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10 October is World Mental Health Day and this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) asks us to focus on suicide prevention. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), between 2015 and 2017, suicide was the leading underlying cause of death in Australians aged 15 to 44. WHO report that around the world someone loses their life to suicide every 40 seconds.

In NSW, October is Mental Health Month with this year's theme being 'Share the Journey', aiming to reduce isolation and create better connections through sharing. According to the WayAhead, the charity organisation behind the Mental Health Month campaign, "feeling connected with others gives us a sense of security, support, purpose and happiness."

The WayAhead offers the following suggestions for how we can better connect with others and 'Share the Journey':

  • Share a cuppa (tea or coffee) with a mate
  • Tell your loved ones about both your successes and difficulties
  • Reach out to people who might be withdrawing from others
  • Reach out with someone to find and access services or support
  • If you're overwhelmed, ask for help with the day-to-day chores or tasks
  • Get involved in group activities, for example sports or book clubs

Nearly half of all Australians will experience some form of mental health issue during their lifetime, if you or someone you know needs help don't delay in reaching out, help is available. For crisis support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week phone Lifeline on 13 11 14. To find mental health support in your local area contact the Mental Health Access Line on 1800 011 511.

Alcohol and drugs, a cause or effect?

The relationship between alcohol and drug use and mental health is a complex one. In their ‘Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia’ report the AIHW and the ‘2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS)’ acknowledge that some people struggling with mental helath problems may turn to alcohol and drug use for short term relief. Conversely, mental health illness can be triggered or arise from alcohol or drug use.

Just like physical health, your mental health and wellbeing can have a huge impact on all aspects of life. If you notice that your alcohol or drug use is negatively effecting your mood and impacting on your ability to work, study, maintain relationships, manage finances and or causing injury to you and others, it may be time to reach out for help.

There are a range of treatment options available to support people who want to change their alcohol and other drug use. Many of those options include counselling to address the underlying causes of the dependence or high risk substance use. For immediate support on alcohol and other drug issues, you can give an Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) counsellor a call on 1800 250 015, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For more information on the types of treatments available for people with alcohol and other drug dependence read 'In focus: Alcohol and other drug treatment and support'.

Experiencing stigma or discrimination can also impact your mental health and be a debilitating barrier to seeking help. To combat feelings of self-doubt, isolation or setbacks, try talking to someone you trust, joining a support group or calling the following helplines for immediate help:

  • ADIS provides 24/7 free and confidential advice and counselling on alcohol and drug use. Call 1800 250 015 or visit ADIS for further information.
  • Lifeline provides 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14 or visit
  • Suicide Call Back Service is a national 24/7 helpline that provides free professional phone and online counselling. Call 1300 659 467 or visit
  • Headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, provides mental health services to people aged 12 to 25 years old. For further information visit
3/10/2019World Mental Health Day
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Regardless of your physical fitness, ageing comes with some health concerns which when combined with alcohol and other drug use can exacerbate issues or present new challenges to your physical and mental health.

Older people living with alcohol and other drug dependence are some of the most vulnerable members of our communities and like all ageing Australians they experience many challenges. Accessing health and community services as you age can be difficult, but combined with the effects of stigmatisation and discrimination associated with alcohol and drug dependence, can lead to physical and mental health issues.

Alcohol and Other Drugs and our ageing population

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 showed that people in their 60s were the age group most likely to drink alcohol well above the Australian guidelines, drinking on average five of more drinks on at least five days per week. The instances of high alcohol consumption on a single occasion, or binge drinking, was also on the rise among people in their 50s and 60s between 2013 and 2016.

The 'Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol', which were developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, recommend the following:

  • "For healthy men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion (immediate harm)."
  • "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."

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report on treatment for alcohol and other drug dependence, in 2018 the average age of someone on opioid pharmacotherapy is 42 and data shows that the population of people over the age of 40 who are living with or have been alcohol and drug dependent is increasing.

