliefs called "expectancies". If you associate different types of alcoholic drinks with making you angry, sad or happy, then they are more likely to. As an example, if you have observed friends becoming a bit wild after drinking Tequila, and now you think Tequila makes you crazy, it may be because the Tequila was drunk in shots on a particularly large night out. On the other hand if you mostly drink wine with dinner you may associate and therefore expect wine to be a more calm and relaxed drink. If you believe that, it's more likely you will be calm and relaxed when you drink it.

Want to know whether your drinking habits are putting you at risk? Find out with the Your Room Risk Assessment

25/02/20197 Myths About Alcohol
14/02/2019 2:13 PMnswdoh\60175707

Drug-related harms and deaths do not discriminate based on age, ethnicity, gender, creed, wealth or socioeconomic status. Every day they continue to impact families across Australia and the rest of the world. Stigma is associated with drug use and can often prevent families from seeking support while increasing the risk of families losing those they care for to drugs.

Although within recent years there is evidence of a decline in the use of some illegal drugs - including methamphetamines, hallucinogens and synthetic cannabinoids – there was an increase in the number of people impacted by drug-related incidents in 2016. Without family and peer support, those using drugs are more vulnerable and susceptible to harm. Often families play a crucial part in the treatment and recovery of individuals who use alcohol and other drugs in a harmful way.

But supporting a family member or friend who has a dependence on drugs or alcohol isn't easy and can often be a difficult and upsetting process for families. This is why it is crucial for families to be aware that support and assistance is available.   

Family Drug SupportPho_20171019_FDS-logo.jpg

Family Drug Support (FDS) is a caring, non-religious and non-judgemental organisation that provides support and assistance to families throughout Australia who are dealing with a family member who is using drugs.

FDS supports families in a way that strengthens relationships and achieves positive outcomes by providing:

1. A 24/7 support line for families experiencing the drug use of a family member or friend

2. Peer support groups for families

3. The Stepping Stones to Success group program for families

4. Other courses and resources

FDS is primarily made up of volunteers who have first-hand experience of the trauma and chaos of having family members with drug dependency. They have travelled the same road.

Why is it important?

According to research commissioned by FDS, half of all people would hide a family member's drug or alcohol use from their own friends. Tony Trimingham founder and CEO of FDS believes that this shame stops family members from seeking the help they need. 

"My concern is that we are seeing overdose deaths increase each year and people hiding what is happening only increases the risk that families could lose those they care for to drugs," explains Tony.

"Through our work we aim to de-stigmatise drug and alcohol problems and reinforce the message that drug-related harms and deaths do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, money or any other factors and most importantly, that support and assistance is available."

Studies show that drug dependence takes a substantial toll on families, creating anger conflict and shame. It can destroy healthy family dynamics, as conflict escalates and the focus of family attention is on stopping and hiding drug use. As a consequence of stress and anxiety, parents and family members can often develop mental health and physical problems, including very valid fears for the life and wellbeing of the person using drugs.

While support services like FDS cannot make drug use go away, they can have positive impacts on family members by helping them cope more effectively with the challenge of drug use within the family. Support groups:

  • Provide knowledge about drugs, dependence and treatment

  • De-stigmatise the experience and reduce self-blame

  • Help with boundary setting

  • Reduce conflict in families

  • Encourage self-care

  • Provide mutual support

  • Allow for acceptance

  • Work from the collective wisdom of the families and friends attending

  • Help support 'effective communication'

  • Provide education for the family member or friend

  • FDS online interactive resource

Funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health through the National Ice Action Strategy and in collaboration with Readymade Productions and FDS staff and volunteers, Australia's first interactive online resource designed specifically to support families struggling to deal with drug and alcohol use – has been launched.

The online resource centres on the documentary film of a family support group, and will be of particular benefit to families in regional and rural communities who don't have ready access to support group meetings. The resource is designed to help families and friends of people using drugs and alcohol to become more resilient and better cope on their journey with the user.

It provides different support for different circumstances. The new resource, together with the FDS' 24/7 telephone support line, will help ensure every family can access support when they need it.

For everyone

FDS is available to everyone. From those who suspect a family member or friend may be on the verge of alcohol or drug dependency, to those who have been silent about drug use within the family for many years, to families who are suffering bereavement.

