Read this befoRe Saturday night

Individuals featured in this image are in no way associated with this article
Read this
Ecstasy, Marijuana, Ice – plus
other drugs and their effects
Lucy and Karen
were best mates
– until, as Karen
explains, Lucy’s
partying drove
a wedge
between them
fast fact:
for $5. At one point, Lucy and another
girl disappeared. When she came back,
she whispered excitedly, “We just did
coke!” I was shocked, but tried to hide it.
The next week, Lucy told me that the
drug made her feel super confident. “You
should try it, Kaz, you’ll love it,” she said.
However, it just wasn’t me. We started
seeing each other less and, when we did
catch up, she was often in a foul mood.
One weekend, we met for lunch. She
looked terrible: greasy hair, blotchy skin,
bloodshot eyes – the works. “You look
tired,” I commented, casually. She snapped
back defensively. “Law is hard – I can’t
skate through doing the bare minimum
like you do. You’d know what it was like
if you were studying a real degree.”
When cocaine and alcohol are
mixed, they produce a substance
in the blood called “cocaethylene”,
which can be even more toxic than
cocaine alone. Cocaine is highly
addictive and can create serious
physical and mental health problems
including seizures, heart attack,
stroke, psychosis and depression.**
I felt like I’d been slapped. We had a huge
fight there in the restaurant. I told her I had
enough to worry about with my father,
who has a drinking problem. I didn’t want
to deal with a drug-addicted friend, too.
It’s been 18 months, and I haven’t
seen her since. She texted me once, but
I didn’t reply. I heard that she dropped
out of uni, which makes me sad. She used
to be so ambitious. But Lucy today is
nothing like the Lucy I used to know.
How cocaine
my best friend
Take a glance at
the list of ecstasy’s
“immediate effects”
to understand how
the tiny tablet
earned such a
friendly nickname
*Names have been changed.
All in a
*Names have been changed. **Source:
ucy* and I have been
friends since year
eight. By year 12, we
were inseparable.
When her parents
divorced, Lucy moved
in with my family for
a while. When my mum got diagnosed
with cancer and had chemotherapy, Lucy
was there to help me through it. We were
almost one person, Lucy-and-Karen. So it
was only natural that after high school,
we’d go to the same uni. I enrolled in a
teaching/arts degree and Lucy studied
law. At first we had a ball, studying
together and catching up between classes.
And then, Lucy began hanging out
with some girls in her course. She was
spending quite a bit of time with them
and could tell I was jealous; we weren’t
used to sharing! So, one Saturday, she
asked me to come out with them.
We went to a swanky bar full of men
in suits, and the girls ordered expensive
cocktails. I felt uncomfortable – I was
used to uni pubs where drinks were two
Officially, the name
is MethyleneDioxyMethAmphetamine
(MDMA), but MDMA is
just one component found in most ecstasy
tablets – they often also contain other
dangerous toxic substances, such as
ketamine. Within 20 minutes of consuming
one, body temperature increases and
heart rate speeds up, making the user feel
more alert, affectionate and energetic.
But there are negative effects, too.
DRUG ARM says these can include:
• Overheating and sweating
• Jaw clenching/grinding teeth
• Nausea
• Reduced sexual inhibition, which
can lead to unsafe sex
• Anxiety
• Memory impairment
• Depression
While most effects last up to eight
hours, some can stick around for up to 32
hours, and it’s usually the least-pleasurable
Dehydration vs
Ecstasy “knocks out your first
response mechanism”, explains
forensic toxicologist Andrew
Leibie from Inverness Medical
Australia. When high, you might
have trouble realising you’re thirsty,
hungry, too full or too warm. It
might not sound like a big deal, but
it can lead to fatal consequences.
“No matter how thirsty you
are, you’re not aware of it, unless
something tells you to drink up, so
you can become very dehydrated,”
Leibie says. When dehydrated you
can pass out, have seizures, become
delirious and, if you’re not treated,
in extreme cases it can lead to
death. “Or you can drink too much
water and not realise that, which
leads to swelling of your brain,” he
continues. “That’s what kills you.”
Your water intake needs to be
actively managed when ecstasy is
consumed. Drinking too much can
be as dangerous as too little.
using ecstasy, because serotonin in the
brain is reduced by ecstasy use. Research
in animals shows this is long lasting (up to
three years) and may even be permanent.
Ecstasy users often fall into a cycle of
use where they take the drug in 48-hour
weekend binges, with four or five days
of a break in between – and this type of
regular use causes the positive side effects
to fade, explains Associate Professor
and psychologist Lynne Magor-Blatch.