Pharmacotherapy treats dependency on opioids such as morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone and heroin by replacing these with prescribed methadone or buprenorphine (including buprenorphine-naloxone) in NSW this treatment is available through the NSW Opioid Treatment Program (OTP). Methadone or buprenorphine gives people a chance to stop their illicit or problematic opioid use so they can focus on improving their health and lifestyle, and prepare for eventually staying drug-free.

These findings raise some grave concerns for people aged 50 and above, who are engaged in increased or regular alcohol and other drug use. It also signals that more people in their later years will have complex health concerns and needs in the future, calling on empathetic and considered care.

Getting help

According to researchers Roger Nicholas and Ann M Roche from Australia's National Research Centre and Alcohol and Other Drugs Workforce Development (NCETA) at Flinders University, "Older people may be reluctant to ask for help. They may feel embarrassed, or that they shouldn't need support. Longer-term users of specialist services may also be reluctant to re-engage in treatment as a result of perceptions that they have 'failed'. Some may also think that it is too late to change."

These perceptions, sometimes shared by others, are not only unhelpful but can be overcome by working with specialist services that have knowledge and skills in addressing the needs of people with substance use issues. Options for treatment include one-to-one support, counselling and support groups. Nicholas and Roche suggest, groupwork can also "help address loneliness and isolation, a common underlying cause of substance use problems."

According to Dr Sandro Demaio from ABC Life, "Staying active and maintaining a close community of friends and family is the final piece of the healthy ageing puzzle."

Engaging in regular social activity, exercise, eating healthy and mental stimulation reduces the risk of falls, injuries and chronic disease. 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.

For more information on the different types of treatment options for you or someone you care about facing alcohol and other drug issues, read In focus: Alcohol and other drug treatment and support.

For free and confidential advice give an Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) counsellor a call on 1800 250 015, they are available 24 hours, 7 days a week to provide confidential support and advice.

30/09/2019Ageing through discrimination
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Nangs, bulbs, whippets and laughing gas refer to nitrous oxide (N2O), a gas that when inhaled can cause giggle fits, short euphoria, sound distortions, blurred vision and loss of coordination.

Nitrous oxide is considered a cheap and quick high, lasting anywhere from 10 seconds up to 5 minutes, extracted from small cartridges and usually consumed via a balloon. Although N2O has been around for a very long time (since 1772), we're only now coming to understand the disastrous effects of prolonged and or excessive use.

Because N2O creates a short high and cartridges are easily bought at many convenience stores and supermarkets, some people are taking big risks to keep the high going by inhaling vast amounts in one sitting or having consecutive sessions over a period of days, weeks or months.

What does N2O do to you?

Inhaling N2O causes a short-acting dissociative effect, which means that it can give you a distorted sense of self or a sense of disconnection from both yourself and your environment. In a medical setting N2O is mixed with oxygen for pain relief or sedation (mainly in dentistry and surgery).

As with any drug, people respond differently depending on factors like body size, weight and general health. Inhaling N2O is especially risky for people with a vitamin B12 deficiency (particularly those on a vegetarian or vegan diet) and if it's being used with other drugs or excessively, over a long period of time. If you suffer from asthma, a chest infection, breathing difficulties or pulmonary hypertension, or if you're pregnant, inhaling N2O is highly dangerous.

Too many nangs

We now know that excessive use can cause a host of sometimes irreversible medical problems. Medical teams across NSW are starting to see young patients debilitated by long term effects as serious as spinal cord, brain and nerve damage. This is mainly caused by N2O's effect on depleting vitamin B12 in the body. These patients are no longer able to walk on their own and some will live with permanent numbness in their fingers and toes.