FDS believes that by helping families of drug users, they are ultimately helping the user. FDS CEO Tony had no help when he tragically lost his son Damien to a heroin overdose – but now there is somewhere for families to turn to. This is FDS' greatest legacy.

Are drugs a problem for someone you care about? Contact FDS today on 1300 368 186 or visit:

Find out how to approach drug issues within your family here.

14/02/2019What is Family Drug Support and how can it help me?
20/02/2019 9:34 AMGREEN, Jessica

The University of South Australia have released research which shows that methamphetamine use is associated with long-lasting changes in movement which can resemble Parkinson's disease and changes in the movement-related regions of the brain.

Previous research used sonographic imaging to show that a part of the brain called the substantia nigra, is abnormally enlarged in young adults with a history of stimulant drug use. This abnormality is a well-established risk factor for Parkinson's disease.

Researchers at the University of South Australia measured this region of the brain in people who had previously used amphetamines, compared to three control groups: ecstasy users; cannabis users; and non-drug users. The researchers also assessed subjects using the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale, which is a tool used to measure the progression of Parkinson's disease.

The study found that the substantia nigra brain region was significantly larger among people who had used amphetamines compared to ecstasy, cannabis and non-drug users. The amphetamine only group also scored significantly higher than the control groups on the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale. These outcomes indicate an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease later in life.

In further research the University of South Australia surveyed 252 young adults aged 18-34 years to find out their level of knowledge about the long and short term effects of methamphetamine use. They found that less than 20% knew about the effects of methamphetamine on movement and risk of stroke, and knowledge of the effects of methamphetamine on the heart and kidneys was also poor.

In response to this research they developed a new health campaign called 'Don't let meth take hold'. The campaign aims to increase knowledge about the long-lasting effects of methamphetamine use on the brain and on movement.

The campaign is designed to show the audience how methamphetamine use can impact on daily life and the ability to perform simple tasks. The campaign is designed to show what having impaired hand and brain function is like when using common objects.

'Our research shows that 47% of people have no idea that methamphetamine has any long-lasting consequences on health. This campaign seeks to change that.'

Associate Professor Gabrielle Todd, University of South Australia

The campaign is available for partner organisations to use and can be viewed here.

Want to know more about methamphetamine? Learn more here.

Photo credit - Hal Gatewood

5/02/2019Research about the long-term effects of methamphetamine use
2/07/2019 8:06 AMROGERS, Peter

Make all your festival experiences ones to remember with these top tips to party safely.

  • If you're drinking alcohol, keep track of how many drinks you've had to avoid injury or making yourself sick.
  • Using illicit drugs like ecstasy, LSD or methamphetamine come with risks. You don't know the purity, what other things have been added to them, strength or how it'll affect you. Avoid mixing alcohol with other drugs.
  • Seek help if you feel unwell. You won't get into trouble for telling a medical professional what drugs you've taken. If you or a friend are experiencing any of the following symtoms, seek help immediately:
    • Confusion
    • Feeling hot/overheating
    • Vomiting
    • Feeling fast heart rate
    • Seizures
    • Unconsciousness

Take care of your mates

  • You're a mate, not a doctor so don't be afraid to seek help for someone who is unwell.   
  • It's a good idea to stay close to your mates. Agree on a place and time to meet, in case you get separated. Don't rely on your mobile phone – your battery could go flat or the network coverage could be overloaded. 

Eat, hydrate and stay cool

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if you're drinking alcohol.
  • Eat well before the festival and allow time for the food to digest. Have regular snacks throughout the festival to keep yourself going.
  • Alcohol and other drugs can affect your body's ability to regulate temperature. Heat stroke and hyperthermia can easily happen. Wear sun protection, take regular breaks in the shade and have warm clothes ready for when the sun goes down. 

Take care of your mental health

  • Festivals can become overwhelming. If you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, tell a trusted friend how you feel and move away from loud music. Find a calm place to chill out. Many festivals in NSW have friendly chill out areas run by organisations like the Red Cross and DanceWise NSW who are there to help if you're not sure how you're feeling or need someone to talk too.
  • Some drugs, such as psychedelics, can enhance negative feelings like anxiety or bad thoughts. Avoid alcohol or drugs if you are already feeling emotional, depressed or anxious. Don't make any important decisions about life or relationships during a festival!