“Tolerance increases the severity of the
undesirable effects,” she says. “The
heightened anxiety is a huge issue, and
people can die from things like heart
attack, blood clotting, overheating
or brain hemorrhage.”
For more information call
1800 250 015 or visit
Lauren*, 19,
tells of her
shocking experience...
symptoms that persist. If a high
“Last year, I went to Big Day Out. My friends
dose is taken, or ecstasy is used
and I decided to do E for the first time. An hour
frequently, the user might also
after taking it, I felt great, but soon I felt strange.
experience hallucinations,
My heart was pounding like a jackhammer. I
visual distortions, tremors,
vomited, so my friend Sophie decided to stay
vomiting, confusion or panic
with me. Sometimes I felt OK, then I’d feel
– and the hangover over the
claustrophobic, nauseous and paranoid.
following days ain’t pretty, either!
A few times I think I lost consciousness.
There are many psychological
It was such a horrible experience
– I’ll never touch it again.”
problems associated with ecstasy
including the “hangover effect”,
depression that can last for days after
The effects and toxicity of each pill are unpredictable and the chance of overdose is a real possibility.
What would
you do?
Shelley and James,
both 22, have been
dating for three
years. They’re
thinking of taking
the plunge to buy
a house together
– but there’s one
thing standing in
their way…
ames has been into marijuana
since we met,” says Shelley.
“I thought it was a phase he’d
grow out of.” Now that they’re
thinking of buying a place
together, her opinion has
changed. Shelley realises he smokes pot almost every day. “In the beginning, I didn’t know
it was that often,” she says.
“He insists he’s not addicted, and says he
could quit at any time,” says Shelley. “I
don’t like that he smokes pot all the time.
If we buy a place, it’s not something I’d be
comfortable with him bringing home.”
The other problem? Money. “We agreed
we’d start saving as much as we could for
a house deposit. So far I’ve saved $7000,
and he’s saved a grand total of zero. I’m
starting to wonder whether we’re heading
towards a dead end…”
The reality
“If I take ecstasy on a Saturday
night, is it in my system when
I go to work on Monday?”
It’s possible. The effects of ecstasy
usually last up to eight hours
after taking it. Some people report
symptoms that persist for 32 hours,
which are usually the “come down”
effects, where you may feel physically
exhausted, depressed and irritable.
and the law:
Daydreaming about a tropical
“I heard marijuana can cause
mental illness – is this true?”
Some debate exists about the
specific relationship between
drug use and mental illness, but there
is a consensus that people with drug
problems also have an increased risk
of mental health problems. We know
marijuana use can exacerbate existing
psychotic illness and symptoms of
schizophrenia, as well as mood swings,
panic attacks, delusions, and paranoia.
Shelley’s situation is all too
familiar, says Dennis Young,
holiday in Phuket? Be warned: a
Executive Director of DRUG
conviction with cannabis – or any type of
ARM in Brisbane. Regular
drug – could put your holiday plans on hold
cannabis use can cause a
indefinitely. “If you get a conviction with
person to feel unmotivated
cannabis, that does prevent you travelling
to a lot of countries,” says Dennis Young,
and moody, which Shelley
Executive Director of Drug Arm in Brisbane.
says has led to other issues.
“It can also impact your future options for
“He rarely comes out with
study and work. A lot of people just
me anymore and our sex life is
don’t understand or think about
virtually non-existent,” she says.
the long-term legal
Young explains it’s “not a matter of
stopping smoking pot and problems
go away. There is evidence to suggest
long-term cannabis use can lead to more
serious issues, like cancer and psychosis.”
Larry Pierce, CEO of the Network of
Alcohol and Other Drugs Association, says
there’s a definite relationship between drugs
and mental health issues. “It’s not a ‘this
Don’t dope
causes that’ issue – it’s very complex,” he
and drive
explains. Shelley feels stuck. “I can’t get
Cannabis users “tend to drive
mad – I knew about it when we started
more slowly”, and as a result
dating,” she says. “I’m worried if I give an
they believe they’re driving
ultimatum, he’ll pick weed over me! But
more safely, says National
if that’s true, I guess I have my answer.”
Cannabis Prevention &
For more information call
1800 250 015 or visit
Consequences of
using marijuana
can include:*
• Dependence • Depression/anxiety
• Sleep problems • Lowered sex
drive • Learning difficulties/poorer
educational outcomes • Memory
problems • Respiratory illnesses •
Increased risk of cancer • Paranoia
Information Centre (NCPIC)
Director, Professor Jan
Copeland. However, NCPIC
research shows that driving
while stoned can increase your
chance of having an accident
by up to 300 per cent. “Just
like any drug that affects
psychomotor skills, cannabis
impairs driving,” Copeland
says. “People use cannabis to
alter their perception – but the
one place you don’t want your
perception changed is behind
the wheel of a car.”
