About drugs

Illegal drugs generally fall into three main categories:

  • depressants
  • stimulants
  • hallucinogens

Prescription drugs may also fall into these categories, if they are used inappropriately. When prescribed by your doctor and used in accordance with the doctor's instructions, such drugs are legal. But if they are stolen or fraudulently obtained, the possession, distribution or use of these drugs becomes illegal.

The misuse of benzodiazepines (such as Valium, Serepax, Mogadon and Temazepam, which may be known as downers or slow) is a common example of a misused prescription drug. Other examples are barbiturates (which are found in sleeping pills) and synthetic derivates of narcotic analgesics (often varieties of very strong painkillers).

How illegal drugs affect you

In contrast to prescription drugs, illegal drugs are not manufactured in controlled environments under strict standards. That means there is no control over the quality or the quantity of the drug you are getting, and you won't know if an unscrupulous dealer has used a cheaper poison to dilute the drug.

As a result you could experience side effects that actually limit the impact you thought the illegal drug would have. Some of the substances dealers use to dilute the drug may even harm you. The side-effects can multiply, compound and even cause permanent damage the more frequently you take the drug. Side effects of illegal drug use include:

  • confusion
  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • panic attacks
  • nausea
  • shaking
  • headache
  • schizophrenic and psychotic behaviour
  • hostile and aggressive behaviour
  • violence, often for no apparent reason
  • periods of severe mental and emotional disturbance
  • possible permanent mental illness
  • potentially permanent damage to your brain, liver, kidneys and heart

The highly addictive characteristics of drugs such as heroin, cocaine and various amphetamines may take away any control you have over deciding whether to continue using the drug.

And the cost of feeding this addiction may mean you find yourself involved in serious crime, facing a lengthy jail term, or dealing with serious health problems such as mental illness and communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS. There is also a significant risk of overdose.

You might also lose the support of your family and friends along the way.


Examples include:

  • heroin and other opium derivatives (with street names like smack, scag, horse, and hammer)
  • cannabis is commonly found as marijuana, hashish or hash oil (with street names like grass, pot, hash, weed, reefer, dope, herb, mull, buddha, ganja, joint, stick, and cones)
  • gamma hydroxy butyrate is known as GHB (with street names like grievous bodily harm, scoop, water, and everclear)

These drugs slow down (or depress) activity in all parts of the central nervous system.


Examples include:

  • amphetamines (with street names like speed, up, fast, go-ee, whiz, pep pills and uppers)
  • cocaine (with street names like C, coke, flake, nose candy, snow, dust, white, white lady, toot, crack, rock, and freebase)
  • methylamphetamines (with street names like crystal meth and ICE).

These drugs stimulate or excite (speeds up) the central nervous system.


Examples include:

  • lysergic acid diethylamide (with street names like LSD, acid and trips)
  • magic mushrooms (with street names like gold tops and blue meanies)
  • MDMA (with street names like ecstasy E, XTC, eccy and the love drug)
  • phencyclidine (street names like angel dust and PCP).

These drugs alter your perception (or sense of reality) which may result in hallucinations.

More information

For detailed information about drugs, how they affect individuals and the community, and what help is available for people with drug problems, the following sites may be useful:

If it doesn't add up, speak up. Call the National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

Read the AFP Annual Report 2021-22

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

Policing and community news from the AFP