Think about how you'll get home

  • Before the festival, plan your way home and make sure you have enough money to pay for transport.
  • Public transport is often the safest transport option. Remember that it's illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or any illicit drug and it's not safe to drive until you are fully alert, sober and well rested. 
  • Never get in a car with someone who has been drinking or taking illicit drugs.

Know what's right for you

  • Decide what's right for you on issues like sex, drugs and alcohol. Knowing where you stand makes it easier to stay true to yourself.
  • If you don't want to experiment with drugs, you're not alone! Most young people haven't used drugs or don't want to.
  • Don't do anything you don't want to do – your mates will respect you more for standing up for yourself.

Australian Red Cross Save-a-mate (SAM) and NSW Users and AIDS Association DanceWize NSW provide non-judgemental safe spaces at festivals to chill out and offer support if you feel unwell or need a break.

For accurate information about commonly used party drugs check out the Your Room A - Z Listing of Drugs.

Visit the Play Safe website to find out everything you need to know about safe sex and consent.

21/01/2019Party safe: Top tips to stay safe at music festivals
23/01/2019 9:45 AMnswdoh\60078062

The NSW Liquor & Gaming Authority has published its final decision on the review of liquor license conditions of 14 late night trading hotels located in Newcastle CBD. The Authority has confirmed minimal changes and no alterations to the current lock out laws, following an independent review and submissions from licensees.

After the Authority's initial response to the review was published and communicated to stakeholders in April 2018, licensees had, under law, a period of 21 days to respond.

The Authority has also decided to make no changes to:

  • the existing lockout and closing hours,
  • the conditions in respect of:
    • the cessation of liquor supply 30 minutes before closing, and
    • the prohibition on the stockpiling of drinks.

The minor changes that are to be implemented include no longer requiring the use of a common radio network, and plans of management to be reviewed annually rather than quarterly.

Chair of the Authority Philip Crawford announced: "The case for maintaining existing patron lockout restrictions in the 14 Newcastle venues, and for maintaining requirements for the sale or supply of liquor to cease 30 minutes before closing, was strong."

Earlier this year, Mr Jonathan Horton QC was requested by the Authority to conduct a review of conditions imposed by the former NSW Liquor Administration Board in 2008 and the impact this has had on reducing alcohol-related violence. Following this request, Mr Horton released the Horton Report, advising the Authority on the current liquor licence conditions.

Why was the Horton Report created?

Liquor licence conditions were imposed in Newcastle CBD in 2008 following community, police and medical practitioner concerns about late night alcohol-related violence. Since then, there have been many demographic, development and regulatory changes in the area.

Mr Horton stated that although the 2008 liquor conditions were reliable in preventing alcohol-related violence at that time, some of these conditions have now become out-dated.

"Newcastle is no longer in need of a 'solution': what is required is a licensing regime which prevents a return to past problems and allows for the City to develop in a balanced way and in accordance with community expectations, needs and aspirations," wrote Mr Horton.

What conditions were considered?

As a result of the report and under the Liquor Act 2007, the Authority has acted on Mr Horton's recommendations.

Importantly, Mr Horton recommended trading hours remain the same as the existing hours as they "have proved successful in reducing alcohol-related violence to an acceptable level, since those hours were set". Horton went on to state, "to increase the hours would, in all likelihood, lead to greater violence".

Mr Horton's recommendations also included changing the conditions surrounding notification of licence conditions to staff, as well as a new requirement for each licensee to update their Plans of Management and perform an annual review of these in consultation with NSW Police.

After 10pm, Mr Horton recommended "drinks commonly known as shots, shooters, slammers or bombs or any other drinks that are designed to be consumed rapidly" are prohibited.

Who was involved?

Mr Horton conducted a process of public consultation between November 2017 and February 2018, where he received over 90 written submissions from a variety of stakeholders. This included NSW Police, public health bodies, academics, licensed businesses, industry bodies, private individuals and special interest groups.

