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8/08/2018 9:02 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

Guest contributor Dr Jan Fizzell, public health physician for NSW Health and advisor to the NSW Chief Health Officer on medicinal cannabis, talks to the Your Room team about cannabis medicines – the state of play in Australia, what the evidence (and your doctor) says, and where next for NSW.

Bud, dope, grass, marijuana, mary jane, hash, weed – whatever you call it, there is no doubt that we are entering a historic time for cannabis.

In the last two months alone, a number of landmark developments have changed the global landscape for both recreational and medicinal cannabis.

On 19 June 2018, Canada's parliament voted to become the first G7 nation to fully legalise cannabis (legalisation comes into effect on 17 October 2018). Days later, on 25 June, the US Food and Drug Administration approved, for the first time, a drug derived from the cannabis plant. As recently as last month, the UK's Home Office announced, on 27 July, that medicinal cannabis will be available in the UK on prescription later this year.

Given Canada's recent legalisation announcement, recreational use of cannabis has been hot in the press. However, cannabis for medical purposes continues to drive public and political interest. 91 per cent of Australians support legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes (in comparison, only 32 per cent believe recreational cannabis use should be legal).

A range of countries worldwide have legalised medicinal cannabis, either through a largely unregulated general access model, such as the market in California, or as a form of registered medicine market, such as has been established in Israel. But where does this leave Australia?

From Perth to Sydney: Medicinal cannabis in Australia 

In 2016, Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) decriminalised supply and use of medicinal cannabis. The following year, the TGA rescheduled certain medicinal cannabis products to schedule 8 of the Poisons Standard, making the prescription of cannabis medicines legal in Australia.

Governments at both Commonwealth and State and Territory levels have implemented legislative and policy change to allow the cultivation, manufacture, prescribing and dispensing of medicinal cannabis products for patients in Australia. This has been driven partly by community and advocacy groups and the media and informed by the development of medicinal cannabis programs in other countries.

Cannabis medicines are now available on prescription in all Australian states and territories. In NSW specifically, doctors have been able to seek approval to prescribe medicinal cannabis for patients since 1 August 2016. This was a result of changes under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Designated Non-ARTG Products) Regulation 2016 (under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966). Previously, NSW patients could only legally access cannabis-based medicines through clinical trials. 

The use of cannabis outside of regulated medicinal purposes for specific products remains illegal in Australia. If you use, personally cultivate, sell or supply cannabis (leaf, resin or oil) to someone else and get caught, you could face significant fines and other penalties, including a prison sentence.

Back to basics: What is a cannabis medicine and who can get it?

A cannabis medicine is a lawfully prescribed and dispensed pharmaceutical-grade, cannabis-derived product used specifically for human therapeutic (medical) purposes. All cannabis medicines in Australia need to meet a quality standard to ensure they are free from contaminants and are manufactured to a consistent standard. In Australia, cannabis medicines are regulated in the established medicines framework that applies to all drugs and poisons.

Only doctors can apply to prescribe a cannabis medicine – not patients or carers. NSW doctors apply for approval to prescribe cannabis medicines through a single application process when they consider it the appropriate treatment for their patients.  The doctor prescribing should consult with other doctors involved in the care of the patient. For some health conditions, a specialist in that treatment area is expected to lead or support prescribing. This is because those health conditions are usually managed by such a specialist.

There is no pre-determined list of conditions for which a cannabis medicine can be prescribed in Australia. Each application from a prescribing doctor will be considered on its merits.


Blazing a trail: The NSW Government's approach to cannabis medicines

The NSW Government has committed $21 million to develop a better understanding of the therapeutic potential of cannabis medicines.

This includes $9 million over four years in clinical trials to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of cannabis medicine in providing relief from the symptoms of serious conditions: children with severe treatment-resistant epilepsy, adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting unresponsive to standard treatments; and improving quality of life for adult palliative care patients. The NSW Clinical Trials program was established after advice from an expert advisory panel regarding the most important areas to understand the use of cannabis medicines.

The NSW Government has also invested up to $12 million over four years to establish and operate the NSW Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation. The Centre will draw on local and international researchers to advance our formal understanding of medicinal cannabis, monitor the NSW-funded clinical trials, educate the community, and help people navigate regulatory processes.

The NSW Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation has funded the $6 million Cannabis Medicines Access Program. The NSW Cannabis Medicines Advisory Service was opened in January 2018 to provide health practitioners anywhere in NSW with timely, high-quality clinical advice. It is Australia's first cannabis medicines 'hotline' and aims to simplify and speed up access for doctors whose patients may benefit from this type of treatment.

The NSW Government has also provided funding support for the Australian Centre for Cannabinoid Clinical Research and Excellence (ACRE). ACRE will develop prescribing protocols for the use of cannabis medicines and provide blood monitoring for patients and data collection tools for their health care professionals to collect more information on the safety and efficacy of these medicines.

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Is cannabis a medical miracle? The jury is still out

Cannabis is a complex plant and we are still learning about the hundreds of compounds that make up the plant; how they interact with each other and how they affect organs and systems in the human body.

Although medicinal cannabis has been introduced in a number of countries, it is still an emerging field. Little high-quality clinical research has been conducted into its therapeutic use and the strength and quality of scientific evidence from the research that has been conducted varies, as does the evidence of safety and effectiveness for many products currently available.

Doctors rely on high quality evidence from clinical trials to help make prescribing decisions. While positive stories of treatment from patients help us understand where to investigate further, we know that success sometimes comes from other treatments they are on at the same time, sometimes from a positive mental disposition towards the treatment working (a "placebo" effect), and sometimes only work in certain circumstances. Clinical trials help us.

We also often see work done in the laboratory or in mice promote cannabis as a miracle cure. However, sadly, "miracle" drugs in the laboratory don't always translate to successful treatments in humans. For example, in general, nine out of ten drugs for cancer that were promising in the laboratory or in animal models of disease don't work in clinical trials in humans.

Some new cannabis medicines will expose patients to much higher doses of cannabinoids (the chemical compounds of cannabis) than they would have been exposed to. Cannabinoids work all over the body. As such, we need a degree of caution in ensuring that they do not have unexpected adverse effects. For example, we know that some cannabinoids interact with the immune system. If we are trying to treat a cancer with a different medicine that needs the immune system to function, giving a cannabis medicine that might interfere with the immune system might do more harm than good.

Some uses of cannabis medicines have had significant amounts of research. The Commonwealth Department of Health through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and with the support of the NSW, Victorian and Queensland state governments, commissioned a team to review the available scientific evidence for the use of cannabis medicines in five areas: palliative care, nausea and vomiting, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and pain. The resulting guidance reveals that currently there is limited evidence about the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis for use in different medical conditions. There is also little known about the most suitable doses of individual cannabis products.

Currently, only one product has been fully assessed for safety, quality and efficacy and is registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). All other cannabis medicines are experimental and their effects on different people are still being studied.

Straight from the horse's mouth: What does your doctor think?  

On 2 March 2018, the NSW and Commonwealth governments introduced a streamlined application process for doctors to prescribe unregistered cannabis medicines. On 30 July 2018, this was supplemented by an online system which enables medical practitioners to submit Special Access Scheme (SAS) applications and notifications electronically. Previously, physical application forms had to be emailed or faxed to the TGA for review.

As of 17 July 2018, NSW Health has received three times as many applications (335) from doctors in the 4.5 months since streamlined arrangements were introduced on 2 March 2018, than the 113 applications received in the preceding 18-month period (from 1 August 2016 when changes to NSW legislation came into effect, up until 1 March 2018).

The NSW Government is working to support appropriately qualified medical practitioners to access legal, safe and effective pharmaceutical-grade cannabis products where they consider this to be an appropriate treatment option for their patients. However, a doctor's first duty of care is to ensure their patient's safety. To feel confident prescribing any new medicine, a doctor requires evidence – high quality clinical research, where carefully designed studies are conducted in humans – showing that the medicine is safe and effective.

Despite widespread anecdotal claims that cannabis is a natural, benign product, a cannabis medicine, like any experimental medicine, offers potential risks in the way it interacts with other medicines as well as uncertainty in what side effects it may cause. For a doctor, anecdotes do not equal evidence. It is ultimately the decision of the patient's doctor as to whether they prescribe, or not.

NSW doctors can access the NSW Cannabis Medicines Advisory Service to access up-to-date information about the use of cannabis medicines; formulations, dosing regimens and potential interactions with other drugs.


Cannabis medicines: Where to next

Australia is proceeding towards a registered medicine model for cannabis. Legislation passed last year allowing cannabis to be prescribed as a Schedule 8 drug (a category that includes a varied range of addictive drugs such as morphine and codeine) reflects this.

However, although humans have been using cannabis products for thousands of years, we are still at the very beginning of the journey towards cannabis as medicine. High-quality clinical research, such as the three NSW Government-funded cannabis medicine trials, is vital to understand how cannabis products can contribute to patient outcomes.

Where it concerns cultivation, the Federal Parliament of Australia passed landmark legislation – the Narcotic Drugs Amendment Bill 2016 – on 29 February 2016 to allow the controlled cultivation of cannabis in Australia for medicinal and related scientific purposes. As of 11 July 2018, 18 Medicinal Cannabis Licences (cultivation and production), 10 Cannabis Research Licences (cultivation and production), and 13 Manufacture Licences have been granted.

The NSW Government has also funded $1 million for agronomic research undertaken by the NSW Department of Primary Industries to support the development of high quality cannabis products in NSW.

The data collected through the NSW Cannabis Medicines Advisory Service and clinical trials program will accelerate knowledge and understanding about the role of cannabis medicines and inform future practice. These investments in building the evidence base can help support applications for registration of cannabis medicines on the ARTG and listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – the standard pathways for accessible and affordable quality medicines for Australian patients.

