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Learn about alcohol and drugs

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What is alcohol?

Alcohol is the ingredient in drinks like beer, wine and spirits that makes you drunk.

The alcohol in drinks is called ethanol (ethyl alcohol). It is made when yeast ferments the sugars in grains, fruits and vegetables. For example, wine is made from the sugar in grapes and vodka is made from the sugar in potatoes.

Is alcohol a drug?

Yes, alcohol is a drug.

Alcohol affects the way your body works. It can be toxic and addictive.

Alcohol is actually a depressant. This means it:

  • slows down the messages that travel between your brain and your body
  • affects the way you think, feel and behave.

To reduce the effects of alcohol, it’s important to be aware of how much you’re drinking.

Responsible drinking

It’s never completely safe to drink.

How much you drink is your choice, but you should know that drinking is never free of risk. The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol.

Guidelines to reduce your risk

To reduce your risk when you drink alcohol, follow the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. These guidelines are based on scientific research and evidence.

These guidelines have been recently reviewed by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The proposed new draft guidelines state if you’re a healthy adult:

  • To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

Long-term effects

Long-term effects of alcohol consumption above Guideline recommendations include:

  • mental health issues such as increased risk of suicide
  • substance abuse — you may become dependent or addicted to alcohol, especially if you have depression or anxiety, or a family history of alcohol dependence
  • increased risk of diabetes and weight gain
  • impotence and other problems with sexual performance
  • cancers such as stomach cancer, bowel cancer, breast cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, oesophageal cancer and liver cancer
  • fertility issues such as reduced sperm count and reduced testosterone levels in men
  • brain damage and brain-related conditions such as stroke and dementia
  • heart issues such as high blood pressure, heart damage and heart attacks
  • cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure.

If you’re pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, you should not drink alcohol. If you are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for your baby. 

Reducing your drinking

To reduce the effects of your drinking:

Learn more about alcohol at the Department of Health website

How to get help

Our Alcohol and Drug Service can help you with alcohol dependence

There are also other services that you can access for help or support

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What are drugs

Drugs are substances that change a person’s mental or physical state. They can affect the way your brain works, how you feel and behave, your understanding and your senses. This makes them unpredictable and dangerous, especially for young people.

The effects of drugs are different for each person and drug.

Types of drugs

Drugs can be categorised by the way in which they affect our bodies:

  • depressants – slow down the function of the central nervous system
  • hallucinogens – affect your senses and change the way you see, hear, taste, smell or feel things
  • stimulants – speed up the function of the central nervous system.

Some drugs affect the body in many ways and can fall into more than one category. For example, cannabis appears in all 3 categories.

Drugs and the law

Legal drugs include:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • nicotine
  • over-the-counter and prescribed drugs.

Some of these have restrictions related to:

  • age – for example, you can’t legally drink under the age of 18
  • where you can use them – for example, you can’t drink alcohol or smoke in certain places
  • driving – for example, there is a limit on how much you can drink and then drive
  • their sale – for example tobacco products must display specific health warnings.

Illegal drugs include:

  • amphetamines
  • cannabis (marijuana)
  • ecstasy (MDMA)
  • heroin.

They are banned because using them can endanger your health, your life, or the life of others. Because they are not regulated in the way legal drugs are you can never be sure what’s in them or how strong they are.

Illicit drug use includes:

  • illegal drugs
  • misuse or non-prescribed use of prescription drugs (also called pharmaceuticals)
  • inappropriate use of other substances – for example, sniffing glue.

Some drug laws are different depending on the state or territory you’re in.

Drug addiction

Anyone can become addicted to alcohol or drugs.

There are many factors involved in drug addiction and it varies between people and drugs.

Using a drug regularly can lead to tolerance – where your body becomes used to the drug and so you need larger amounts each time to achieve the same effect.

Regular use can also lead to dependence – where you need the drug to feel good and function normally. Dependence can be physical, psychological or both.

