Q & A

Q & A for Students

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  • Q: Cannabis comes from a plant, does that mean it is safe?

    This is a common question as many people think that natural substances found in nature are automatically safer than chemicals made in a laboratory. This is not true as there are many "natural" substances that are very harmful to humans. Think of snake venom or poison ivy, for example. 

    Research has investigated the effects of using cannabis and shown some harmful effects in the short- and long-term, including problems with learning and motivation, memory, and the risk of dependence (addiction) and mental health problems. To find out more, read our Cannabis: Factsheet or watch Effects of Cannabis.

  • Q: Why aren't under 18s allowed to drink alcohol?

    The Australian Alcohol Guidelines recommend that young people delay drinking alcohol as long as possible.

    Some of the reasons that alcohol is more risky for young people include:

    • The teenage brain is still developing. The human brain continues to undergo important development and maturation well into the late 20s. Research findings suggest that drinking alcohol during the teenage years can disrupt healthy brain development. For this reason, teenagers are advised to avoid drinking for as long as possible.
    • Reduced Body Mass. When alcohol is absorbed, it is distributed throughout the body’s total water content. On average, younger people have a smaller body mass than adults and correspondingly have less water. This means that in a younger person there is less water to dilute the alcohol, so the alcohol is more concentrated and will have a greater effect on the person. When young people do drink, it is often out with friends in a situation where they are at high-risk of accidents or injury.
    • Risk of problems later in life.There is evidence from research studies that the younger a person starts to drink, the greater the risk of developing alcohol related-problems and dependence (addiction) later in life.

    You can find out more by reading our Alcohol: Factsheet or watching Under Construction.

  • Q: Does drug use cause mental health problems?

    Research has investigated the short and long-term effects of drug use. Studies do show a link between drug use and mental health problems including depression, anxiety and in some cases psychosis (a serious mental illness that causes people to misinterpret or confuse reality). 

    Read our Drugs A to Z factsheets to find out more about the risks associated with particular substances.

  • Q: My friends are hassling me to use drugs with them.

    Pressure from friends can make it harder to say no, but is important that you make your own decision. Reading the information on Drugs A to Z will help you understand some of the risks associated with different drugs.

    We also suggest you read our “Making Choices” factsheet for ideas about how to be assertive and deal with pressure from friends. Although these situations can be difficult to handle, it may help to know that by not taking drugs you are in the majority. It may be shown differently in the media, but the reality is that most young people in Australia do not use illegal drugs.

  • Q: I'm worried about my friend - what should I do?

    Running into problems at home or school is very common and it is important to encourage your friend to talk about the problems rather than ignoring them in the hope they'll go away. There are a number of people that can offer advice and support when a young person is going through a tough time. These include:

    • A parent or teacher
    • School counsellor
    • GP (family doctor)
    • Youth worker
    • Psychologist

    See Where to get help for a list of services to help people of all ages with any drug or alcohol issues. We also suggest reading our factsheet about How to help a friend with a drug problem.

  • Q: Where can I get advice or help with a drug issue?

    It takes a lot for someone to admit they may have a problem with drugs, but it’s the first step to overcoming it. Talking to a friend, teacher, family member, or school counsellor can provide a helping hand and emotional support.

    See Where to get help for a list of services to help people of all ages with any drug or alcohol issues. These services can offer advice and support when a young person is going through a tough time.

    You can watch the Getting Help from a GP video to find out more about how GPs work and what you can expect when making an appointment.

  • Q: Are “legal highs” a safe alternative?

    In recent years, many ‘new’ drugs have arrived on the market. These are often advertised as ‘legal highs’, despite the fact that in many cases they are not legal. These substances are also marketed as ‘synthetic drugs’, ‘party pills’, ‘research chemicals’, or ‘plant food’, and are often used as substitutes for other illegal drugs. They are sometimes sold in stores or online and marketed as ‘legal’ and ‘safe’, however, many contain ingredients that are actually illegal and potentially very dangerous.

    Taking these is like a roll of the dice — they haven't been around long enough to know what the immediate risks are or what might happen later on in life to people who use them. See the 'Emerging Drugs' factsheet for more information.