Cannabis as a medicine remains a topical, complex and emotionally-charged issue. It is also operating in a quickly changing public and political sphere. The NSW Government is committed to patients having access to cannabinoid products where they improve patient outcomes and this will remain a core focus in the months and years ahead.

Want to learn more about cannabis? Check out our cannabis drug page to get the facts.

Where can I find more information?

Visit the website of the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation:

Patients, their families and carers can also seek further information through:

  • Calling the cannabis medicines helpline: 1800 217 257
  • Emailing:
  • Writing to the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation, NSW Ministry of Health, Locked Mail Bag 961, North Sydney, NSW 2059

7/08/2018Coming out of the green closet: All you wanted to know about cannabis medicines
26/07/2018 10:17 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

Hepatitis C (hep C) is a disease that is caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus lives in the liver and can cause severe scarring and damage to the liver which can have long-lasting health effects.

Hep C is spread when the blood of an infected person enters the blood of an uninfected person. According to Hepatitis NSW, roughly 230,000 Australians have contracted hep C via the sharing of drug injecting equipment, contaminated medical procedures (prior to 1990) or medical procedures overseas.

How do I know if I have hep C if there can be no symptoms?

Many people have no symptoms when they are first infected with hep C, so you might not know if you have been infected. For those who do feel ill they may get nausea, tiredness, or loss of appetite. Hep C can be diagnosed with simple blood tests and should be considered if you:

  • Have injected drugs
  • Been in prison
  • Have had a blood transfusion, blood product or organ transplant in Australia before February 1990
  • Have a tattoo or body piercing
  • Have emigrated from a country where hep C is widespread
  • Are male and have sex with men
  • Are born to a mother who was hep C positive during her pregnancy
  • Have a needle-stick injury
  • Have abnormal liver function tests or are experiencing hep C symptoms

Can Hep C be cured?

Hep C can be easily cured with new treatments called direct acting antivirals (DAAs). For every 20 people treated, 19 will be cured. Once cured from hep C, you should no longer have hep C symptoms and treatment may reverse the damage to your liver. However, if hep C has already caused damage to the liver, clearing your hep C might not mean that you feel healthy straight away. You might need to see a doctor or specialist for ongoing monitoring and you will still have a risk of liver complications, even after clearing your hep C.

When it comes to treatment, there are a range of different medications. Your doctor will recommend the best option for you depending on your treatment assessment and there is no need for a liver biopsy.

Should I start treatment?

hep c.jpgThere has never been a better time to get your hep C treated. The treatment usually lasts for 12 weeks, has very few side effects and is taken in tablet form, so there are no injections and you don't need to get a liver biopsy before starting treatment.

Treatments for hep C can now be prescribed by GPs and doctors at hospital liver clinics. Inside prison, treatment can be prescribed by clinic nurses or doctors.

Can I start treatment if I'm using drugs?

Yes, even if you are currently injecting drugs, you can get start hep C treatment. If you have a history of drug and alcohol use and are unsure of whether now is the right time to begin treatment, call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 for advice.

The Let's Talk counselling service also offers free support to people in NSW affected by hep B or C related liver disease, their family and carers. Counselling can be delivered face-to-face, via Skype or over the phone. For more support and treatment information, check out our Getting Help section here.

What if treatment doesn't work?

The new hep C treatments have a 95 per cent rate of curing the disease. There are a very small number of cases where treatment does not work and you may be referred to a liver specialist who will talk to you about the best treatment for you.

It's important to remember:

  • There is no limit on how many times you can access treatment
  • There is no evidence to suggest that, if treatment didn't work the first time, it's never going to work
  • Liver specialists will do everything they can to ensure you are cured of hep C

What is Hepatitis NSW?

Hepatitis NSW is a not-for-profit health promotion charity funded by the NSW Ministry of Health which connects patients with doctors who can prescribe hepatitis C treatment.

Hepatitis NSW have worked proactively with GPs and pharmacists to build an online NSW-wide directory of services for people with hep C to access treatment locally and visit a GP close to them for testing and ongoing hep C management.

For more information about Hepatitis NSW visit or to speak to someone who has experienced hep C treatment call 1800 803 990 today.

25/07/2018Hepatitis C can be cured!
24/07/2018 11:40 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

​Drug use is something that we all see on a daily basis. Whether it be the groups of smokers huddled down the side street that we walk past on the way to work, the long queue of people waiting to get their morning fix of caffeine at the local coffee shop, or the endless bars and pubs on a Friday night packed with people sipping on a glass of wine or schooner of beer to celebrate the end of the work week.

Drug use doesn't have to be illegal to be a problem. Each year, legal drug use causes more harm to society than illegal drugs, with alcohol and tobacco being two of the leading contributors to the burden of illness and deaths in Australia, according to a study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

But drug use that we don't see as often, including illicit drug use, can also cause harm to society and the individual. In 2011, Opioids accounted for the largest proportion (41%) of the illicit drug use burden.

The reality is that many of us know someone who uses drugs, but knowing what to do when you're concerned about their drug use can be difficult. The alcohol and drug information service (ADIS) advises:

1. Be aware that everyone has different drug preferences – not everyone wants to use the same drug.

2. Avoid judging people based on their drug preference.

3. Accept that people don't always want to talk about their personal drug use when you do.

4. Be aware that everyone's relationship with drugs is different and can change over time i.e. a person's relationship with a drug can start off pretty casual then become very intense and then become intermittent again.

5. Understand not all drug use evolves into problematic use or dependence.

6. Invite the person you are concerned about to reflect on their relationship with drugs and consider asking:

  • Whether they are happy with the relationship?
  • Whether they see it as a life-long relationship?
  • Whether there is anything about their relationship they want to change?

7. Be aware there is no handbook you can follow to persuade someone to stop taking drugs which means there are limits to helping in some situations. Avoid the temptation to lecture someone who won't stop taking drugs.

8. If a person refuses to talk to you about their relationship with drugs they can phone a free, anonymous and confidential helpline like ADIS on 1800 250 015

What is ADIS?

ADIS is a free, 24-hour phone service available across New South Wales, offering information, support and advice for people seeking help to stop or reduce their drug use, as well as for their family and friends.

The ADIS service provides information, treatment referrals, crisis counselling, and support for illegal drugs like heroin, ice and cannabis, as well as legal drugs such as alcohol. ADIS can also give you contact information to help you access treatment services.

Help for families and friends

The influence of alcohol or other drug problems affects the person using the substance, but it can also impact on their family, friends and colleagues. Often, other people can see the problem that substance use is causing before the person using does.

The person may not want to change or might not see a need to change. It may be the case that they are experiencing mental illness, such as depression, which makes it more difficult for them to realise their drug use is a problem or have the motivation to change.

Family Drug Support (FDS) is an organisation that provides support and assistance to families throughout Australia who are dealing with a family member who is using drugs. Learn more about FDS here.

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

24/07/2018What to do if you’re concerned about someone’s drug use
25/07/2018 3:52 PMDIMAURO, Sophie

Pregnancy, childbirth and caring for a newborn baby can be a challenge, especially when the list of "do's" and "don'ts" is endless. Mothers to be are told that some weight gain is healthy, but within the healthy weight guidelines, to eat a balanced diet but not X, Y and Z, to exercise regularly but not vigorously.

But how many women know the real impact of one or two glasses of wine during their pregnancy? And how many mothers know that drinking alcohol while breastfeeding might be just as harmful as drinking when pregnant? The answer, regrettably, is not many.

Low adherence to guidelines

A recent study by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) found that although 70 per cent of Australians are aware there are guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, only one in four know of the actual content. 

It is likely that this is a contributing factor to the high prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy in Australia, which according to findings from a BMJ Open study, ranges from 40 per cent to 80 per cent. The BMJ study highlighted low adherence to alcohol guidelines that advise complete abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy.

However the reasons for drinking while pregnant might vary from a culture of tolerance towards alcohol consumption during pregnancy, drinking because their partner continues to drink throughout this period, stressful living conditions, a lack of knowledge, mental illness and addiction. 

The facts

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) miscarriage, stillbirth, and perinatal death.

When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol moves through her body ('circulates') in the bloodstream, and also enters the baby's bloodstream via the placenta in the same concentration. Alcohol can affect the development of the baby's brain. There is no safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy and no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy.

After birth, the babies of alcohol dependent mothers can suffer withdrawal symptoms, including tremors, irritability and fits.

What is FASD?

FASD is a term to describe a group of conditions caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy. It is suggested that FASD is the most prevalent, preventable disability in the world.

Not much accurate data on the prevalence of FASD in Australia is available but it is estimated that FASD affects roughly between two per cent and five per cent of the population in the United States. The prevalence may be as high as 12 per cent in some high-risk Indigenous communities, according to the Australian Medical Association (Aug 24, 2016).

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. However, most children with FASD show no visible signs but could have brain damage that causes:

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

There is no cure for FASD and its effects last a lifetime.

Alcohol and breastfeeding

Alcohol in the mother's bloodstream passes into breast milk. It can reduce the milk supply, and can cause irritability, poor feeding, sleep disturbance, and poor psychomotor development in the baby.

A number of factors affect how much alcohol gets into your breast milk, including: the strength and amount of alcohol in your drink; what and how much you've eaten; how much you weigh; how quickly you are drinking.

It is advised that mothers avoid alcohol in the first month after delivery until breastfeeding is going well and there is some sort of pattern to their baby's feeding. It is generally risky to take any drug while breastfeeding without medical advice.

Find out more information about alcohol and breastfeeding and how you can drink alcohol safely when breastfeeding by planning ahead here.

The guidelines

According to the 2016 Alcohol Policy by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, drinking during pregnancy can result in congenital abnormalities and disability.

The 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council alcohol guidelines state that for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.

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 live a healthy life - helping them 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 pregnancy. Speak to a Get Healthy in Pregnancy Service coach today to see how they can help you to stop drinking during your pregnancy. Call 1300 806 258 today 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 here.