Long-term effects of excessive use:

  • Vitamin B12 depletion
  • Neurological disorders – development of diseases of the brain, spine and nerves
  • Anaemia - red blood cell deficiency (red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around your body)
  • Impaired memory and forgetfulness
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Skin hyperpigmentation

Short-term dangers

The gas may be a laugh but it can go bad very quickly when used in an unsafe way. There are a few things to be aware of when using N2O:

  • N2O is highly pressurised so inhaling directly from the bulb or via a cracker (device used to release the gas from the bulb) can cause a fatal lung injury or burn your throat and lips. Be aware that an unfiltered bulb also releases metal fragments.
  • Nangs are pure N2O gas, unlike in a medical setting where its mixed with oxygen, inhaling without breathing in oxygen (in a ventilated space) can make you hypoxic, this is where the flow of oxygen to your body tissues is stopped or reduced and can cause injury to the brain.
  • Inhaling standing up or in an unsafe environment is highly risky. The effects of N2O are immediate and can quite literally knock you off your feet.
  • There is always the risk of passing out or blackout due to a lack of oxygen or injury. If you're present when this happens to someone it's important to get help and get that person into the recovery position (see the figure on page 2 of Nitrous oxide: The facts).

Mixing nangs with other drugs

Mixing nitrous oxide with alcohol, painkillers (particularly those containing tramadol), opioids or GHB/GBL can be dangerous. Combining nitrous with each of these can lead to memory loss, blackouts, loss of coordination, unexpected unconsciousness and therefore increased danger of choking on your own vomit or injuries from falls.

Getting help

If you think you may have a problem with nangs (N2O) it may be time to have a discussion with your doctor / GP, a social worker or counsellor. If you don't feel comfortable talking to your regular doctor, free and confidential advice is available via the ADIS helpline.

For free and confidential advice give an Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) counsellor a call on 1800 250 015, they are available 24 hours, 7 days a week to provide confidential support and advice.

27/09/2019From cheap lols to nerve trouble: The nang effect
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New culturally and linguistically diverse videos, designed for people seeking help for themselves or someone they care about, have won a Multicultural Health Communication award that recognises excellence in working with patients and consumers as partners.

The series of videos explain how and where people can access help when alcohol and other drugs are a problem and are available in Arabic, Burmese, English, Farsi, Karenni, Kirundi, Mandarin and Swahili.

The videos were developed by Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD), in partnership with Illawarra Cultural and Linguistically Diverse Local Drug Action Team (CALD LDAT) and St Vincent's Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS). Other partner organisations included NSW Health, Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre (DAMEC) and the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF).

"We believe that everyone should have equitable access to key health services, when and if they need it."
Dianne Woods, Health Education Officer, Alcohol and Drug Service, Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD

Dianne Woods says that getting information to communities about what services are available and how to contact them, is essential in making health services more accessible.

Multicultural Health Communication Awards

The Multicultural Health Communication Awards are held biennially to acknowledge excellence in multilingual health communication across NSW Health and Health-funded non-government organisations (NGOs).

At the ceremony held on Monday 2 September, Dianne Woods, Health Education Officer at Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD; Bertha Quiros, Community Development Officer, Spanish and Latin-American Community Organisation (SALCO); and Hazel Sgouras, Contact Centre Manager, Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent's Hospital Sydney, accepted the 'Patients/consumers as partners' category award on behalf of all collaborators.

The 'Patients/consumers as partners' award recognises best practice in the co-design of multilingual health communication with patients and community members.

Watch and share

You can find the 'Where can I get help when alcohol or drugs are a problem?' video in Arabic, Burmese, English, Farsi, Karenni, Kirundi, Mandarin and Swahili in the Your Room resources section under the 'Where can I get help?' campaign.

Additional videos in a further 8 languages (Cantonese, Hazaragi, Assyrian, Chaldean, Nepali, Hindi, Tigrinya, and Vietnamese) are currently in development.

Illawarra CALD Local Drug Action Team (LDAT)

The Illawarra CALD LDAT is a coalition of community members and a unique mix of community and government services, which come together to reduce drug or alcohol related harm. This team build and extend partnerships in their community and use local knowledge to deliver evidence-informed alcohol and other drug harm prevention and minimisation activities that are tailored to the needs of their local area.

For free and confidential advice give an Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) counsellor a call on 1800 250 015, they are available 24 hours, 7 days a week to provide confidential support and advice.

