Drug and alcohol safety

Everyone likes to occasionally unwind, celebrate and have a good time. However, consuming alcohol and drugs can hurt your body and have negative social consequences. Being aware of the things that could go wrong on a big night out (or a big night in) and knowing how to stay safe will help make sure you have a good time.

Here you will find advice on being prepared and knowing what to do if things get out of hand.

The ACT Government is committed to a harm minimisation approach to drug and alcohol use. Under our ACT Drug Strategy Action Plan 2018-2021, we are implementing actions that aim to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug and alcohol use for the person, their families and wider community.

Local drug and alcohol support

There are a number of services, information, support and treatment options in the ACT for people who are experiencing problems with alcohol and other drugs. Although it can be difficult to seek help, the sooner you reach out for support the better.

  • Your local doctor is a good starting point. They can discuss your concerns with you and provide referrals to other services that you might need.
  • If you need emergency help dial triple zero '000' or go to the nearest Emergency Department at Canberra Hospital in Garran or Calvary Public Hospital in Bruce. Don’t hesitate to call an ambulance because you’re afraid the police may get involved. A paramedic’s first priority is your health – not to get you in trouble. Police will not attend your call unless there are signs of violence.
  • Call the Canberra Health Services Alcohol and Drug Services on (02) 5124 9977 for information, advice, referral, intake, assessment and support on alcohol and drugs, twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, for individuals, their family and friends, general practitioners, other health professionals, and business and community groups.

Reduce your risks when drinking

Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in Australia.

After tobacco, it is the second leading cause of drug-related death and hospital admissions. In Canberra, alcohol and illicit drugs are the number one cause of violence and anti-social behaviour.

Many of us drink alcohol to relax and socialise. However, drinking too much can affect your physical and mental health. Alcohol and drugs can mess with your judgement and mean you make poor decisions that can have consequences ranging from embarrassing to dangerous.

Many Australians drink alcohol in amounts that are harmful to their health. This kind of drinking can cause death, disease and injury and is a major factor in ill health and social harm in Australia. Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with liver, breast, mouth and pharyngeal, bowel, laryngeal and oesophageal cancers.

Alcohol affects everyone differently, based on:

  • Size, weight and health
  • Whether the person is used to drinking it
  • Whether other drugs are taken around the same time
  • The amount consumed
  • The strength of the drink.

No level of alcohol consumption can be considered safe for everyone.

To minimise your risk of accident, disease or death, the Australian Guidelines recommend healthy adults should drink no more than 2 standard drinks on any day, and no more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion. A standard drink is a can or stubbie of mid-strength beer, 100ml of wine, or a 30ml shot of spirits.

Drinking too much can end your night early. We want you to enjoy your night out and get home safely. To avoid drinking so much that you lose control, here are some tips to stay safe:

  • Don’t ‘pre-drink’ excessively before events
  • Make sure you’ve eaten food before you go out
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the night
  • Look out for your friends and stick together
  • Tell someone if you don’t feel well
  • Alcohol and drugs don’t mix – don’t risk it
  • Have a plan to get home with people you trust
  • Remember that after a big night there will still be alcohol in your system the next morning.

Avoid harm from drugs

Fact: there is no safe level of drug use.

Every drug is different, and every person’s body is different. Your size, weight and general health as well as the amount and type of the drug all play a role in how a drug will affect you. No one knows exactly what will happen when you take a drug.

The safest way to avoid harms from drugs is not to take them at all.

Illicit drugs are not made to a precise formula and there are no controls over what goes into illegal drugs. Often pills/tablets/caps may contain a wide range of other substances.

Drug use can cause illness, injury and death.

If you still choose to take drugs:

  • Do not mix substances like other drugs, alcohol or medication. It can greatly increase the risks and put you in extreme danger of overdose. The depressant effects of alcohol can mask the effects of stimulant drugs like MDMA
  • Avoid using drugs if you’re alone – stay near people you trust
  • Don’t hesitate to call an ambulance if you or someone around you needs medical attention
  • Tell paramedics everything you know about what you or someone has taken, so they can better help you. Answer their questions honestly. Remember, a paramedic’s first priority is your health, not to get you in trouble. Police will not attend your call unless there are signs of violence
  • Make use of a pill testing service if one is available.

Helpful links

  • National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs, call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. It will automatically direct you to the Alcohol and Drug Information Service in your state or territory. Free and confidential advice is available and professionals can assist with connecting you to the most appropriate services for your needs.

This site provides information on the range of services and programs available in the ACT alcohol, tobacco and other drug sector.

Positive Choices is an online portal to help you access accurate, up-to-date drug education resources and prevention programs funded by the Australian Department of Health.

Counselling Online allows you to communicate with a professional counsellor about your own alcohol and drug use or that of someone you care about. You can

  • Chat to a counsellor – get help by chatting online to a counsellor
  • Email a counsellor – get help and email your questions.

This service is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across Australia.

Lifeline is a 24-hour phone and online counselling service designed to help people through any problems. Phone 13 11 14.

Page last updated on: 13 May 2021