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

23/07/2018Get healthy during pregnancy and breastfeeding
20/07/2018 11:12 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

NSW Health’s Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant has announced that round four of the Translational Research Grants Scheme (TRGS) has launched with $8 million of funding up for grabs.

The funding will support research projects that will translate into practice change, directly impacting on patient and population health outcomes.

For the fourth year the Office for Health and Medical Research (OHMR) will administer the grants scheme. The call for expressions of interest has officially opened to staff within NSW Local Health Districts, Specialty Health Networks, the Ambulance Service of NSW, and NSW Health Pathology.

Applicants are encouraged to partner with other organisations such as universities and medical research institutes and to support researchers to identify relevant partners who will be actively involved in the delivery of projects and implementation of outcomes.

This year, the total number of expressions of interest that can be submitted to the scheme is capped at five per host organisation. Host organisations are encouraged to work with their researchers to identify and support projects that address local and/or state priorities; are system relevant; and align with the purpose, objectives and intents of the Scheme.

All expressions of interest and full applications must be submitted through the TRGS coordinator for your host organisation to ensure that applications have gone through the internal review process.

A number of information videos for prospective applicants will be available on the Office for Health and Medical Research (OHMR) website throughout July. The videos are designed to help applicants develop competitive submissions. The links to the short video sessions will be available on the TRGS website.

The TRGS website also has a number of resources that are available to support Host Organisations and applicants including:

  • The Guidelines to Applicants provide detailed information regarding the dates, process and selection criteria for the scheme.

  • The Translational Research Framework will assist Host Organisations and applicants to identify the relevant research questions and appropriate research designs for their applications.

Find out more information about the TRGS here.

19/07/2018The NSW Health Chief Health Officer announces $8m research funding
19/07/2018 11:38 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

NSW Health has recently added a list of withdrawal management and residential rehabilitation services to their website, which can be found here.

This list includes all the services that are NSW Health funded, however there may be additional services that are relevant to the NSW community that are not included in this list. You can contact ADIS or search for services that are not NSW Health funded using the Your Service Hub directory.

What is withdrawal management?

Withdrawal management is the short-term medical and psychological care of a person experiencing withdrawal symptoms as a result of stopping or reducing use of their drug of dependence. Withdrawal management may also be known as detoxification or detox, and is provided in outpatient, inpatient and residential settings.

A full assessment of a person's health and service needs is undertaken to determine how best to provide withdrawal management if needed.

What is residential rehabilitation?

Residential rehabilitation is the psychological care and support for people in a residential community setting that is free from alcohol and other drug (AOD) consumption.

Residential rehabilitation programs may be medium to long-term in duration (4 weeks to 12 months) and provide a range of support services such as individual and group counselling, physical health and well-being, and education and skills training. Some residential rehabilitation services provide programs for populations with specific needs, such as young people and women with children.

A full assessment of a person's health and service needs is undertaken to determine how best to provide residential rehabilitation and if the service contacted is the best fit. Many residential rehabilitation services require people to have completed AOD withdrawal before admission to residential rehabilitation treatment.

A number of Aboriginal community controlled organisations provide residential rehabilitation and other healing services for Aboriginal people. Services like this that are funded by NSW Health are included in the list but there are also additional services that can be found here

Talk to someone

Whether you are having issues with alcohol or other drugs, are concerned about someone else's alcohol or other drug use, or just have general questions about AOD, you can call ADIS any time of the day or week for support, information, counselling and referral to services in NSW on 1800 250 015.

To learn about the different types of support services and treatment, visit our Getting Help section today.

18/07/2018Withdrawal management & residential rehabilitation in NSW
13/07/2018 5:01 PMDIMAURO, Sophie

​Every July NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia to remember the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This year's theme, 'Because of Her, We Can', celebrates the essential role that women have played - and continue to play - as active and significant role models at the community, local, state and national levels.

But it doesn't have to be NAIDOC Week to celebrate all the amazing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Here we take a look at 10 of the many, many strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have been trailblazers for Aboriginal people and all Australians:

1. Pearl Gibbs

Pearl Gibbs.PNGPearl Gibbs was one of the most prominent Indigenous female activists within the Aboriginal movement in the early 20th century. As a member of the Aborigines Progressive Association, she was involved with various protest events such as the 1938 Day of Mourning.

She played a vital role in ensuring that women were represented in the struggle for equality and injustices.

2. Cathy Freeman

Cathy Freeman.PNGCathy Freeman is a trail blazer. A proud Kuku Yalanji woman, Cathy became the first Australian Aboriginal woman to win a gold medal at an international athletics event in 1990 and, two years later, became the first Australian Aboriginal to compete at the Olympics.

Today, Cathy concentrates on charitable work through the Cathy Freeman Foundation, which focuses on educational programs to help indigenous children fulfil their potential in school.

3. Emily Kngwarreye

Emily Kngwarreye.PNGImage courtesy of Tara Ebes

Emily Kame Kngwarreye was one of Australia's most significant contemporary artists. Her remarkable work was inspired by her cultural life as an Anmatyerre elder, and her lifelong custodianship of the women's Dreaming sites in her clan Country, Alhalkere.

She began painting quite late in her life and had first been introduced to silk batik with a group of women from Utopia in 1977. In 1987 Emily began working with acrylics on canvas. A design inspired by her artwork 'Yam Dreaming', featured on Qantas planes in 1994. Emily knew virtually nothing of the art world and drew her energy, creativity and inspiration from country in the centre of Australia.

4. Oogeroo Noonacal

Oogeroo Noonacal.PNGOodgeroo Noonuccal (formerly Kath Walker) was an Australian poet, political activist, artist and educator. She was also a campaigner for Aboriginal rights. Oodgeroo was best known for her poetry, and was the first Aboriginal Australian to publish a book of verse.

She was Queensland state secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI), and was involved in a number of other political organisations. She was a key figure in the campaign for the reform of the Australian constitution to allow Aboriginal people full citizenship, lobbying Prime Minister Robert Menzies in 1965, and his successor Harold Holt in 1966.

5. Deborah Cheetham

Deborah Cheetham.jpgDeborah Cheetham is an Aboriginal Australian soprano, actor, composer and playwright. She is a member of the Stolen Generations, taken from her mother when she was three weeks old and was raised by a white baptist family. Jimmy Little was her uncle.

In 1997 Cheetham wrote the autobiographical play 'White Baptist Abba Fan' which tells of her experiences of coming to terms with her homosexuality and racial identity while trying to reunite with her Aboriginal family.

6. Pat O'Shane

pat oshane.jpgPat O'Shane is an indigenous Australian of the Kunjandji clan of the Kuku Yalanji people. She was a teacher, barrister, public servant, jurist, Aboriginal activist, and was Australia's first Aboriginal magistrate, serving the Local Court in Sydney between 1986 until her retirement in 2013.

Pat O'Shane was the first female Aboriginal teacher in Queensland; the first Aboriginal to earn a law degree; the first Aboriginal barrister; and the first woman and indigenous person to be the head of a government department in Australia, the NSW Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.

"The women are the movers and shakers in the community...they initiate things...they keep things going." - Pat O'Shane

7. Linda Burney

Linda Burney.PNGLinda Burney has paved the way for women to take leading roles in their communities. On 26 January 1988, Ms Burney marched along side of her fellow community members at La Perouse in protest over the Australian Day celebrations.

Linda Burney is the first Aboriginal person to enter the NSW Parliament and was the Australian Labour Party National President through 2008-2009. Today, she plays an influential role in policy decisions that impact on Aboriginal people. Even though she has a very busy schedule in politics, Linda can still find the time and energy to march for rights and equality for various sectors of society.

8. Rachel Perkins

Rachel Perkins.PNGRachel Perkins has dedicated her life to ensuring that the truth of Indigenous Australia is told from an Indigenous prospective just as her father Charlie Perkins had done.

She is known for her thought-provoking works such as Radiance (1998), First Contact, First Australians, Mabo and Redfern Now. The impact Rachel's films have on the Australian culture is massive and her influence on the industry has brought about cultural diversity and led the way for other Indigenous filmmakers to follow. 

9. Barangaroo

Barangaroo.PNGBarangaroo was a powerful Cammeraygal woman. She was a leading fisher woman given much respect and reverence in her community, which pre-1788, was a matriarchal society, according to Jessica Birk, Aboriginal educator for the Barangaroo Delivery Authority.

Barangaroo was often invited to sit down and eat and drink with the Europeans, as she and her husband, Bennelong, were respected Aboriginal leaders. Barangaroo would occasionally meet with Europeans, but would never eat or drink their offerings and refused to wear clothes other than a bone through her nose. According to The Dictionary of Sydney British officers found her "striking and a little frightening, with presence and authority".

10. Nakkiah Lui

Nakkiah Lui.PNGSource: @nakkiahlui via Twitter

Nakkiah Lui is an Australian writer and actor and is a young leader in the Australian Aboriginal community. She is a co-writer and star of Black Comedy (a sketch comedy television program on the ABC), a columnist for Australian Women's Weekly and has also hosted Radio National's Awaye and NAIDOC Evenings for ABC Local Radio.

In 2012, Lui was the first recipient of the Dreaming Award by The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Arts Board of the Australia Council and was the inaugural recipient of the Balnaves Foundation Indigenous Playwright award.

Learn more about NAIDOC Week here.

13/07/2018Because of Her, We Can! 10 strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have led the way
5/07/2018 10:28 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

​Dry July is here already and thousands of people across Australia have ditched the booze to raise funds for those affected by cancer. While giving up alcohol for one month may sound easy in theory it can actually be quite the challenge, especially with the social drinking culture so heavily engrained into our society.

But it's good to challenge ourselves once in a while; especially when there are health benefits!

