Young people in Australia are consistently drinking less, smoking less, and using fewer recreational drugs than in previous years. Young people's brains are still developing, and as such are particularly susceptible to long term, permanent damage from alcohol and other drug misuse. Check out some useful information on alcohol and other drugs here.
Health guidelines and standard drinks
Alcohol is a depressant drug, and it is never entirely risk free. The less you choose to drink, the lower your risk of alcohol-related ill-health and injury. Australian health guidelines recommend no more than 10 standard alcoholic drinks per week, and no more than four standard drinks on any one occasion, to minimise the risk of alcohol related disease or injury. One standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, and it is a legal requirement that the number of standard drinks be stated on the bottle or container of any alcoholic beverage sold in Australia. Check out this standard drinks guide to see how a range of popular beverages compare.
Alcohol can take between 15 minutes to an hour to absorb, depending on the person and what they've eaten beforehand. Eating a meal before consuming alcohol can lessen the swiftness of intoxication, but it can be deceptive, too - it may simply hit you later. Having a non-alcoholic drink in between each alcoholic drink is a good way to slow your alcohol consumption, stay in control, and keep hydrated at the same time. Know the alcoholic content of what you're drinking - standard drinks are displayed on the container's label - and stay within your limits. Each person responds differently to alcohol.
read more - content warning: mention of sexual assault
Drink spiking occurs when a person deliberately adds alcohol or another drug to somebody else's drink without their permission, with the intention of increasing their level of intoxication. Drink spiking is a predatory behaviour and it is illegal. Unfortunately, there are cases of drink spiking that occur in Canberra. Be aware of this and don't accept drinks from strangers or leave your drink unattended or out of sight. Indicators of drink spiking vary depending on what substance is used. However, symptoms may include mental confusion, feeling drunk or drowsy, speech difficulty, memory loss, or a loss of consciousness. In general, drink spiking could lead to a level of intoxication that is unexpected, or which is inconsistent with what was thought to be consumed.
What to do if drink spiking occurs?
- Firstly, you should alert somebody who you trust, as well as the venue staff. Go to a safer place with the trusted person.
- Keep a close eye on any person who has had their drink spiked, and call an ambulance in their condition worsens.
- Contact police or attend the hospital. Urine and blood samples can be taken to detect the presence of some common drugs.
- If you are living in residential hall or college accommodation, you should also contact the on-duty Senior Resident or Residential Advisor and alert staff members.
Content warning: mentions of sexual assault
Sexual assault and drink spiking
- Drink spiking can be associated with attempts or acts of sexual assault or harassment. Like all forms of sexual assault, drug-assisted sexual assault is a crime.
- There are a number of support services that can assist someone who has been sexually assaulted. Victims of sexual assault have the choice to determine what happens next, which can include reporting the incident to police or/and the university, making a disclosure (telling somebody without taking action against the person), or seeking support from available services.
- See ANU's Living respectfully page for more information about reporting, disclosing, and available support services.
Illicit recreational drugs include substances like cannabis, cocaine, and heroin, as well as non-prescribed medications like opioids or the stimulants Adderall and Ritalin. Remember that drug use can lead to immediate or long-term harm. It is illegal to consume, bring, distribute and sell drugs in Australia - this also include illegal buying and selling of cannabis or commonly called "weed".
read more about Cannabis in the ACT
Cannabis in the ACT
The Australian Capital Territory can be associated with 'legal' use of cannabis. But this connotation is not quite accurate - cannabis is not legal in the ACT; it has been decriminalised for adults who possess small quantities. There are some important points to note regarding cannabis in the ACT:
- It remains illegal to buy or sell cannabis or provide it to others.
- Smoking or consuming cannabis in public remains illegal. In addition, ANU policy means that cannabis on campus remains prohibited.
- Driving with cannabis in your system is illegal, and drug-testing is applied to drivers in the ACT. It is important to keep in mind that cannabis can be detected through these drug tests days after consumption, even after immediate effects have worn off.
Getting help - alcohol and other drugs
- If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol or other drugs, it is important to get help. In the short term, the misuse of alcohol and other drugs can lead to overdose, accidents and physical harm, financial loss, and depressive 'come-downs'. In the long term, it can lead to impaired cognitive functioning and brain damage, vital organ damage, weight loss, increased risk of cancers, and social harms such as strained relationships.
- ACT residents can call the ACT Health Drug and Alcohol Help Line 24-hours, 7 days a week on (02) 5124 9977. The helpline is staffed by health professionals and can provide advice and support to people directly or indirectly affected by addiction.
- See to a doctor - there are techniques to manage and effectively combat addiction. See the National Health Coop @ ANU.
- Talking to a psychologist or counsellor can help in managing the emotional relationship to alcohol or drugs, or developing a plan to move forward. See ANU Counselling for free and confidential counselling for ANU students. For psychological services, a GP's referral will allow you to claim a Medicare rebate.
- See here for further support options at ANU.