Being addicted means continuing to use a drug even though you’re aware of the harmful consequences. Addiction can be:

  • physical – your body craves the drugs, for example, alcohol, nicotine
  • mental – your mind needs the drug in order to forget your problems or relax
  • social – you feel you need the drug in order to fit in or enjoy social events.

If you stop taking a drug or try to reduce the amount you’re taking you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These can be physically and mentally unpleasant and may include:

  • tiredness
  • hunger
  • depression
  • being irritable
  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • cravings for the drug.

Learn more on the Australian Department of Health Website

Getting help for addiction

Our Alcohol and Drug Service can help you with drug addiction

There are also other services that you can access for help or support

 

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Our services

The Tasmanian Alcohol and Drug Service offers a range of information, education, treatment and community-based supports for Tasmanians affected by alcohol and drug use.

Our services are free, voluntary and confidential.

Read about our Alcohol and Drug Service programs

Community service organisations

We also fund a range of community service organisations to deliver a range of services around the state. We work closely with the community sector to provide the best service to clients.

Advocacy services

Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council Tasmania Inc. 

Hobart

Peak body representing the interests of community sector organisations that provide services to people with substance misuse issues in Tasmania.  

Visit the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs website

Advocacy Tasmania

Devonport

Launceston

Hobart

Provide advocacy services and consumer and carer participation programs for people using alcohol, tobacco and other drug services. 

Visit the Advocacy Tasmania website

Counselling and support services

Anglicare Tasmania

Devonport

Launceston

Hobart

Break O'Day

Provide professional alcohol and other drug support to the community including counselling and support services to individuals and families.

Visit the Anglicare Tasmania website

Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation
Smithton

Provides alcohol and other drug assessment, counselling and referral services to identify treatment and support to individuals and families battling addiction.

Visit the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation website

 

Eastern Health
Alcohol and Drug telephone Information Service

24-hour phone information and counselling service for drug users or family members seeking information on the effects of alcohol and drugs, or direct counselling and referral.

Phone: 1800 811 994

Drug and Alcohol Clinical Advisory Service
 

24-hour phone consultancy service available to all health professionals in Tasmania providing clinical advice to health professionals with concerns about patients and clients with alcohol and other drug problems.

Phone: 1800 630 093

Visit the Drug and Alcohol Clinical Advisory Service website

Holyoake Tasmania Inc. 

Hobart

Provide targeted support services to families affected by alcohol, tobacco and other drug addiction.

Visit the Holyoake Tasmania website

Residential rehabilitation programs

City Mission Missiondale

Ellandale
 

Residential rehabilitation program for men and women focused on developing a pathway through survival, recovery and future phases.

Visit the City Mission website

Pathways Tasmania

Hobart 
 

Alcohol and drug residential rehabilitation service for men through Velocity Transformations. 

Visit the Pathways Tasmania website

Salvation Army – The Bridge Program

New Town
 

Tailored inpatient residential rehabilitation program for men and women (18 years and older).  

Visit the Salvation Army Bridge Program website

Serenity House

Burnie
 

Community support services including non-medical sobering up/places of safety facilities; emergency relief and crisis accommodation.

Visit the City Mission website

Youth services

The Link Youth Health Service
Hobart

Health care services for young people who are experiencing issues associated with alcohol and other drug use.  

Visit the Link Youth Health Service website

Youth Family and Community Connections Inc. 
Devonport and Burnie

Provide alcohol, tobacco and other drug treatment, support, education, information and health promotion to individuals and family.

Visit the Youth Family and Community Connections website

Prevention and health promotion programs

Quit Tasmania
New Town
 

Increase public awareness of the harm of tobacco use and the provision of specialist information, support and resources.

Visit the Quit Tasmania website

Australian Drug Foundation - Good Sports Tasmania

Preventative health program for the community sport clubs to introduce practices and policies creating a responsible drinking culture

Visit the ADF Good Sports website

Drug Education Network
Statewide

Delivers a range of health promotion, prevention and early intervention programs and works closely with communities and key stakeholders to identify and develop locally owned responses.

Visit the Drug Education Network website

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