It isn't too late to join the club and get involved in Dry July – whether you're giving up alcohol all together or cutting down and not drinking as much as you usually would.

If you're still not convinced, here are a few reasons why you should give up the booze this month:

Long-term benefits

There are many long-term health benefits from abstaining from alcohol or cutting down long-term.

Forty three per cent of alcohol-related cancers in Australia could be prevented by reducing alcohol intake from four or more drinks per day, to two or less drinks per day. Drinking less frequently, e.g. drinking weekly rather than daily, and drinking less on each occasion, reduces the lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm.

Unfortunately, if come August you resume regular and high levels of alcohol consumption that increase your cancer risk, having a month off from this won't make much difference. To learn more about levels of alcohol consumption, view the National Health and Medical research Council's (NHMRC) Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol here.

Understand the risks

Every year, alcohol causes more harm to society than illegal drugs and is one of the leading contributors to the burden of illness and deaths in Australia. But because alcohol is so widely and regularly consumed in Australia, there is little public awareness of how harmful alcohol can be. df.jpg

Dry July provides us time to step back, reflect and really understand the risks directly related to alcohol consumption. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), drinking alcohol is associated with a risk of developing health problems such as mental and behavioural disorders, liver cirrhosis, some cancers, and cardiovascular diseases.

Learn more about the link between alcohol and cancer here.

A good night's sleep

In the short-term, taking a month off drinking can improve your sleeping pattern, claims Professor Steve Allsop of the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University. He said: "The reason for that is 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."

This is because after a few hours the sedative effects of alcohol have worn off, meaning that you're more likely to wake up prematurely. Alcohol can also make existing sleep problems, like sleep apnoea and snoring, worse.

Improved wellbeing

With a good night's sleep under your belt and no hangover you will have more energy and feel better overall. With more money in your pocket and all that energy why not do something active and fun?

As a depressant, alcohol often amplifies mental health issues putting people in a negative frame of mind that they normally wouldn't be in.

You are helping people affected by cancer

Every year, Dry July participants contribute to funding projects and programs that improve the comfort and wellbeing of people affected by cancer.

With an aim to make a difficult time a little easier for those affected by cancer, whether this be through wellness programs, comfort items, transport services, accommodation projects, refurbishments, information resources, hospital furnishings or entertainment items.

Save money

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Australian's spend $14.1 billion on alcohol each and every year. It is estimated that a single person under the age of 35 spends on average $22 per week on alcohol, and when it comes to families this increases to $47 per week.

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 in a year…

Give your liver a rest! Sign up to Dry July here.

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

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.

5/07/2018Why you should give up the booze this Dry July
3/07/2018 9:01 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

Have you heard about the Stay Strong and Healthy Facebook page? It’s a hub of health information and content about pregnancy, having a young baby and how alcohol during pregnancy can affect a baby’s development.

The Facebook page raises awareness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women of the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and the health services available to support them.

The page provides practical information and advice for the whole family on staying strong and healthy – including being physically active and eating well – and features stories and pictures of mums and their beautiful bubs. 

With the theme of NAIDOC week this year being – ‘Because of Her, We can!’ it is a good time to acknowledge all the strong Aboriginal women in our community.

Check out the Facebook page today:

Learn more about pregnancy and breastfeeding here.

3/07/2018Stay Strong Facebook page: Health information for mum and bub
29/06/2018 2:51 PMDIMAURO, Sophie

Our inaugural guest contributor Professor Suzanne Fraser, lead investigator at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University, talks to the Your Room team about and tackling stigma with personal stories.

'Chains of addiction', 'addiction epidemic', 'reformed addict': coverage of drug issues in the media has long relied on negative clichés. Researchers based at the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), Curtin University, Australia, have developed an alternative to the media coverage – a website presenting experiences of addiction, dependence or drug habit in people's own words.

Funded by an Australian Research Council grant, and based on a method originally developed at Oxford University and administered by DIPEx International, the site was based on a carefully conducted research project that explored experiences of addiction, treatment and recovery. 

Why do we need this resource?

Research confirms something people who use drugs know only too well: they face intense stigmatisation and marginalisation. Driven by sensationalising media accounts and limited understanding among politicians and other commentators, public debate about addiction tends to oversimplify lives and experiences.

Based on past research, we knew that if we conducted a qualitative research with care and with a critical eye on the assumptions usually made about people who consume drugs, we would find much more – and we did.

Contrary to familiar generalisations, people who use drugs (including heroin, methamphetamine, alcohol and cannabis) live rich lives with multiple interests and concerns, and can count all kinds of achievements such as education, family relationships and work among their experiences. Information like this puts drug use issues in perspective and challenges common assumptions about people's lives and worth.

What does include?

Go to the website and you will find a range of resources: detailed biographies of each participant, interview snippets organised by themes such as 'Looking after health and well-being', and 'Dealing with stigma and discrimination'. These snippets are presented in three formats: original audio clips, text extracts taken from the interview transcripts, and re-enacted video clips.

The aim is to bring to life the words of our participants, and make sure that what people say is placed in the context of their whole lives. While the website was developed in Australia, its themes and stories are relevant around the world.


Over the next year, further modules will be added to the site. One will focus on experiences of administering and receiving take-home naloxone, and the other will focus on experiences of heavy alcohol consumption.

How was it created?

First we composed an advisory panel of experts including peer advocates, health professionals and policy makers. The panel helped us refine our interview questions, recruit our participants, analyse the data and design the site. Importantly, we found it easy to recruit people for interviews and had many more offers than we could take up: the chance to be heard was clearly important for many. Overall we interviewed 60 people, making sure we covered a range of drugs, ethnicity, sexuality and gender.

Our interviews were semi-structured and in-depth. Speaking with our participants at length allowed us to build complex pictures of whole lives, and we used the accounts we collected to produce the biographies. We then offered these back to our participants to check for accuracy. We used good audio equipment to capture high quality recordings of the interviews so that we could include some original voice clips, and we hired actors for our video re-enactments. An experienced video maker help us set up our video 'studio' and edit the clips.

When we interviewed people we made sure to explain the project in detail, and we offered them different consent options that covered different uses of their interviews. Some participants were happy for us to use interview extracts in all three ways (original audio, text and re-enacted video), others consented to one or two forms only: text plus re-enactment, original audio and so on.


After the interviews were completed we set to work analysing them, putting together the key themes people discussed, and writing them up to help place our extracts in context. It was a long process that involved making sure everything we wrote was accurate, easy to read, and avoided clichés.

Well-known Australian memoirist Kate Holden agreed to introduce the site. Her wise book detailing her history of drug use and sex work, In My Skin, was a best seller.

How has the website been received?

One of the most wonderful aspects of the project has been the positive feedback it has received from participants and others. Some of our participants wrote to thank us, some attended the launch. Our evaluation survey produced extremely positive results, and we detailed these in a peer reviewed article, as well as in the report we produced on the project.

We were excited to see the website discussed widely on Twitter, and linked to by many organisations. These links helped the site grow in visibility on Google. The site was also covered in a range of professional newsletters and appears on university and professional training syllabuses. One of the most satisfying endorsements came from Jenny Kelsall, former Executive Officer of Harm Reduction Victoria:

"The social history of people who use drugs remains poorly understood and our stories and experiences of drug use remain largely untold […] And what is known about people who use drugs is heavily weighted towards the most disadvantaged and perpetuates a negative and simplistic stereotype that all people who use drugs are mad, bad and dangerous to know.

"I'm enormously hopeful that this website will [help…] to end this silence and misrepresentation. Lives of Substance not only humanises people who use drugs, it allows them to tell their stories in all their complexity."

We took great pride in knowing that, at least in the eyes of some, our aims have been fulfilled.

On a personal note

At times it's all too easy to become frustrated by the level of public debate on drugs. This project took our frustration and turned it into determination to offer a different, more humane and respectful, view. It's been one of the most rewarding projects I've ever taken part in.

Professor Suzanne Fraser

Lead investigator


If you would like any of the many refereed journal articles we also wrote based on the interview material we collected, please contact me at I am also happy to supply postcards and posters if you would like to draw attention to the site in your service and networks.


Our project team

  • Professor Suzanne Fraser (NDRI, Curtin University)
  • Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic (formerly School of Social Sciences, Monash University)
  • Professor David Moore (NDRI, Curtin University)
  • Professor Carla Treloar (Centre for Social Research in Health, University of New South Wales)
  • Dr Adrian Dunlop (Hunter New England Local Health District)
  • Dr Kiran Pienaar (formerly NDRI, Curtin University)
  • Dr Ella Dilkes-Frayne (formerly School of Social Sciences, Monash University)

Our advisory panel

  • Ms Nicky Bath (Formerly Chief Executive Officer, NSW Users and AIDS Association)
  • Ms Colleen Blums (President, Drug and Alcohol Nurses Australasia)
  • Mr Danny Jeffcote (Program Manager AOD Response West, cohealth)
  • Ms Debbie Kaplan (Manager, Clinical Policy, Alcohol and Other Drugs, Centre for Population Health, NSW Ministry of Health)
  • Ms Anna Keato (Senior Policy Officer, Prevention Policy and Research, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services)
  • Ms Jenny Kelsall (Executive Officer, Harm Reduction Victoria)
  • Ms Edita Kennedy (Project Worker, Association of Participating Service Users)
  • Dr Lynne Magor-Blatch (Executive Officer, Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association and Associate Professor, School of Psychology, University of Wollongong)
  • Mr Brad Pearce (Formerly Program Manager, Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association)
  • Ms Julie Rae (Head of Information and Research, Alcohol and Drug Foundation)
  • Professor Ann Roche (Director, National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, Flinders University)
  • Mr Robert Stirling (Deputy CEO, Network of Alcohol and Other Drugs Agencies)

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

29/06/2018Lives of Substance: Tackling stigma with personal stories
28/06/2018 11:48 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

Are you ready for the 2018 NAIDOC Week celebrations? Running from the 8-15th of July, this year’s theme ‘Because of Her, We Can’ commemorates the significant role Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played – and continue to play – at community, local, state and national levels.