Image: L to R - Dr Kerry Chant PSM, Chief Health Officer, Deputy Secretary Population and Public Health, NSW Health; Hazel Sgouras, Contact Centre Manager, Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent's Hospital Sydney; Dianne Woods, Health Education Officer, Alcohol and Drug Service, Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD; Bertha Quiros, Community Development Officer, Spanish and Latin-American Community Organisation (SALCO); and Lisa Woodland, Director, NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service (MHCS).

12/09/2019New multicultural videos win award
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At 9:09 on the 9th day of the 9th month, the world takes time to acknowledge the importance of alcohol free pregnancy.

Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy - even before the pregnancy is confirmed - increases the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), miscarriage, stillbirth, and perinatal death.

According to Louise Gray, Executive Officer of the National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (NOFASD) Australia , FASD is the most prevalent and preventable disability in the world. It does not discriminate based on ethnicity, creed, wealth or socioeconomic status.

What is FASD?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or FASD is a type of acquired brain injury that is caused when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. A baby born with FASD can have life-long problems with learning, growth, behaviour, memory, language, communication and everyday living. They may also have birth defects and facial abnormalities.

Most children with FASD show no visible signs and can often go undiagnosed but could have the following behavioural characteristics:

  • Physical and emotional developmental delay
  • Impaired speech and language development
  • Learning problems, e.g. poor memory
  • Difficulty controlling behaviour

The level of harm caused by FASD is dependent on a range of factors, most predominantly the amount and frequency of alcohol consumed but also:

  • Generational alcohol use by either parent
  • Age of the mother
  • Health of the mother (e.g. nutrition, mental health, tobacco and other drug use)
  • Environmental factors (e.g. stress, exposure to violence, poverty)

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.

There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy and no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.

Getting help and the facts

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 quick guides, resources and videos on how to stay off booze during pregnancy and the role family and friends play in supporting a pregnant woman, take a look at the Yarning about Alcohol + Pregnancy resources on Your Room.

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 give an Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) counsellor a call on 1800 250 015, they are available 24 hours, 7 days a week to provide confidential support and advice.

6/09/2019FASD Awareness Day 2019
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From 2017 to 2018 around 130,000 people in Australia sought treatment for alcohol and other drug concerns and it is estimated that many more people are in need of help than are seeking it. Alcohol remains the 6th leading cause of disease and other drug related disease and injury has increased by 18 per cent since 2003.

What is dependence?

Dependence is defined as not having control over using or taking something to the point that it could become harmful.  A person is understood to have developed a dependence on alcohol or other drugs when they need to use it regularly in order to feel 'normal' and if it becomes more important than, or negatively impacts on, other things in their life, such as relationships, study, work and self-care.

While most people do not become dependent, for some people alcohol and other drugs create changes in the brain that can make it more difficult for them to stop, even when using alcohol and other drugs has a negative impact on their life and health.

How alcohol and other drug dependence can impact your life

High risk drinking or drug use can cause serious physical, psychological and social harm. It can have an effect on your fitness for work, your ability to maintain relationships, manage finances and increases the possibility of injury to you and others.

Signs that you may be having problems with alcohol or other drugs may include:

  • Drinking or using drugs when you are alone
  • Relying on alcohol or drugs to have fun and relax
  • Finding you need more and more of the substance to get the same effect
  • Frequent changes in mood, either feeling more anxious or unhappy
  • Trouble sleeping, eating or doing normal daily tasks
  • Missing work or not doing things you were meant to
  • Difficulty controlling how much alcohol and drugs are used
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

For free and confidential advice give an Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) counsellor a call on 1800 250 015, they are available 24 hours, 7 days a week to provide confidential support and advice.

Why the first step can be difficult

When people recognise they have a problem with alcohol and other drugs it can be a confronting experience.

Experiencing stigma or discrimination can impact your mental health and be a debilitating external barrier to seeking help. To combat feelings of self-doubt, isolation or setbacks, try talking to someone you trust, joining a support group or calling helplines like the Alcohol Drug Information Service (1800 250 015) for support 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Feelings of connection and support play an important part in recovery. People who reach out for help are often aided by discovering that they are not alone, they have support and many shared experiences with people who've overcome dependency.

