Substance Abuse

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Over-the-counter drugs

  • Can be purchased without a prescription.
  • Commonly self-prescribed for minor pain or discomfort.
  • Most common are analgesics such as aspirin (“Aspro” or “Disprin”) and paracetemol (“Panadol”)
  • Some over the counter drugs contain codeine and antihistamines and their purchase should be closely monitored by the pharmacist.

Prescription drugs

  • Taken for prevention or treatment of illness.
  • Females are more likely to use medications than males.
  • Most commonly used prescription drugs in 1997 were Amoxycillin (an antibiotic) and Salbutamol (asthma medication).


  • Many young people experiment with alcohol and continue to use the drug casually throughout the rest of their adult life.
  • Young people between the ages of 12 and 16 drink of a weekly basis.
  • Binge drinking is a characteristic form of alcohol consumption for many young people. This is where 5 or more drinks are consumed consecutively.
  • Binge drinking is particularly dangerous for young females because the drinks they drink usually have higher alcohol content and they have a different ratio of muscle to fat in the body compared to males.
  • Short term physical consequences: vomiting, dizziness, dehydration, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Long term physical consequences: liver and brain damage and nutritional deficiencies.
  • Emotional consequences: loss of self-respect, being isolated by peer group, being the subject of gossip and loss of parental trust.
  • In more recent years, females have increased their alcohol intake.
  • Marketing companies have promoted drinks to make them more appealing.
  • The risk of alcohol and other drug related problems among aboriginal people are high.


  • Responsible for the largest number of drug-related deaths in Australia.
  • One in five people commence smoking by the age of 18.
  • The younger a person starts to smoke, the less likely they are to quit.
  • Tobacco used by young people is declining.
  • A significant number of young women are taking up smoking.
  • Males are reported to be heavier smokers, consuming more cigarettes per day than young females.
  • Unemployment and lower levels of education and socio-economic status are social factors that relate to tobacco use.
  • Tobacco use has short term and long-term consequences. Lung cancer, diseases of the respiratory system, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and decreased availability of oxygen.
  • Can make people feel more like they are part of a group – supposed social benefits.
  • Young people need to be able to refuse cigarettes or to quit smoking. Being able to say no to peers are essential personal skills for young people.

Other drugs

  • Illicit drugs include cannabis, heroin and amphetamines.
  • NSW has a low level of this sort of drug use.
  • Cannabis is the most common illicit drug used.
  • Heroin is extremely low compared with other illicit drugs.
  • Specific health and social implications – including deaths from overdoses, disruption to families, crime, prostitution, legal penalties, the effects of theft and burglary on the community and the economic costs of law enforcement and legislation.
  • Social factors that influence illicit drug use includes gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, access to education, unemployment and family behavior and disruption.

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