Each July, NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia to remember the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Celebrations will focus on the leaders, trailblazers, politicians, activists and social change advocates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who fought and continue to fight, for justice, equal rights, rights to country, for law and justice, access to education, employment and to maintain and celebrate culture, language, music and art.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have marched, protested and spoken at demonstrations and national gatherings for the proper recognition of rights, while calling for national reform and justice.

These women were heavily involved in the campaign for the 1967 Referendum and also put up their hands to represent their people at the establishment of national advocacy and representative bodies from the National Aboriginal Congress (NAC) to ATSIC to Land Councils and onto the National Congress for Australia’s First Peoples.

They often did so while caring for families, maintaining homes and breaking down cultural and institutionalised barriers and gender stereotypes. These women did so because they demanded a better life, greater opportunities and - in many cases equal rights - for their children, families and people.

The achievements, voice and unwavering passion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women has provided strength and empowered past generations, while paving the way for generations to come.

During NAIDOC Week take the time to think about these women and celebrate them and their amazing stories and achievements.

Because of her, we can!

Wherever you live, you can take part in NAIDOC Week celebrations. Find out about NAIDOC Week activities in your area here.

28/06/2018Because of Her, We Can! NAIDOC Week 2018 commences
26/06/2018 12:18 PMDIMAURO, Sophie

​The language we use and the way we view those who have or are experiencing alcohol and other drug (AOD) dependency can be powerful. Let's talk about drug use, not drug abuse;  the person with a drug dependence, not "addict", "junkie", "druggie" or "alcoholic"; the person who has stopped using drugs, not "clean", "sober" or "drug-free".

Today, on June 26th the UN observes International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking 2018 to raise awareness of drug use and its distribution across the globe. Support. Don't Punish campaign counteracts this date to call for better worldwide drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights.

While both campaigns question drug laws and policy, it is crucial that we are also aware of and acknowledge the wider issue of discrimination and stigma surrounding those who have used or are using substances.

What is stigma and discrimination?

Stigma is a set of negative beliefs that a group or society holds about a topic or group of people. Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people – in this context, prejudicial treatment of people because they have used or are experiencing a dependency on drugs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion and contributes to the abuse of human rights. According to a report about conceptualising stigma, this results in prejudice, avoidance, rejection, and discrimination against people who have a socially undesirable trait or engage in culturally marginalised behaviours, such as drug use (Link, 2001).

Why is this so important?

Stigma and discrimination stops people who use drugs and are looking for help from accessing support and treatment services because it impacts on their self-esteem, mental health and general wellbeing. According to Lives of Substance - a website that is built on the personal commentary of those who are or have used drugs – a key concern for many of the people interviewed for the website is coping with the stigma associated with drug use and dependency.

Stigma can also influence whether or not people tell others about their drug use due to a fear of being discriminated against. Lives of Substance also highlights concerns about experiencing stigma and discrimination within the healthcare system, which can lead to a delay in seeking medical or professional help when it is required.

Larry Pierce, chief executive of the network of alcohol and other drug agencies (NADA), says: "We know that fear of stigma and being labelled as a 'drug addict' can and does stop people from accessing treatment and support.

"It's time we stop using this language and start being more mindful and deliberate about avoiding pejorative terms."

How can we make positive change?

People judge because they don't understand. Those who use drugs aren't criminals, junkies or looking to cause problems. Often they are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Before making a judgement about a person who has used or is using drugs, be well informed and focus on the person, not their substance use.

Sometimes people who use drugs experience discrimination and negative attitudes from those closest to them (family, friends), who do so without realising. Without family and peer support, those using drugs are more vulnerable and susceptible to harm. Family Drug Support (FDS) is an organisation that provides support and assistance to families who are dealing with a family member who is using drugs – learn more here.

Language matters is a resource from the Network of Alcohol & other Drugs Agencies (NADA) and the NSW Users & AIDS Association (NUAA) that encourages AOD workers to move away from out-dated terms like 'drug user' and 'addict' which stigmatise people who use drugs.

The resource advises workers to use person-centred language, which focuses on the person, not their substance use. According to NADA and the NUAA, using this type of language is a simple and effective way of showing respect to a person's agency, dignity and worth.

Lives of Substance contributors also said that sharing personal stories and talking openly about drug and alcohol consumption was a way to challenge stereotypes. Being aware of and acknowledging the stigma surrounding AOD use is a step forward and has the power to help those who need treatment or support.

Mary Ellen Harrod, chief executive of NUAA, said: "Empowering people by treating them with respect is a powerful catalyst for change".

Language and awareness matter, stop stigma today.

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

To learn more about the Language matters resource click here

26/06/2018Stop stigma: The importance of seeing the person not the substance
2/07/2018 9:34 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

​The NSW Liquor and Gaming Authority is considering only minimal changes to the liquor licence conditions of 14 late night trading hotels located in Newcastle CBD, following an independent review.

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

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

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

Why was the Horton Report created?

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

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

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

What conditions were considered?

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

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

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

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

Who was involved?

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

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

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

The Horton report can be read in full here.

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

5/06/2018NSW Liquor & Gaming announce minimal changes to Newcastle CBD Liquor License conditions
4/06/2018 3:12 PMDIMAURO, Sophie

​Have you heard of the Get Healthy service? This telephone-based coaching service provides NSW residents over 16 with a free personal health coach to guide and support them on their journey to live a healthy life - helping them to drink less alcohol, get active and eat well.

Alcohol consumption is associated with a risk of developing health problems such as mental and behavioural disorders, liver cirrhosis, some cancers and cardiovascular diseases, as well as injuries resulting from violence and road accidents. It is also a huge contributor to weight gain as it contains few nutrients for the body to use.

Get Healthy white small.jpg

If you are worried about your level of alcohol consumption then this program is for you. Get Healthy has an alcohol-reduction module designed to support you to drink a little less on a regular basis.

A health coach will assess your risk of drinking and provide you with the support and motivation you need to help you reach your alcohol reduction goal. Our coaches use the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), an internationally validated screening tool to screen for alcohol risk.

You are eligible for 10 to 13 phone calls with your coach and will receive an information book containing information about appropriate alcohol intake, an alcohol facts booklet and an alcohol journey book to help keep you motivated and record your progress.

The Get Healthy coach will also help you to:

  • Identify areas of challenge
  • Learn simple ways to improve your health
  • Set a healthy lifestyle goal
  • Create an action plan
  • Stay motivated on the journey

The Get Healthy service is for everyone! Learn more today by visiting:

Check out the Your Room Alcohol Risk Assessment here.

4/06/2018Drink less alcohol, get active and eat well! What is Get Healthy and how can it help me?
12/07/2018 12:23 PMDIMAURO, Sophie

​Alcohol is the most widely used drug in Australia.

It is estimated by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that we are among the highest consumers of alcohol worldwide. In NSW, a quarter of all adults drink at levels that place their long-term health at risk (2016 Chief Health Officers Report).

According to the Alcohol's burden of disease in Australia report:

  • 5,554 Australians die every year as a result of alcohol use

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) Annual Alcohol Poll 2018 shows that:

  • Australians have a low awareness of the long-term health conditions – including cancers - associated with alcohol

A Group 1 carcinogen

In recent years there has been public confusion over whether or not alcohol is harmful when consumed regularly (but not excessively), with media coverage claiming wine and other types of alcohol is good for you, with 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 level of risk increases in line with the level of alcohol consumption.

Cancer Council Australia advises there is strong evidence that alcohol use increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver and breast.

FARE's alcohol poll also found Australians have a low awareness of the long-term health conditions associated with alcohol. Less than half of those surveyed by FARE were aware of the link between alcohol misuse and stroke (38%), mouth and throat cancer (26%) and breast cancer (16%).

The link between alcohol and cancer

In 2010, 2.7% of all cancers diagnosed in Australia were attributed to alcohol consumption (Whiteman et al., 2015).

There are a number of mechanisms by which alcohol causes cancer. Once metabolised by the body, alcohol binds to DNA increasing the likelihood of DNA mutations and impairing cell function.

At even low levels of alcohol consumption, alcohol interferes with oestrogen receptors on cells to increase the levels of circulating oestrogen, which can lead to cell proliferation – a key initiating factor in the development of breast cancer for example.

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) research shows that unsurprisingly the highest health risks are associated with heavy consumption - but there is also a considerable burden among those who are moderate to low consumers of alcohol. For example, a study on the impact of alcohol on prostate cancer showed that even at low-levels of consumption, alcohol increased the risk of prostate cancer development by 23%.

Your risk

Cancer Council Australia advise:

"There is convincing evidence that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the bowel, breast, mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus (food pipe) and liver.

"Even drinking small amounts of alcohol increases your cancer risk. The more you drink, the greater the risk. If you choose to drink, limit your intake."

Nearly five per cent of alcohol-related cancers in Australia could be prevented by reducing alcohol intake from four or more drinks per day, to two or less drinks per day, according to Whiteman.

The more a person drinks over a long period of time, the higher the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer. Evidence also suggests that for some cancers it can take more than 10 years for alcohol-related cancer risk to even start to decline after ceasing alcohol consumption.

There is no evidence that cancer risk varies by the type of alcoholic drink, whether it is wine, beer or spirits.

The 2009 Australian Alcohol Guidelines by the National Health and Medical Research Council recommend:

  • If you drink regularly, drink no more than two standard drinks each day.
  • On any single occasion, drink no more than four standard drinks.
  • Young people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol.
  • The safest option for a pregnant or breastfeeding mother is not to drink alcohol.

Drinking less frequently, e.g. drinking weekly rather than daily, and drinking less on each occasion, reduces the lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm.