All patients have the right to receive health care given with consideration and respect, without bias or discrimination, thereby recognising personal dignity at all times.
— NSW Clinical Guidelines: Treatment of Opioid Dependence, 2018

Treatment and support options

There are a range of treatment options available to support people change their alcohol or other drug use:

  • Counselling is the most common kind of treatment and there are different approaches that might be taken. These might involve talking through your problems, helping you decide if you want to cut down or stop using, learning to change the way you think, or thinking about how you might deal with difficult situations. Counselling can be provided individually or in a group situation, ADIS can offer brief counselling over the phone or direct you to a service appropriate for you. Support is also available to family members or support people through the Family Drug Support (FDS) service (details at the bottom of this article).
  • Withdrawal management or detoxification (also called detox) can help people to stop their alcohol and/or other drug use while minimising unpleasant symptoms and the risks of harm. Withdrawal services usually provide support for between 3 and 14 days and can be provided in a residential, home or outpatient setting.
  • Residential rehabilitation is the psychological care and support for people in a supervised alcohol and other drug-free residential community setting. Residential rehabilitation programs range from 4 weeks to 12 months in duration, that provide a range of support services such as individual and group counselling, physical health and wellbeing, and education and skills training. Some residential rehabilitation services provide programs for populations with specific needs, such as young people or women with children. Many residential rehabilitation services require people to have completed alcohol and other drug withdrawal management before admission to residential rehabilitation treatment.
  • Day rehabilitation programs provide structured non-residential education, support and counselling services where people attend for set times during the day and/or evening, but remain living at their usual place of residence. The programs usually run for a set period of time (i.e. three or six weeks) and include individual and group activities. Day rehabilitation programs will have either a fixed intake (the same group of people for the entire program) or a rolling intake (where new people enter throughout the program). These programs may provide greater flexibility than residential rehabilitation and may better meet some people's needs and circumstances.
  • Opioid Treatment Program (OTP), also known as opioid agonist treatment or opioid substitution treatment, provides pharmacotherapy and support services to people with an opioid dependence. Treatment may be provided as a short term measure to assist people to stop use of other opioids, or as a longer term maintenance. The OTP may be provided alongside other treatments such as counselling or residential rehabilitation. The OTP is provided through public clinics, private clinics, approved general practitioners (GPs) and community pharmacies. Current pharmacotherapy medications used in the NSW OTP are Methadone, Buprenorphine and Buprenorphine-Naloxone.
  • Self-help groups allow you the opportunity to be with others who have an understanding of alcohol and drug related issues, and who have developed their own strategies in managing their alcohol and other drug use. Examples of self-help groups include SMART Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
  • Aboriginal alcohol and other drug services are available across NSW including seven Aboriginal community-controlled residential rehabilitation services in NSW. Additionally, many of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in NSW provide drug and alcohol services.
  • Social support services can help you to access housing, financial, legal, general health, dental and other assistance. Speak with your local community health service or treatment service for details.
  • Drugs in pregnancy services are available at several hospitals in NSW. These services work alongside antenatal services and help pregnant women with alcohol and/or other drug use problems during pregnancy as well as providing ongoing care after childbirth.

Which treatment is right for me?

To determine which treatment is right for you, have a talk with your doctor or give ADIS a call and speak with an experienced counsellor. Your conversation is confidential and the counsellor will help you find relevant services and treatment options in your area.

How much will it cost?

There may be minimal costs for some publicly funded services, but a number of treatment options such as counselling and withdrawal are generally free or low-cost. You will have to pay for any treatment undertaken at private alcohol and other drug services. Residential rehabilitation services may ask for a financial contribution from people on government allowances which is usually a per cent of any social security payments received.

Before you start treatment, contact Medicare and/or your private health insurer to confirm exactly what you're covered for. Private health insurance is recommended if you wish to access the private treatment sector.

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.

If you are a concerned family member or friend of someone in crisis due to drug and alcohol issues, support is available. Family Drug Support (FDS) provides 24 hours, 7 days a week phone support to families FDS is staffed by volunteers who have firsthand experience of drug dependent family members. You can call them on 1300 368 186.