Following the Authority's decision the licensees were provided with a period of 21 days to respond.

Mr Crawford commented: "We would like to express our gratitude to those members of the community who provided the written and oral submissions that informed the Horton Report."

The Horton report is available from Liquor & Gaming NSW.

How important is language when it comes to discussing alcohol and drugs, and the people who use them? Find out by reading our article on why language matters 

21/09/2018Final decision: Newcastle CBD lockout laws remain unchanged following NSW Liquor & Gaming review
20/09/2018 1:47 PMDIMAURO, Sophie

​Alcohol and other drugs are understood in many different ways across many different cultures. Our cultural backgrounds inform how we respond to everyday life, our successes, our struggles and our crises. What may be considered 'natural' or 'normal' to one person, might not apply to the next.

According to multicultural marketing agency Etcom, 28 per cent of the NSW population were born overseas with the majority of this percentage being born in China, followed by England, India and New Zealand. In the Western Sydney region, (the fastest growing region in Australia), English is the second language, with Mandarin the second largest language spoken in NSW.

Although rates of problematic alcohol and other drug (AOD) use may be lower in some overseas-born communities, state services are often not accessed by those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities for reasons including:

  • Lack of knowledge of Australian health and treatment systems
  • Lower rates of referral to some programs
  • Lack of culturally accessible services
  • Fear of visa/immigration implications

These factors position CALD communities at risk for AOD harms, which is why it is crucial for these communities to be aware that catered support and assistance is available.

Drug & Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre

logo.pngThe Drug & Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre (DAMEC) is a non-government organisation whose primary purpose is to reduce the harms associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) within CALD communities in NSW.

DAMEC provides counselling and case management programs; health promotion, research and community development projects. It provides clients with equal treatment, helping them to live happier and healthier lives while having strong relationships with their community and family.

DAMEC receives funding from the NSW Ministry of Health and the Australian Government.

Who is it for?

DAMEC is a free and confidential service that is open to everyone. The service can help:

  • People who want to address their substance use (past or present)
  • Spouses/Partners
  • Families of people with substance use problems including parents, siblings and extended family
  • Carers, friends and other support people

What can DAMEC offer me?

DAMEC's counselling service is a specialist multicultural service that focuses on meeting the needs of people from CALD communities. The service offers a strengths-based model modified to be culturally responsive, and where possible provided in key community languages. They also run group programs.

DAMEC staff are bilingual and can speak: Arabic, Cantonese, Khmer, English, Mandarin, Teo Chiew, Vietnamese, Lao, Ewe, Ga, Akan, Liberian Creole, Samoan, and Farsi.

DAMEC is able to access the Translator and Interpreter Services for other community languages.

Counselling and support

DAMEC has a team of qualified counsellors, psychotherapists and psychologists providing support, information and exploring new ways of looking at issues with you. They can help you to clarify, understand and find solutions to your problem. The DAMEC team offer:

  • Drug, alcohol and psychological assessments
  • One-to-one counselling
  • Referrals to other services

Complementary to the individual support it offers, DAMEC also provides family support services that include family assessments and case management support; group work, home visits; and referrals to other services.

As part of delivering universal healthcare in a culturally diverse society, DAMEC also assists other services to respond to the alcohol and drug-related needs of CALD communities. DAMEC provides training, consultancy and advice on the development of culturally appropriate interventions and staff cultural competency.DAMEC 2.png

The Transitions Project

The Transitions project provides intensive case management for Arabic and Vietnamese-speaking people who have a history of drug and alcohol related issues and who are leaving prison. Assessment and support are provided pre-release and continue for up to six months post-release, however clients are able to continue in the program after the six month period depending on their circumstances

Transitions works with people intending to reside in Sydney and offers practical, personal assistance. This includes information, referrals, advocacy, home visits, family support and mentoring.

Providing a better understanding

Through research and evaluation, DAMEC aims to provide a better understanding of substance use, and access to treatment among CALD communities in NSW. Exploring effective and appropriate AOD service provision with CALD groups is a key focus of DAMEC's work.

DAMEC collaborates across sectors, primarily working with AOD, mental health and multicultural agencies to better understand trends, barriers, and strengths.