How to prevent

While not everyone who drinks alcohol will develop cancer, the less alcohol you drink the lower your risk of cancer. There is no safe alcohol limit but the less alcohol consumed the better.

To prevent cancer caused by alcohol, quit drinking today. Across the globe there are thousands of people who live alcohol free. If you're not ready to quit, cut down your alcohol intake or speak to someone that can help guide you towards a healthier lifestyle. Get Healthy is a free NSW service that provides free telephone-based health coaching to help you to drink less alcohol, get active and eat healthily.

If alcohol is a problem for you, seek help. Find out which support and treatment is best for you here. Or call the free ADIS support line for more information: 9361 8000 (Sydney) or 1800 422 599 (for NSW regional callers).

Are your drinking habits are putting you at risk? Find out with the Your Room Risk Assessment.


1. Is alcohol consumption a risk factor for prostate cancer? A systematic review and meta–analysis | Jinhui Zhao, Tim Stockwell, Audra Roemer, Tanya Chikritzhs | BMC Cancer. 2016; 16: 845. Published online 2016 Nov 15

2. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol 2009 (Australia)

3. Whiteman, D. C., Webb, P. M., Green, A. C., Neale, R. E., Fritschi, L., Bain, C. J., ... & Pandeya, N. (2015). Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to modifiable factors: summary and conclusions. Australian and New Zealand journal of public health, 39(5), 477-484.

4. Rehm J, Patra J, Popova S. Alcohol drinking cessation and its effect on esophageal and head and neck cancers: a pooled analysis. International Journal of Cancer 2007;121(5):1132-1137.

1/06/2018What is the link between alcohol and cancer?
31/05/2018 9:25 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

​On World No Tobacco Day, new data shows a 7.3 per cent drop in smoking rates in NSW over the past 15 years.

According to the 2017 Population Health Survey, last year 15.2 per cent of adults smoked in NSW, down from 22.5 per cent in 2002, and more than half of NSW adults have never taken up smoking.

The NSW School Students Health Behaviours Surveys also shows that smoking among secondary students is at an all-time low of 6.7 per cent.

'Tobacco and heart disease' is the theme for World No Tobacco Day 2018 and focuses on the harmful impact of tobacco on the cardiovascular health of people worldwide. It highlights the health and other risks associated with tobacco use, and advocates for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

Smoking increases the risk of many health conditions including coronary heart disease, respiratory disease and cancer. Tobacco use is the second leading cause of cardiovascular diseases, after high blood pressure. Cardiovascular diseases kills more people than any other cause of death worldwide. 

The NSW Government will continue to implement a comprehensive approach to reduce smoking rates. These includes public awareness and education campaigns for smoking cessation, quit smoking support, compliance and enforcement of smoke free and tobacco retailing laws, and targeted programs for particularly vulnerable groups.

NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said NSW Health's NSW Tobacco Strategy was working to help people quit smoking for good.

"It's good to see significant progress in tobacco control in NSW but we need to be vigilant to ensure that smoking rates continue to decrease, as there has been a stabilisation of rates in recent years," Dr Chant said.

"It is pleasing that the declines in smoking have been seen across population groups, including young people and Aboriginal people. We also know from the School Health Behaviour Survey that smoking among secondary students is at an all-time low of 6.7%."

World No Tobacco is a good day to talk to someone about quitting and get some help. NSW Health and its partner agencies have a range of initiatives to help smokers to quit smoking and stay quit. Smokers can call the Quitline Service on 131 848 or go to iCanQuit website to receive the latest information on quitting and ongoing support.

Want to learn more about the effects of tobacco? Check out our tobacco drug page here.

31/05/2018Butt Out on World No Tobacco Day 2018
30/05/2018 8:55 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

​Together with the Department of Family and Community Services, the Ministry of Health has developed a comprehensive directory of health and community services across NSW. Your Service Hub is a tool people in NSW can use to find alcohol and other drugs support services near them.

The online directory is an especially useful source of information for:

  • People affected by someone else's substance use
  • People needing help with their own alcohol and other drugs use
  • Aboriginal people, LGBTI communities and culturally diverse groups

Your Service Hub has been designed to help people locate a wide range of alcohol, drug, health and community services across NSW. This includes family services, legal aid, domestic violence support and mental health services.

Using location and search terms like 'family', 'support' and 'alcohol counselling', you will be able to find services for yourself, friends, your partner or family, with the option to get more information if necessary.

Support services, community groups and other agencies that provide drug and alcohol support are encouraged to provide detailed information on services they offer. To register your service in the directory there is an option to 'Add Service'.

Check out Your Service Hub today. Unsure whether you need support or treatment? Click here to read about the main treatment types available.

30/05/2018Your Service Hub: Find your local alcohol and other drugs support services
29/05/2018 9:59 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

​In partnership with Cancer Council Victoria, NSW Cancer Institute has launched the Quit stalling! anti-tobacco campaign. Informed by the latest research, the initiative aims motivate young male smokers aged 18 to 34 to quit smoking by raising awareness of personal susceptibility to smoking related illness – both short and long term.

The campaign targets young male smokers as their smoking rates are higher than the general population. According to the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, across all age groups, males were more likely to smoke daily than females (13.8% of males aged 14 or older smoked daily compared with 10.7% for females).

There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Any exposure to tobacco smoke—even an occasional cigarette or exposure to second hand smoke—is harmful. Smoking just one to four cigarettes a day almost triples your risk of dying from heart disease or lung cancer.

Quit stalling! targets smokers who don't feel they need to quit because they have no symptoms and believe they will quit when they experience these. It provides new information in a positive and relatable way, encouraging young male smokers to stop delaying quitting smoking and take action now.

Studies show that if you smoke, the chances are that you are damaging your body. Early symptoms include experiencing coughing, shortness of breath and lack of fitness.

The best thing any smoker can do for their health is to quit smoking. There are health benefits of quitting for all smokers, regardless of age, sex or length of time that they have been smoking. In particular, risk of stroke significantly reduces and becomes similar to that of a never-smoker in between five to 15 years.

The campaign will run for six weeks from 20 May – 30 June 2018 with a wide mix of content across online video, traditional and digital radio, out of home, gym media and social media in metro and regional locations.

For quit smoking support visit

Learn the facts about tobacco and other drugs here.

World No Tobacco Day 31 May


25/05/2018Quit stalling! Anti-tobacco campaign launches
29/05/2018 9:21 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

Did you know that young people today are more likely to abstain from alcohol, illicit drugs and tobacco than any time since 2001? Contrary to popular belief, young people are actually choosing to drink less or abstain from alcohol completely, while alcohol consumption in older age groups is increasing.

According to the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household survey, in 2016 82 per cent of teenagers aged 12-17 years abstained from drinking compared to 72 per cent in 2013. If we look even further back, alcohol consumption has reached its lowest point since the sixties and data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that this is thanks to reductions in youth drinking.

Driving healthy outcomes

Although these statistics show positive shifts in young people's behaviours and attitudes towards alcohol, there's no denying that alcohol-related harm remains a problem area among NSW youth. With young people regularly exposed to a high volume of alcohol promotion which links alcohol to sport and social success, they are constantly being fed contradictory messages about the effects of alcohol.

The household survey revealed that five per cent of young people aged 12-17 drank more than four standard drinks on one occasion, placing them at risk of immediate harm. Compared to other age groups, teenagers are particularly vulnerable to alcohol-related harms and even small amounts of alcohol can have damaging effects on adolescent brains.

Studies indicate that healthy living is important to younger people, and when educated on the affects and impacts of alcohol and other drugs they are able to make better-informed decisions. This suggests that (among other strategies) an increased focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle – whether this be through regular exercise or community groups - could be crucial in declining youth drinking.

Celebrating NSW youth

NSW Youth Week celebrates young people across every state and territory in Australia. Running this year from April 13th-22nd, it is organised by young people, for young people in communities across NSW and Australia.

The 2018 Youth Week theme is 'Unity Through Diversity' and is the single largest celebration for young people across NSW aged 12-24. Youth will have the opportunity to share ideas, attend live events and festivals, have their voices heard on issues of concern to them, showcase their talents, take part in competitions and more importantly – have fun!

Events include touch football competitions, discos, games nights, movie and pizza nights, skateboarding, dodge ball tournaments and lots more.

Following the success of the NSW Youth Week program, Youth Week became a National event in 2000. National Youth Week is jointly supported by the Australian Government, State and Territory Governments and Local Governments.

Be a part of Youth Week 2018 and sign up to an event near you today:

Ready player one? Test your drug and alcohol knowledge by visiting The Quiz Room here.

17/05/2018Unity through diversity: Celebrate young people at Youth Week 2018
29/05/2018 9:49 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

The 2018 Global Drug Survey researched the drug-taking habits of 130,000 people across 44 countries. Here we take a look at some of the key findings from the survey:

Pizza & cocaine delivery

The survey asked 15,000 cocaine users from around the world whether it was quicker to get a gram of cocaine delivered or a pizza. Overall, 30% of respondents said they could get cocaine delivered in 30 minutes or less, compared to only 16.5% who could get a pizza delivered in the same time.

Easy access and higher purity are likely to lead to escalating use and harms among people.

Alcohol consumption

Women under 25 years of age have particularly poor knowledge of the health risks associated with alcohol use, according to the 2018 Global Drug Survey.

Data shows that 65% of females under 25 polled did not know that drinking less alcohol reduces the risk of seven different types of cancer – including mouth, upper throat, oesophageal, breast and bowel cancers.

At the population level, alcohol was found to be the most harmful drug when it comes to acute risk, both to the individual themselves and those around them. Alcohol is responsible for 4% of the world's global burden of disease and is implicated in at least 60 health conditions, most and foremost cancer and heart disease.