“What are the long-term
consequences of using ice?”
It can lead to social and financial
problems, the risk of family
breakdown and losing friends. Longerterm users often look older than their
age and may have damaged teeth and
lesions on the skin. They have a greater
risk of stroke, and have decreased lung
function and memory and decisionmaking issues. Injecting can result in
scarring, abscesses, vein damage and
exposure to blood borne viruses.
Individuals featured in this
image are in no way associated with this article
If I have ecstasy or speed and
I’m on antidepressants or
anxiety meds, what can happen?
It is never safe to mix any drugs.
Drugs can interact in unexpected
ways and cause serious effects that are
hard to predict, as the reaction depends
on so many factors: drug type, potency,
purity, personal health, and so on.
Mixing drugs can increase the risk of
overdose, because they work to slow
down your breathing and heart rate.
Others can place increased pressure
on your heart. With ecstasy, this mix
is particularly dangerous and may result
in developing serotonin syndrome.
Experts: Andrew Di Iorio, youth
alcohol & other drug counsellor at
Open Family Australia, and James
Pitts, CEO of Odyssey House.
MAJOR,** Sydney
I thought my
drink was spiked once
while I was on a night
out with some friends,
but it’s just so hard to
tell when you’re
drinking alcohol in
the first place
A Fine Line Between
Fantasy. Liquid E. Quirky nicknames –
but there’s no denying GHB is dangerous
HB, or gammahydroxybutyrate,
is a central
nervous system
that is made
using sodium
hydroxide or potassium hydroxide and
industrial solvents. It was once used as a
general anesthetic in hospitals, but today
GHB is peddled by dealers as a drug
designed to help the user relax.
“People try to justify it – they say that
because it’s used in hospitals, it’s safe,” says
Kristie Sky, NSW Ambulance Service
spokeswoman. “But in a hospital the doctors
weigh you and can adjust the doses. A party
is not a controlled situation, and even the
tiniest of doses can send you over the edge.”
The main risk to GHB users is overdose,
resulting in death. Over half of surveyed
Party safe
GHB has been making headlines as
a “date rape” drug. When combined
with alcohol, its effects dramatically
increase. Dr Williams says there are
a few things you can do to stay safe:
“Know who your friends are and
stick with them,” she says.
Dr Williams has found that alcohol
almost always plays a part in drink
GHB users admit to losing consciousness
after using the drug, with 45 per cent
experiencing memory loss or tremors*. “If
you’re unconscious, you lose the ability to
breathe and, outside a hospital, you can’t
stay alive,” says Dr Angela Williams, forensic
physician at the Victorian Institute of
Forensic Medicine. There have been 10
reported deaths directly attributed to GHB
My drink was spiked
at the Melbourne Cup,
and I wasn’t even drinking
alcohol. I felt wobbly
and it was as though my
mind was taking too
long to catch
up with my
spiking. “If you’ve had too much to
drink, it’s easy for someone to take
advantage of you,” she says. It is wise
to use bottles rather than glasses, and
you should keep your drink with you at
all times so no one can tamper with it.
Always check in. “If you’ve put
a friend in a cab to go home, call
someone at their destination to make
sure they arrive safely.”
in Australia in recent years, and ambulance
officers are seeing an increase in reported
overdoses.* “Just 1ml can be too much,” says
Sky. “If someone you know has taken GHB
and is getting drowsy, call 000. Don’t wait
until they’re completely out of it.”
For more information call
1800 250 015 or visit
of using GHB
can include:***
• Vomiting • Hallucinations
• Drowsiness/grogginess
• Impaired movement/speech
• Reduced muscle tone • Slowed
heart rate • Disorientation
• Seizures/convulsions
• Lowered blood pressure
• Respiratory distress
• Amnesia • Coma • Death
Ice, or crystal methamphetamine,
is a relatively “new” drug in
Australia, which gained popularity
during the heroin drought of 2001
Individuals featured in this image are in no way associated with this article.
*Source: Study conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC)/AIDS Council of New South Wales. **Names have been changed. ***Source:
Some ice users feel as
though bugs are
crawling under their
skin, and dig at their
arms until they are
pitted with sores.
round the time
of this so-called
ice became
more readily
available, so
it’s believed
many people using illegal drugs were
prompted to switch to crystal meth.