Like all DAMEC work, research is accountable to CALD communities first and foremost, to the AOD sector and multicultural organisations, and to NSW Health and other state and federal funding bodies.

DAMEC's Research Framework supports the delivery of high quality research and evaluation by outlining the various staff roles and responsibilities, governance procedures and ethical review standards.

Access DAMEC's 'Respect: Best practice approaches for working with culturally diverse clients in AOD treatment settings' resource here.

Are drugs and alcohol a problem for you or someone you care about? Contact DAMEC today on 8706 0150 or visit

Want to know whether your drinking habits are putting you at risk? Find out with the Your Room Risk Assessment.

20/09/2018What is the Drug & Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre?
17/09/2018 10:52 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

​It's easy to feel helpless when we hear about all the alcohol and other drug problems facing our society and within our communities. But did you know there are tools available for you to make a difference?

The good news is that every community member has a real opportunity to contribute in reducing alcohol and other drugs (AOD) harms in their local area through joining a Community Drug Action Team (CDAT). 

What is a CDAT?

CDATs are made up of passionate and dedicated volunteers who love their local area and want the best for their community. Across NSW CDATs are leading AOD prevention projects in their communities.

Since their inception in 1999, CDATs have led thousands of community activities to engage young people, parents and the local community in preventing alcohol and other drug-related harms. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) supports the CDATs through the Community Engagement and Action Program (CEAP) funded by NSW Health.

Why are CDATs important?

Community members regularly see first-hand the harm that AOD misuse can cause in their local area, but counting the visible harms only scratches the surface. There are more hidden harms and costs that aren't as well known, or rarely considered.

For example, the NSW Auditor-General estimates the societal cost of alcohol misuse, in NSW alone, is $3.87 billion a year (or over $1,500 per household).

Australian and International research shows that AOD is linked to:

  • family and domestic violence
  • assault
  • fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
  • drink driving
  • accidents and injuries
  • anti-social behaviour
  • suicide

There is also a considerable cost to and loss of public amenity through:

  • use of police resources
  • use of emergency department resources
  • ambulance callouts
  • public and private property damage
  • litter and public nuisance

However, training and resources provided through CDATs allow people to share skills and AOD knowledge across and beyond the community – contributing to positive change.

Community initiatives can make communities stronger, healthier and better places to live. CDATs provide a unique platform and opportunity for collaborative action by different agencies and groups.

Regulate the sale of alcohol near you

Studies show that one way to reduce alcohol related harm is to regulate the sale of alcohol. Reducing hours during which on-premise alcohol outlets can sell late at night can substantially reduce rates of alcohol-related violence.

Community voices are often missing in the decision-making process for regulating the availability of alcohol. Barriers such as the complexity of the licensing system, being time and resource poor, or not understanding the true level of cost and harm from alcohol, all prevent the community from being actively involved.

However, a step-by-step toolkit developed by NSW Health and the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF), can help communities have a say in the decision-making process for regulating the availability of alcohol.

Access the ADF toolkit here.

Who can join a CDAT?

Anyone concerned about drug and alcohol issues can join their local CDAT. CDATs typically involve a diverse range of people, all of whom share a commitment to reducing harms from drugs and alcohol.

Some members may have personal experience of problem alcohol or drug use, and being involved in a CDAT is their way of helping to prevent similar problems emerging for others. A broad range of community members and organisations plus a good balance between voluntary and professional involvement makes a CDAT stronger and more effective, and provides it with skills, talents and resources.

Together we can make a difference. Your local CDAT needs you! Find out how to become a CDAT member here.

Do you know the facts about drugs and alcohol? Test your knowledge by visiting The Quiz Room here.

17/09/2018Community Drug Action Teams: Giving the NSW public a voice
10/09/2018 9:41 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

Got a niggling feeling that someone you know or care about it isn't behaving as they normally would? Perhaps they seem out of sorts? More agitated or withdrawn? Or they're just not themselves? Trust that gut instinct and act on it.

By starting a conversation and commenting on the changes you've noticed, you could help that family member, friend or workmate open up. If they say they are not ok, you can follow our conversation steps to show them they're supported and help them find strategies to better manage the load. If they are ok, that person will know you're someone who cares enough to ask.