Australia & drug use

It was also revealed that of the Australian's surveyed, 37.8% claimed they had a desire to reduce their alcohol consumption, and 12.8% stated that they wanted help and support to reduce their drinking.

Australia ranked third highest when it came to seeking emergency medical treatment in the last 12 months, behind Scotland and Norway but ahead of the USA, England, New Zealand and many other countries.

In terms of MDMA use, Australia ranked 3rd – behind Brazil and France. However, Australia was ranked 1st for the highest number of pills consumed on a single occasion.

Australians are also paying a lot for their drugs. Australia ranked second most expensive for a gram of cocaine at $309 with New Zealand coming in first at $351.

Most problematic illicit drugs

Methamphetamine and heroin are regarded as the most problematic of all illicit drugs with high rates of physical and social harms. Methamphetamine is also one of the most easily manufactured, widely distributed and cheapest stimulant drugs in the world.

The Dark Net

According to the survey, the dark net is an increasingly common source of illicit and licit drugs. MDMA, followed by cannabis, LSD and new psychoactive substances (NPS) are the most commonly purchased drugs on the dark net, with notable increases in rates for cannabis and LSD over the last four years, however there has been a decline in NPS purchase.

The survey also found that many people start using drugs in their late teens. For first time users of MDMA across the globe, 61% claim that they first tried the drug with close friends and 56.8% did not have someone to look after them during their experience.

There was a high rate (0.5%) of emergency medical treatment linked with first time use of MDMA which, according to the authors of the survey, highlights the importance of providing younger people with good quality harm reduction before they start using drugs.

First-time drug use

The study also found that the majority of drug users surveyed did not pay for their drugs on their first trip. Some 50% of first timers did not pay for their first dose of MDMA, 71.5% did not pay for their first line of cocaine and 66% got their first LSD trip for free.

Whilst many first-timers tried drugs with close friends, many did not have someone to look after them during their experience.

Information is key to harm minimisation

Professor Adam Winstock, consultant psychiatrist, addiction medicine specialist and founder & CEO of The Global Drug Survey commented: "Our findings suggest there is a need to engage people who use drugs in honest conversations about drug use. Zero tolerance approaches do not allow governments to optimise public health policies or health promotion approaches.

"People who use drugs are interested in their own health and wellbeing and that of their friends and communities. We need to harness the expertise and interest of the drug using community to help them stay safe, without ideological barriers that prevent the adoption of evidence-based drug policies."

Sir Professor Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance also commented on the survey. He said: "People just do not know about key health issues like the link between alcohol and cancer that might well change their behaviour and improve public health."

For more findings from the 2018 Global Drug Survey visit:

To learn more about some of the most commonly used drugs affecting Australians right now, check out our A-Z Drug Listing here.

17/05/20182018 Global Drug Survey | Alcohol remains the most harmful drug for acute risk
29/05/2018 10:07 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

Co-occurring substance use and mental health issues are common. More than 1 in 3 people who use substances also have at least one mental health condition and rates are even higher among people being treated for substance use.

People with both substance and mental health conditions often have a variety of other medical, family and social issues. Together these factors can complicate a person's treatment and recovery.

Because of this it's critical that health workers adopt an approach to the management and treatment of mental health and substance use conditions that is based on treating the person, not the illness.

Managing substance use and mental health conditions

The comorbidity guidelines website has been developed to help alcohol and other drug workers identify, manage and treat co-occurring mental health and substance use conditions.

The website provides evidence-based information, training and resources. This will help health workers become knowledgeable about the symptoms of common mental health conditions and how to manage them.

Alcohol and other drug workers can use the guidelines together with existing guidelines. The guidelines are based on the best available evidence and utilise the experience and knowledge of consumers, carers, clinicians, academics, researchers and policy makers.


With funding from the Australian Government the website and online training program was developed by Dr Christina Marel, Associate Professor Katherine Mills, Mr Jack Wilson and Professor Maree Teesson of the Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS), at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).

While the website was developed primarily for alcohol and other drug workers, the content may also be useful for other healthcare providers, as well as those studying mental health, alcohol and other drugs, and public health.

Mental health conditions are not a barrier to treating people with substance use issues. Research has shown that people with these conditions can benefit from usual substance use treatment just as much as those without these conditions.

To learn more visit the website today:

For information about alcohol and other drugs check out the Your Room A-Z Listing of Drugs here.

15/05/2018Treat the person not the illness: NDARC launches mental health and substance use guidelines
29/05/2018 9:41 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

On May 10th, seven community drug action teams (CDATs) from across south west NSW came together to discuss drug use in the region, collaborate and share initiatives.

CDATs are made up of passionate and dedicated volunteers who love their local area and want the best for their community.

Since 1999, CDATs have led thousands of activities to engage at-risk youth, educate parents and the wider community through community activities and campaigns to curb alcohol-fuelled violence and drug use. NSW Health funds the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) to support the CDATs through the Community Engagement and Action Program (CEAP).

Community-based solutions play an important role in the prevention of alcohol-related harm. Within their local community, CDATs work to increase awareness of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) related harms, promote the uptake of protective strategies aimed at reducing harm, and contribute to the prevention and misuse of AOD through appropriate local community activities and initiatives.

The South West NSW CDAT Forum included a presentation from AOD consultant trainer and facilitator Annie Bleeker, who provided an overview of drugs in Australia as well as highlighting major drugs of concern.

Jenny Atkinson spoke from Calvary Drug and Alcohol Service and Senior Sergeant Ross Jackson from Wagga Police spoke to the CDATs about local issues. Amanda Kelly, Damian Dabrowski and John Dean from the ADF discussed best practice, other CDAT projects in NSW and how to develop a Community Drug Action Plan.

The forum also generated some local media interest with Prime 7 News interviewing Annie and Amanda. Watch the interview here.

The day’s events concluded with a quote provided by the ADF:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Are you interested in joining your local CDAT team? Get involved today.

To learn about some of the most commonly used drugs affecting Australians right now, check out our A-Z listing of drugs.

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14/05/2018CDATs from across the Riverina come together
29/05/2018 9:42 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

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.

2/05/2018What is Family Drug Support and how can it help me?
28/05/2018 10:31 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

​Earlier this month over 300 supporters, sponsors and friends from across Australia were brought together by Life Education at the annual Gold Harold Awards to celebrate those who have contributed to the safe and healthy development of the nation's children.

This year it was clear that the recurring theme was passion within the community, with MC Melissa Doyle recognising the role that it plays in the work of Life Education and specifically the remote areas in which it operates.

"Life Education works in many remote indigenous communities spread across Australia, in particular, the Top End," said Melissa. "This is amazing work, but as you could appreciate, it's not without its hurdles."

At the event on April 12th, Life Education paid tribute to their outgoing chair Tony Hasham AM, awarding him with the Gold Harold 'Best Mate' award. Tony was recognised as being instrumental in the birth of Life Education and has served on the board for over 30 years.

Each year, the Gold Harold Awards acknowledges and appreciates a commitment to Australia's children and their futures. This year the awards were presented to individuals that showed a particular passion for the wellbeing and inspiration of children in the fields of sports, education, health and media.

Life Education provides preventive health and drug education to Australia's children, with the aim of instilling children with the capabilities they need to make considered decisions about their own wellbeing.


For an ongoing commitment to the Australian Community and generous support of Life Education, Grahame Mapp AM was awarded the prestigious Humanitarian of the Year Award.

"Grahame's personal commitment to the community has been extensive with his philanthropy extending across a range of charitable causes, particularly children's organisations," commented Tony. "This includes the valuable work of Life Education Australia"

Subaru Motorsport team driver, Molly Taylor won the sports award, Eddie Woo was crowned the winner of education, internationally renowned researcher Prof. Ian Hickie AM was awarded for his efforts in health, and Jessica Rowe AM was the media award winner.

Want to learn more about alcohol and other drugs? Visit the Your Room A-Z listing of drugs here.

26/04/2018Gold Harold Awards 2018: Celebrating the great work being done in our community
28/05/2018 10:27 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

The use of e-cigarettes will be prohibited in some public places in NSW following the passing of the Smoke-free Environment Amendment Bill 2018. The legislation will bring the rules around vaping in public spaces and on public transport into line with traditional cigarettes.

Under the Smoke-free Environment Act, it is illegal to smoke in all enclosed public places, including shopping centres, cinemas, libraries, trains and buses. It is also illegal to smoke in some outdoor areas, including:

  • Within 10 metres of children's playgrounds
  • Swimming pool complexes
  • Public transport stops and stations
  • Spectator areas of grounds during organised sporting events
  • Within four metres of an entrance to a public building
  • Commercial outdoor dining areas

The new legislation means that it will also be illegal to use e-cigarettes in these areas. The smoke-free areas are often crowded and frequented by children and families, and people in these areas have limited opportunity to avoid smoke and e-cigarette vapour.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said there is evidence of potential health risks from e-cigarette vapours, even when there is no illegal nicotine in the e-liquid.

"E-cigarette vapours can contain chemicals, toxins and metals, and some of these substances, like formaldehyde, are already known to cause cancer," Dr Chant said.

"The National Health and Medical Research Council states e-cigarettes expose both users and bystanders to very small particles which may worsen existing illnesses or increase the risk of developing cardiovascular or respiratory disease."

The Smoke-free Environment Amendment Bill 2018 will come into effect in July 2018, and will match laws in most other Australian States.

"The new laws do not ban people from using e-cigarettes," Health Minister Brad Hazzard said. "Put simply, where you are not allowed to smoke cigarettes, you now cannot vape either.

"Despite claims to the contrary, the jury is still out on the alleged benefits of e-cigarettes. The medical advice from Australian authorities is we need to err on the side of caution.

"The NSW Government is acting now to protect vulnerable bystanders from passive exposure to vapour and if you snub these new laws you risk fines of up to $550."

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has not approved any e-cigarette product as an aid to help with quitting smoking.