30/08/2019In focus: Alcohol and other drug treatment and support
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According to Australia's Annual Overdose Report 2019, produced by the Penington Institute, from 2001 to 2017 unintentional drug-induced deaths increased by 3.4 per cent per year, compared with Australia's road toll which has decreased on average by 2.2 per cent per year.

In 2017, there were 2,162 drug-induced deaths in Australia, a 75.6 per cent increase from 2001 - 1,612 of those deaths were unintentional with opioids being the drug group most commonly involved.

71 per cent of unintentional drug-induced deaths in 2017 were people aged between 30 and 59, twice as many were men and Aboriginal Australians were three times more likely to die from unintentional overdose.

Despite these alarming figures, Penington Institute CEO John Ryan is positive about what can be done in Australia to make overdose less frequent and fatal: "Community-wide and targeted education to potential overdose witnesses, expanded access to drug treatment including opioid agonist therapy, improved access to the opioid reversal drug naloxone, pain management and allied health will all help."

Life-saving overdose-reversing drug

Naloxone is a short-acting opioid antagonist that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Take Home Naloxone programs delivered to people at risk of witnessing or experiencing an opioid overdose, have been established in Australia and internationally to reduce overdose-related deaths.

In NSW the Take Home Naloxone Intervention (ORTHN) is currently available as part of a research trail in St Vincent's Health Network, five Local Health Districts (South Eastern Sydney, Sydney, Western Sydney, Hunter New England and Murrumbidgee) and the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre.

NSW Health is currently preparing for the launch of the intervention to other Local Health Districts and health services. ORTHN will see free distribution of naloxone and training on administering the drug available to community members throughout the state in latter quarter of 2019.

Naloxone is currently also available on prescription by a doctor or by consulting with a community pharmacist.

What is Overdose Awareness Day?

On 31 of August the world turns its attention to International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD). The goals of IOAD are to provide people with a safe environment to mourn those they've lost without shame or guilt, educate communities on the risk of overdose and the support available for people with a drug dependence and to encourage discussion on overdose prevention, supported by evidence-based policy and practice.

Our message is simple - the tragedy of overdose death is preventable and more must be done to save lives. – International Overdose Awareness Day

Overdose Awareness Day activities in NSW

Activities to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day are happening all across the world on 31 August. In NSW the following activities are taking place on or around the date:

Check the International Overdose Awareness Day website at for any additional events in NSW.

For further information and to request Australia's annual overdose report 2019, visit

Are drugs a problem for someone you care about? Contact Family Drug Support (FDS) for 24 hours, 7 days a week phone support on 1300 368 186 or visit

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.

29/08/2019Overdose Awareness Day 2019
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Seven brave Australians from various cultural backgrounds tell their stories about living with alcohol dependence and their road to treatment and recovery.

The five part video series was developed by WentWest, the Western Sydney Primary Health Network, in collaboration with cultural and spiritual healing centre Marrin Weejali Aboriginal Corporation and the Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre (DAMEC).

"It blocked my ability to grow up." - Truddy

The videos explore alcohol dependency through the eyes of everyday Aussies - Venus, Lucas, Truddy, Kenny, Fabian, Jack and Philip - as they talk about the early days of their dependence; when they realised they had a problem; what it was like getting help; and some words of advice for people who might be struggling with dependence.

With compelling honesty, the speakers open up about the challenges they've faced, from the impact of trauma, negative influences and family expectations, through to getting help and ultimately overcoming their dependence.


If drug and alcohol use is negatively impacting on your health, family, relationships, work, school or other social situations, you may need to seek help. Support services are available for people with a dependence as well as their family and friends.

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

27/08/2019Behind the scenes: Living with alcohol dependency
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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
7/08/2019 11:59 AMnswdoh\60181432

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
5/07/2019 3:07 PMnswdoh\60181432

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
13/08/2019 11:36 AMnswdoh\60181432

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
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​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
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