What drug is that?

What drug is that?

What drug is that?

What drug is that? The top 5 youth drugs in Australia.

In todays post we have scoured the depths of Youtube to find some great videos with information to help you answer that annoying question ‘what drug is that?’ We have found info on  some of the most common drugs that young people use and will link you in with some resources that you can use in your practice with young people.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 gives some valuable information about drug use and patterns in Australia, we have used this as a guide to choosing which drugs to look at today. You can download the report in the link below:



What better way to start than with a light hearted look at the possible drugs our young people have access to in todays world.


Alcohol is the most widely used drug in Australia and for a lot of young people it can be a rite of passage and an important part of social inclusion in the adolescent years. With the adolescent years being an integral time for brain development, the neurotoxins in alcohol can potentially cause significant harm if not used safely. That is why it’s important to make sure that young people understand the effects of alcohol and are armed with as much information as possible to consume safely and look after each other when they do. Headspace have created this video and an information page that is easily digestible for young people, albeit a little cheesy. But who doesn’t like cheese.

Here is a great handout for young people: https://headspace.org.au/young-people/understanding-alcohol-for-young-people/

Cannabis (Marijuana).

Next up we have Cannabis, or Marijuana, Weed, Choof, or a myriad of other street names that we would all be familiar with. Also one of the most common drugs used within Australia, with under 30’s being the highest users. If you aren’t familiar with the below video, it was a $350,000 (failed) attempt by the NSW government to raise awareness about the effects of Cannabis on young people. Whilst it did provide us with a few laughs, there are questions about its’ effectiveness of informing young people.

Headspace, once again, provides us with a no nonsense two page A4 fact sheet that is a handy resource for any professional working with young people: https://headspace.org.au/young-people/understanding-cannabis-for-young-people/

What is in cocaine?

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 states that young Australians (aged 14–24) first try cocaine at 19.2 years on average and it is the second most commonly used illegal drug after cannabis. So what is cocaine? In short, cocaine from its’ original form as a coca leaf, goes through about 8 processes and is mixed with at least 11 harmful and poisonous ingredients along the way, including gasoline and cement. It is also common to mix cocaine with other drugs including amphetamines. By the time cocaine reaches the street there is no way to know what has actually been used to mix and cut the drug. The above video gives a brief overview of what is in cocaine.

If you would like some information about the effects of cocaine and links to services’  head to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website provided below.


Methamphetamine (“Ice”).

Methamphetamine is a man-made stimulant drug and it is a more potent form of the drug amphetamine. When it is in its crystalline form, the drug is called crystal meth or “ice”. Whilst both drugs cause similar symptoms, methamphetamine has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system. These characteristics make it a drug with high potential for widespread abuse. Consequently, it has been thrust in to the public eye on a large scale in recent times due to the devastating affect it can have on the individual and the wider community. In 2016, the Australian government launched the Nation Ice Action Strategy as an attempt to reduce the supply and demand and to increase education, prevention, treatment, support and community engagement. There entire strategy is funded for just under $300 million which will be divided amongst different programs working towards tackling both alcohol and drug problems Australia wide.

National Ice Action Taskforce Findings

MDMA (Ecstacy).

MDMA is the main ingredient in the party drug Ecstasy and the most common form of ecstasy used comes in either pill or tablet form. The average amount of MDMA in a “pill” is 70-125mg. When ingested, MDMA causes the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a vital role in mood regulation and helps defend against mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. If our serotonin stores are depleted it can have a debilitating effect on our sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behaviour. In Australia, there is currently a big push for “pill testing” to become legal at music festivals as a harm reduction method. Due to the amount of unknown and potentially dangerous ingredients used in the production of MDMA, especially pills, this method is seen by some professionals as a step towards reducing drug related deaths and overdoses at festivals. For further information on this and MDMA visit the links below.



Further information.

For further information on the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey as well as a detailed summary of what you can do to support young people in accessing treatment options for alcohol and other drug related issues, read the article below by Ultimate Youth Worker Executive Director Aaron Garth.


Also, check out our blog for other recourses on this topic and many more.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

Podcast 012: Youth Drug and Alcohol

Youth Drug and Alcohol
To support the podcast, donate here!

Podcast #012: Youth Drug and Alcohol

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast Aaron speaks with Dr. Kat Daley from RMIT University about her research into youth drug and alcohol abuse.

Youth Drug and Alcohol with Dr. Kat Daley

Dr Kat Daley is a Lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. She researches issues of marginalised youth including, substance abuse, self-injury, homelessness, gender and sexual abuse. Her book, ‘Youth and Substance Abuse’, was published in 2017. Kathryn teaches courses in social research and policy. Prior to academia, she worked in youth alcohol and other drug services. 

In todays episode Aaron and Kat speak about why young people tend towards use that is problematic and long term. They look at the particular patterns in young women with problematic drug use that arose from Kat’s research, the key issues surrounding problematic use in young men and how these two groups approach dealing with their substance use problems. It is through such great research that youth workers gain insight into our clients.

A special thanks to Kat for taking time out of her very busy schedule to be our first academic on the cast. A core part of our mission with the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast is to make academic work more accessible to the masses. If you enjoy this cast don’t forget to leave a comment in the section below and share the link with your colleagues.

Today’s resources

drug treatment and young people

drug treatment and young people

For data nerds like us at Ultimate Youth Worker it is always an awesome day when new research comes out… Particularly, research on drug treatment and young people. Today the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing released their latest report, “Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia 2015–16”. This is the most up to date data on Alcohol and Other Drug treatment throughout Australia with the last data coming from 2012. So here are some thoughts from the data about drug treatment and young people.