The new legislation also requires e-cigarettes retailers to notify NSW Health they are selling such products, as tobacco retailers are already required to do.

Want to learn more about e-cigarettes? Visit our tobacco page here.

20/04/2018E-cigs lose puff in some public places
28/05/2018 10:22 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

In partnership with the state government, NSW Cancer Institute has launched the Smoking in Pregnancy campaign. The initiative aims to motivate women aged 16-40 who smoke and are: planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or have recently given birth - to make a quit attempt.

Research shows that smoking during pregnancy is the biggest contributing factor to the development of complications and can cause significant health issues for the child throughout their life.

The campaign is based on formative research that revealed there was a limited awareness of the health risks associated with smoking when pregnant and of the support available to stop. The research found that raising awareness of the harms of smoking during pregnancy was more likely to lead to positive behaviour change.

Smoking in Pregnancy includes relatable imagery and positive, non-judgemental language to promote the health benefits of quitting smoking.

Not only does quitting smoking benefit the individual, but it is also is beneficial to the family. Children in non-smoking households are less likely to develop asthma and other respiratory conditions.

There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Any exposure to tobacco smoke—even an occasional cigarette or exposure to second hand smoke—is harmful. Smoking just one to four cigarettes a day almost triples a person's risk of dying from heart disease or lung cancer.

The campaign launched on April 15th and is supported by the Koori Quitline Facebook page.

To find out more information about quitting smoking visit:

Learn the facts about tobacco and other drugs here.

19/04/2018iCanQuit! Smoking in pregnancy campaign launches
12/06/2018 2:51 PMGREEN, Jessica

Language matters, a new resource from the Network of Alcohol & other Drugs Agencies (NADA) and the NSW Users & AIDS Association (NUAA) has been launched online.

Developed for the non-government alcohol and other drugs (AOD) sector, the resource encourages workers to move away from out-dated terms like 'drug user' and 'addict' which stigmatise people who use drugs.

Language is powerful – especially when discussing AOD and the people who use them. The resource was developed in consultation with non-government AOD workers and people who use drugs. 

Larry Pierce, chief executive of NADA, says: "We know that fear of stigma and being labelled as a 'drug addict' can and does stop people from accessing treatment and support. It's time we start being more mindful and stop using these terms."

NADA is the peak organisation for the non-government alcohol and other drugs sector in NSW. NUAA is governed, staffed and led by people with lived experience of drug use.

Mary Ellen Harrod, chief executive of NUAA, concludes: "The Language matters resource will be a useful tool. Empowering people by treating them with respect is a powerful catalyst for change".

Access Language matters here.

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

6/04/2018Why language matters NADA and NUAA launch drug and alcohol resource
28/05/2018 9:35 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

Every year, alcohol causes more harm to society than illegal drugs and is the leading contributor to the burden of illness and deaths in Australia.

According to a 2016 report by NSW Health, a quarter of all adults within the state drink at levels placing their long-term health at risk and just under one quarter of all adults drink more than four standard drinks on a single occasion – positioning them at a high immediate risk of harm.

As a result of this, NSW communities are experiencing a large number of associated harms such as injury, liver disease, cancer and mental health problems. And it's not just those who are consuming alcohol that are at risk. Local members of the community are often at the forefront of the damage caused by alcohol consumption.

Preventing Alcohol-Related Harm forum

The prevention of alcohol-related harm and the effects of this on NSW communities was the focus of the 'Preventing Alcohol-Related Harm: What's Changed' forum in Miller, Liverpool on March 23. Key speakers at the event such as Professor Ian Webster, Dr John Crozier and Dr Criss Moore discussed the importance of community in liquor licensing decisions and the reduction and prevention of alcohol-related harm.

Uncle Malcolm McColl, Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council Board Member, and the local MP for Liverpool Paul Lynch opened the forum.

A panel discussion with; NSW Health AOD Prevention and Harm Minimisation Director Nicola Lewis; Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre (DAMEC) counsellor Sinatt Tang; Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council Health Services manager Kevin Watene; Miller community member Judy Arkley; Paul McEvoy from Liverpool Police; and Pete Whitecross from the Alcohol & Drug Foundation (ADF) talked about what has changed in relation to preventing alcohol-related harm over the past couple of years and what can be done moving forward.

Liquor licensing

A topic that was discussed at the forum was liquor licensing, and the small percentage of applications that are rejected. Currently in NSW there is a period of 30 days to respond to the submission of a liquor licence application. After this period the decision can be appealed.

NSW Government believes local community engagement should be central to decisions about liquor licences within the state. Depending on the type of liquor licence, this can be a simple matter of talking to residents and local authorities, or a more involved process of producing a community impact statement (CIS).

"Everyone has a role to play" explained NSW Health AOD Prevention and Harm Minimisation Director Nicola Lewis.

Community strength

"Community-based solutions are critical to the prevention of alcohol-related harm," local MP Paul Lynch told the forum. Dr Criss Moore also talked about the way communities can collaborate and work together to ensure they are involved in liquor licensing decisions.

Dr Moore was central in the Casula community opposition to an application for a late trading pokie pub because of its likely negative social impact on the area. She believes that when a community comes together with a common goal and a single voice the strength of this conviction can make a difference.  

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

ADF Toolkit

Damian Dabrowski, NSW/ACT Program Implementation Coordinator at the Alcohol & Drug Foundation (ADF) also spoke at the event about resources for the community to tackle the availability of alcohol.

Specifically, Damian mentioned the ADF toolkit – a resource for members of the public which aims to remove barriers that prevent the community from being actively involved in licensing decisions, communicating the true cost of alcohol in Australia, and why it's important to play a part in the decision-making process.

Get involved!

If you want to ensure your voice is heard when it comes to liquor licensing - get involved. Join your local Community Drug Action Team (CDAT) – made up of volunteers, CDATs across NSW have been involved in a number of campaigns and activities to curb alcohol-fuelled violence and drug-use.

Support and inform your community and their decisions by accessing the latest statistics on NSW HealthStats. The ADF toolkit provides advice on how to make a difference and the Your Room website can act as resource to inform communities on alcohol and other drugs.

Want to learn more about the effects of alcohol? Check out our selection of publications.

*Image: Professor Ian Webster and ADF Program Implementation Coordinator Damian Dabrowski at the Preventing Alcohol-Related Harm forum in Miller. Credit: Melissa Bernstein, CHETRE

4/04/2018Why everyone has a role to play in preventing alcohol-related harm
28/05/2018 9:58 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

2018 is the year that the NSW Seniors Festival turns 60 and what better way is there to celebrate this Diamond Anniversary than filling your week with exciting activities that will keep you active, social and healthy?

Every year the government, communities and many commercial organisations collaborate to host hundreds of events across NSW, providing seniors with the opportunity to make new friends or get together with old ones. With the 2018 theme of Let's Do More Together, events will encompass art, sport, music, technology, recreation, health, good nutrition and much more to ensure that there's an activity for everyone.

Running from April 4th – April 15th, the event is the largest festival for seniors in the Southern Hemisphere and is designed to celebrate the role seniors' play and the contributions they make to the NSW community.

Why is the festival important?

Numerous research and studies have shown that physical activity, social connection, mental health literacy and a sense of purpose are key factors in enhancing and maintaining older people's mental health and wellbeing.

Ensuring you are exercising, eating healthy and socialising with others regularly are huge components in ensuring seniors have good wellbeing - low alcohol consumption is also a crucial factor in maintaining good health. Older people can be more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol due to physiological changes associated with ageing.

According to the 2016 NSW Population Health Survey, older people (17%) are the most likely to drink daily and an increasing number people aged 50+ are drinking at very risky levels (11 or more standard drinks).

The 2018 Seniors Festival is a great opportunity to learn about staying healthy, reducing your alcohol intake and making friends.

Who is the festival for?

Presented by the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), the festival is aimed at people over 60, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over the age of 50, and those over the age of 50 that have a lifelong disability.

Minister of Ageing Tanya Davies commented: "For the past 60 years, NSW Seniors Festival has been a way of acknowledging the important roles seniors play in society.

"The NSW Government is working to offer new experiences for older people to enjoy and ensure NSW seniors are living active socially connected lives in their later years."

Do you want to get involved? Find out more about Seniors Festival by visiting: Learn more about the effects of alcohol here.

If you want to speak to someone call the Alcohol & Drug Information Service (ADIS) - a 24 hour helpline 9361 8000 (Sydney) or free call 1800 422 599.

Or you can sign up to the Get Healthy service which offers free telephone-based coaching to help you reduce your alcohol intake - visit:

4/04/2018Get active, social and healthy at the 2018 NSW Seniors Festival
28/05/2018 9:29 AMDIMAURO, Sophie

Some 70 per cent of Australians know of the national Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol but only one in four of these are aware of the content. 

This is according to the national alcohol poll by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

The 2018 poll found that only 38 per cent of the Australian population are aware of the link between alcohol misuse and stroke, 26 per cent know of the link with mouth and throat cancer, and 16 per cent understand the link between alcohol and breast cancer.

Titled ‘The Annual Alcohol Poll 2018: Attitudes and Behaviours’ and conducted by YouGov Galaxy, the poll found that 37 per cent of Australians have been affected by alcohol-related violence, with 47 per cent of these cases happening within the last 12 months.

FARE’s poll also found that in 2018, 45 per cent of Australians drank to get drunk – equating to approximately 5.7 million citizens. It was also revealed that 73 per cent of those surveyed believe that Australia has a problem with excess drinking or alcohol abuse. 

FARE is an independent, not-for-profit organisation working to stop the harm caused by alcohol. For over 15 years, FARE has been working with communities, governments, health professionals and the police across Australia to stop alcohol harm by supporting world-leading research, raising public awareness and advocating for changes to alcohol policy. 

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

28/03/2018FARE Poll reveals a lack of awareness among Australians about the effects of alcohol
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