Thursday 13th of September is R U OK? Day – a national day of action that is dedicated to reminding everyone that any day is the day to ask, "Are you ok?" and support those struggling with life. Taking part can be as simple as learning R U OK?'s four steps so you can have a conversation that could change a life:

1. Ask

2. Listen

3. Encourage action

4. Check in

Why is it important?

Suicide prevention is an enormously complex and sensitive challenge the world over. But we also know that some of the world's smartest people have been working tirelessly and developed credible theories that suggest there's power in that simplest of questions - "Are you ok?

One of the most significant theories is by United States academic, Dr Thomas Joiner. Because his father took his own life, Thomas has dedicated his research to try and answer that question "why?"

His theory tries to answer that complex question by describing three forces at play in someone at risk. The first force is the person thinks they're a burden on others; the second is that they can withstand a high degree of pain; and the third is they don't feel connected to others.

It's this lack of connection (or lack of belonging) that R U OK? is trying to address. By inspiring people to take the time to ask "Are you ok?" and listen, we can help people struggling with life feel connected long before they even think about suicide. It all comes down to regular, face-to-face, meaningful conversations about life. And asking "Are you ok?" is a great place to start. Find out how to ask here.

A future vision

R U OK? is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. Their vision is a world where we're all connected and are protected from suicide. The campaign hopes to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life.

As well as helping to start these conversations, R U OK? is working with experts in the field to monitor how these conversations impact on Australia's suicide rate.

Staying connected and having meaningful conversations is something we can all do. You don't need to be an expert - just a good friend and a great listener. So, if you notice someone who might be struggling - start a conversation.

Although R U OK? Day is the national day of action, every day is the day to start a conversation. Conversation tips and crisis numbers can be found at

If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

To start a conversation about alcohol and other drugs today visit our support and treatment page here to find the best course of action for you.

10/09/2018Trust your gut instinct & ask: R U OK?
7/09/2018 3:29 PMDIMAURO, Sophie

The Drug & Alcohol Info Hub could be on its way to a library near you! This year the travelling interactive information display is being provided to selected public libraries across the state on a 3-week rotational basis.

From September 11-27th the hub will be at Kempsey Shire Library. On September 17th the library will be hosting a Pregnancy & Alcohol Talk with NSW Health, followed by a Mocktail Monday class where visitors will be able to come along and taste literary-inspired mocktails such as 'Grape Expectations'.

Due to the popularity of the hubs a third display was created so that they can be hosted by one metropolitan and two country libraries at the same time.

The aim of the program is to provide people with up to date and accessible information about drugs and alcohol, identify support networks and agencies within the local community and provide people with discussion points around drug and alcohol issues in their community.

Visit the Drug Info website here to find out where the hub will be next. For more information contact Kempsey Library Shire on 6566 3210

Do you know the facts about drugs and alcohol? Test your knowledge by visiting The Quiz Room here.

Drug Info 3.PNG

7/09/2018Drug info hub tours NSW
30/08/2018 4:24 PMDIMAURO, Sophie

​On International Overdose Awareness Day (August 31st) NSW Health reiterates the importance of ending the stigma surrounding drug use and dependence as often, this judgement can prevent people who use drugs from accessing support and treatment.

International Overdose Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of overdose risks, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths, and acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have been lost or impacted by drug overdose.

Every year thousands of people in Australia overdose on prescription or illicit drugs, with a proportion of these overdoses being life-threatening.

Drug overdose deaths are predominantly driven by the use of opioids in combination with other drugs and alcohol. But overdose deaths can be prevented.

Professor Nick Lintzeris, Director of the South East Sydney's Local Health District Drug & Alcohol Service commented: "Drug and alcohol services and needle and syringe programs services in NSW have trialled a model for training our patients to prevent and recognise overdoses, and to correctly administer naloxone if someone they care about experiences an overdose.

"People who use drugs have shown they are committed to making a difference to the lives of their peers. We need to support them to do that."

Naloxone is a medicine that people can administer to a friend or loved one, to reverse the effects of an overdose from heroin or other opioid drugs.