“By 2007, ice was the most talked
about drug on our helpline,” says Tony
Trimingham, CEO and founder of Family
Drug Support. A powerful, synthetic
stimulant drug, ice is a potent form
of methamphetamine that works by
flooding the brain with monoamines,
leading to a feeling of exhilaration and
increased arousal. But, as the saying
goes, what goes up, must come down.
“Ice is a stimulant that keeps you
awake,” says James Pitts, CEO of Odyssey
House, a drug rehab facility in NSW.
“When you’re not getting [sufficient]
sleep, you’re not giving your body time to
empty the day’s trash, which results in
increased levels of stress. This can lead to
an increase in mental illness.” Any
Be still,
my beating heart
“Physically, ice can increase the risk of heart
attack, strokes and seizures,” says Dr Daniel
Brungs, senior resident medical officer at
St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. “But one
of the worst things about ice is how it
can change a person’s personality.
People who are usually good
and kind can become
violently aggressive.”
in those
chemicals in
your brain
can have long-term effects: psychosis is
common, even for recreational users, and
the hallucinations can last for extended
periods. Other side effects include an
increased risk of heart attack, stroke and
uncontrollable violence.
“Ice produces quite a lot of anger
and aggression. It increases the libido
which results in extreme and risky
sexual behaviour,” says Trimingham.
The result? A higher risk of contracting
sexually transmitted diseases such as
chlamydia and HIV.
The “high” experienced from ice is
much more intense, and with intense
reactions come powerful responses
including comedown, the potential for
addiction and chronic physical and
mental health problems.
Are you heading
CEO of Odyssey House James
Pitts says there are three
common behaviours that may
indicate a drug addiction:
1 Skipping school or work.
2 Changing your group of
friends to hang around with
others who support your habit.
3 An increasing preoccupation
with drugs. “Generally, users
don’t realise they have a problem,”
says Pitts. “When drugs become
more important than uni, work
or friends, you’re addicted.”
need for
Angela Cooke*
considered speed a
relatively harmless
drug. For a year, she
took it “every other
weekend”. Her
GP gave her
a wake-up call
fter Angela
tonsillitis, she
went to her GP
for antibiotics.
Just as she was
about to leave,
the doctor asked, “While I’ve got you
here, how long have you been using
meth?” He figured Angela was using due
to her sallow cheeks and thin figure.
It was a wake-up call – she stopped
using then and there. “I thought, if he can
tell I use speed by looking at me, does that
mean my boss knows? And my parents?”
Forensic toxicologist Andrew Leibie
from Inverness Medical Australia says
people often talk about speed as if
somehow it might be less harmful than
other kinds of recreational drugs, but this
is absolutely not the case. “Most of the
Did you know?
In 2007, the National Drug
Strategy Household Survey
(NDSHS) of all Australians aged
14 years or older found that 2.3
million people had used an illicit
drug in the past 12 months.
Peer pressure plays a part,
with 43 per cent of all people
over 14 years reporting that
peers influenced their first
use of any drug.
speed in Australia is cooked up in
backyard labs,” he says.
Speed produces effects that include
confidence and energy. But users can
also experience irritability, aggression,
paranoia and psychosis. Leibie, who
spends the bulk of his day drug-testing
employees on behalf of workplaces, says
people often don’t realise that the drug
stays in your system for at least 24 hours.
“You only need a tiny bit in your blood
stream to impact your performance of
complex tasks,” he explains. “If you have
to think quickly, say, when the traffic
lights change from green to orange, your
reaction time is two to three times slower
than when you’re straight. If your normal
reaction time is half a second, you’re
suddenly taking one to two seconds – and
if someone breaks in front of you, you
don’t have one or two seconds up your
sleeve.” He remembers a guy who took
speed at a party and the next day went
Consequences of using
speed can include:
• Chronic sleep problems • Cracked teeth
through grinding • Panic attacks/anxiety
• Insomnia • Decreased emotional control
• Severe depression • Violent behaviour
• Speed psychosis • Nerve cell damage •
Death from heart failure or suicide
• High risk of addiction • HIV and
hepatitis infections through
needle sharing **
to work, as a forklift operator. “He was
driving a forklift with a couple of hundred
kilos of steel around a factory,” Leibie
says. After joking with workmates
about racing the forklift, he suddenly
accelerated and flew across the floor. He
drove between two trucks and got stuck,
completely destroying the forklift. “He
tested positive to speed and he was fired
on the spot,” says Leibie.
For more information call
1800 250 015 or visit www.
Authorised by the Australian Government, Capital Hill, Canberra
f a s t f a c t : Speed psychosis is common with amphetamine overdose. It resembles paranoid schizophrenia.
*Names have been changed. **Source: All copy written by Sarah Megginson