What are illegal drugs?

A drug is a substance that affects the way the body functions. The term drugs can be used to refer to many different substances. From over the counter medication such as paracetamol, to an illicit substance such as heroin. If a drug is illegal this means it is unregulated and also banned by law for people to use, produce, or sell.

To help with understanding a bit more what illegal drugs are, we have put together a small information guide that breaks down the laws and regulations surrounding illegal drugs in Australia.

Different types of illegal drugs have different effects on people. There are a range of factors that can impact these effects, and may include:

  • The type of drug
  • How much of the drug is consumed
  • Where the person is when the drug is being used
  • What the person is doing while using the drug
  • Individual characteristics such as body size, health, and vulnerabilities
  • How many different drugs are taken at one time

What are legal drugs?

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine
  • Over the counter and prescribed drugs

These drugs are often used daily by people. However there may be some restrictions that relate to the use of these drugs, including:

  • Age – eg. you cannot legally drink under the age of 18.
  • Where you can get them – eg. behind the counter at a pharmacy, alcohol is sold in licensed venues.
  • Driving – eg. there are blood alcohol limits for driving.
  • Advertising – eg. tobacco needs to be displayed with specific health warnings.

What are illegal drugs?

  • Amphetamines
  • Cannabis
  • Ecstasy (MDMA)
  • Heroin

These drugs are banned as their use can endanger your health and life, as well as the the life of others. They are unregulated and because of this you can never be too sure what is in them or how strong they are.

Medicinal use of Cannabis (marijuana)
Under a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Special Access Scheme some types of medicinal cannabis are now currently available. These need to be prescribed by a Doctor and apply to patients who meet certain criteria. More information can be found here.

Common drug offences

When it comes to illegal drugs in Australia common drug offences include:

  • Possession – this can include owning equipment for growing, making, or using the drug.
  • Making – including growing
  • Importing the drug
  • Selling or supplying (also known as trafficking)

Drug laws in Australia

The Poisons Standard is the legislative document that determines how drugs are restricted. The document is managed and updated regularly by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The drugs are listed in schedules that affect how and where they are available. For example:

  • Drugs in schedule 3 don’t require a prescription, but can only be bought from a pharmacy
  • Drugs in schedule 8 are listed as controlled drugs, and possession of these without authority is an offence
  • Schedule 9 lists drugs that are prohibited

What will happen if I’m caught with illegal drugs?

Drug laws vary between States in Australia with possession being one of the most common drug offenses. Depending on the offence you are charged with will impact the penalty that you can receive. If it is a first time offence for possession of a small quantity you may receive a caution and need to attend a drug education program. However if you are charged with trafficking a commercially large quantity of illegal substances you could face 35 years in prison, along with a hefty fine.

Here is a link where you can find out more about Victoria’s drug laws.

What do I do if I want to quit illegal drugs?

It’s important to reach out to get the help and support you need. Speaking with friends and family about your concerns is a great place to start.

At Arrow Health we offer various treatment programs that are tailored for each individual. All of our programs are evidence-based, which means they are aligned with current international best practice and developed by doctors.

Our programs include inpatient rehab, detox, family support, outpatient programs, and counselling.

For more information on Arrow Health treatment options, please call us for an obligation free chat.