If you use heroin/opioids or know someone who does, you can now buy naloxone at pharmacies, without a doctor's prescription, for use in the event of an overdose emergency.   You can ask your pharmacy to order this medication for you. Always be prepared and have naloxone on-hand before using heroin/opioids.

Mary Harrod, Chief Executive of NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA) said: "Overdose deaths have continued to increase in Australia with this preventable, tragic loss of life now exceeding the road toll.

"Each death is a tragedy and the impact on family, friends and the community is enormous. We need to raise our voices and say that not enough is being done – we need more education and prevention such as broad distribution of naloxone. If you or a loved one is at risk, please take a few simple steps to prevent overdose – never use alone, and don't mix drugs or mix drugs and alcohol."

NSW Health has a range of initiatives to minimise the risk from drug-related overdose and deaths, including:

  • The Opioid Treatment program -  a successful, evidence based public health program shown to improve the quality of life and well-being of patients and provide significant reductions in adverse health, social and criminal consequences;
  • Funding the trial to supply naloxone to people through drug and alcohol and needle and syringe programs in metropolitan, rural and regional NSW;
  • Regulating the prescribing and dispensing of Schedule 8 drugs of addiction;
  • Working with the Commonwealth to develop real time prescription monitoring to reduce the misuse of pharmaceutical drugs;
  • Information and advice for the community on the risks of pharmaceutical drugs provided through the NSW Health and the Your Room websites.

To speak to someone about naloxone, call the Alcohol & Drug Information Service (ADIS) – a free 24 hour helpline on 1800 250 015. If you or someone you care about is at risk of overdose, visit the NUAA website:

Want to learn more about some of the most commonly used drugs affecting Australians right now? Check out the Your Room A-Z Drug listing here.

31/08/2018Overdose Awareness Day: Ending stigma & raising awareness of overdose risks
30/08/2018 4:07 PMDIMAURO, Sophie

​With Father's Day fast approaching this Sunday (2nd Sept) Australian's across the country are scratching their heads trying to decide what gift to give Dad this year. To avoid offering the same old socks, jumpers, and chocolates, it's easy to see alcohol as the answer.

But are you aware of the risks associated with alcohol consumption?

The facts:

Each year on Father's Day Australian's spend $34 million on liquor, as a gesture of appreciation for fathers, according to research company IBIS World. However, when we look at the facts, the gift of booze could be having a detrimental impact on your Dad's health.

Recent evidence published in The Lancet shows that no level of alcohol consumption is safe for your health. The risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption.

It was also revealed that alcohol is the leading global risk factor for death and disability for those aged 15-49 years.

Substantial health loss

In addition to this, the latest report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that the consumption of alcohol is one of the three major causes of preventable disease and illness in Australia (the other two being tobacco and other drugs).

Around a third of Australians aged 14 and over drank more than four standard drinks in one sitting, contrary to guidelines. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in Australia and according to the 2016 report by NSW Health, in NSW  a quarter of all adults drink at levels placing their long-term health at risk.

Alcohol availability

The sale of alcohol is widespread. It's easy for people to access their preferred choice of alcohol as and when they want, including online – making alcohol increasingly difficult to avoid for those who may have an issue.

In 2015–16, there were 189.1 million litres of pure alcohol available for consumption through alcoholic beverages in Australia (AIHW).

A 2016 study by the Sax Institute for NSW Ministry of Health, found that reducing the hours alcohol outlets can sell late at night can substantially reduce rates of alcohol-related violence. There are also many studies that have found changes in the density of alcohol outlets are associated with changes in the rate of health problems with a community.

Give your Dad a healthy Father's Day

Why not give your Dad a healthy alternative this Father's Day? Avoid buying booze and give something that can keep your Dad healthy and strong.

Get Healthy is a free telephone-based coaching service that provides people in NSW over 18 with a personal health coach to guide and support them on their journey to live a healthy life. Why not let your Dad know about it if you or he is concerned about his drinking or weight? Help your dad to drink less alcohol, get active and eat well.

If you want to talk to someone about alcohol call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. It is a free, 24-hour phone service offering information, support and advice.

Want to know whether your drinking habits are putting you at risk? Find out with the Your Room Risk Assessment.

30/08/2018Skip the booze this Father’s Day
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