In summary throughout 2015–16, approximately 796 alcohol and other drug treatment services provided just over 206,600 treatment episodes to an estimated 134,000 clients. The top four drugs that clients sought treatment for in this period were alcohol (32% of treatment episodes), cannabis (23%), amphetamines (23%), and heroin (6%). The median age of clients in Alcohol and Other Drug treatment services is rising, from 31 in 2006–07 to 33 in 2015–16.

While the media have hyped up certain drugs as being at epidemic proportions throughout Australia this report shows that the same four drugs; Alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines, and heroin have remained the most common principal drugs of concern for clients since 2006–07. Nationally, alcohol was the most common principal drug of concern in 2015–16, accounting for 32% of treatment episodes. Whilst ICE is considered by the police and the media to be the drug of concern currently it is notable that it is third in the list when it comes to clients seeking treatment with Alcohol and Cannabis use as the top two drugs.

The proportion of episodes where clients were receiving treatment for amphetamines has continued to rise over the last five years to 2015–16, from 12% of treatment episodes in 2011–12 to 23% in 2015–16 or an increase of 175%. This data can be construed many ways: as more people seeking treatment, more treatment options or just more use of amphetamines by the community. The data on the reason behind this increase in treatment seeking is limited. For example, during this same period cannabis treatment episodes also increased by 40% without the same media furore. It should also be noted that heroin treatment episodes fell by 15%, and alcohol treatment episodes fell by 6%.

What does this mean for drug treatment and young people

Cannabis is the leading drug of concern for young people seeking drug treatment in Australia. Particularly, for young people aged 10–29, cannabis was the most common principal drug of concern. Those aged 10–29 were most likely to be receiving drug treatment for cannabis, which was the principal drug of concern for 3 in 5 (60%) clients aged 10–19. In comparison 31% of those aged 20–29 sought drug treatment for Cannabis.

Alcohol is still the leading cause of concern to young people in Australian drug treatment services. The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that a significant proportion of the Australian population drank at risky levels— 1 in 5 (17%) aged 14 and over drank at a level that put them at risk of alcohol-related harm over their lifetime, while 1 in 4 (26%) drank at levels that put them at risk of harm from a single drinking occasion at least once in the previous 12 months. Young people find themselves seeking treatment for alcohol use less than their adult counterparts 20-39 years of age.

Amphetamines such as ICE are a concern responsible for approx. 23% of treatment episodes…But not as much as the media report. In 2015–16, more than two-thirds of clients receiving treatment for amphetamines as a principal drug of concern were male (69%), and about 1 in 7 clients were Indigenous (14%). Clients with a principal drug of concern of amphetamines were most likely to be aged 20–39 (74%), followed by those aged 40–49 (16%) Less than 10% by proportion of clients were aged 10–19 years of age.

Education is the most important tool you have available in helping young people make a decision (get our Decisional Balance Worksheet) to seek treatment. Helping young people to understand their use patterns. What their drug of choice does? How they personally react to their drug of choice? What treatment options are available to them? More knowledge is better. Not just facts and stats but stories as well. Meet with Alcohol and Other Drug counsellors and find out what they do. Help them to do a decisional balance worksheet (get one here). Being armed with knowledge makes the step to treatment easier. In my experience nothing ruins a treatment episode faster than when a person doesn’t know what they are in for.

If you are working with a young person it is worth noting that when it comes to treatment options, Counselling is the most used treatment option by those seeking support for their Alcohol, and Other Drug treatment. Detox and rehabilitation are useful tools however these must be used in conjunction with counselling for best practice intervention.

It is also useful to remember that the median treatment age is now 33 years old. This means that half of people seeking treatment are under the age of 33! If you work with young people who are using substances know that your work with them is definitely planting a seed. They may not seek treatment while working with you but it is likely that they will before they turn 33.

What can you do: drug treatment and young people?

First and foremost it is important to have a solid understanding of where your young person is at. The transtheoretical model proposed by Prochoska and DiClemente is the best way to address this (You can watch a video about this model here). Better known as the stages of change this framework helps you to determine what stage your client is in:

  • Pre-contemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance
  • Relapse

If your young person is pre-contemplative then more conversations need to be had. These can be difficult conversations if you don’t have a framework. A useful framework for understanding the nature and extent of drug-related difficulties is Roizen’s Four L’s model, which considers the impact of drug use on four major spheres of a young person’s life. These are:

  • Lover: Problems associated with a person’s relationships, family, friends, children, lovers etc.
  • Liver: Anything to do with a person’s health including physical, psychological or emotional health problems
  • Lifestyle/livelihood: Problems which relate accommodation, work, finances, education, recreation etc.
  • Legal: Any problems associated with the law including criminal or civil proceedings.

The preparation phase is the most important in our view. This is the stage when you start making steps towards dealing with your use. It is in this stage that you want to discuss the options available when it comes to drug treatment and young people. In Australia we have a reasonable system for services to young people (We could always have more services, better trained staff and more funding…But what we have is ok). As shown in the data above linking a young person with an Alcohol and Other Drug counsellor to discuss treatment options is essential. It also frees you up to be their support person when the challenges arise.

In our experience it takes many steps for young people to get on top of addiction, honour the process as much as the destination. Rehabilitation means significant change and that is difficult. Take your time, don’t rush. Use the well-worn harm minimisation approach and you will be most effective in supporting your young person.

For some great tool on drug treatment and young people check out http://yodaa.org.au/


Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me: