Q: What can you do if you think you have a drug or alcohol problem?

It can sometimes be hard to admit your alcohol or other drug use has become a problem, especially if you still enjoy aspects of the drug use. Think about whether you would like to change your use in some way, such as:

  • What you use
  • How much you use
  • When or how often you use
  • Method of use
  • Where you use
  • Who you use with
  • What you do to get hold of or afford the drug
  • What you do while under the influence of the drug

You can ask yourself what are the helpful and not so helpful consequences of using the substance, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of cutting down or quitting. These questions are particularly useful in identifying goals you would like to set for yourself in changing your substance use, and the challenges you might experience in working toward achieving those goals.

Q: How does methamphetamine use affect mental health?

Over three quarters of dependent methamphetamine users experience significant mental health issues.

The most common features are agitation or aggression, depression and anxiety, impaired concentration, emotional lability and psychosis. Users have psychotic episodes featuring agitation and paranoid delusions. Others often have severe fixed delusions about insect and parasite infestations leading to significant skin lesions and infections.

Q: What long term effects can be associated with using methamphetamines?

  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Reduced resistance to infection
  • Violent behaviour
  • Emotional disturbances
  • Periods of psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Delusional thoughts and behaviour

Q: If an ambulance is called to a drug or alcohol related problem, will the police will also turn up?

The aim of paramedics is to provide medical assistance in an emergency. If someone has passed out from overdosing on a drug, consuming too much alcohol, or suffering any other medical emergency, it is important to call an ambulance. Sometimes, young people hesitate to call an ambulance because they are worried they will get into trouble. This can delay treatment and can lead to serious problems, including death. Police will only attend if there is the risk to personal safety, such as a violent situation, or if someone dies.

Q: How many methamphetamine users drive under the influence?

Over half (52.7 %) of methamphetamine users reported having driven within three hours of using methamphetamines, according to an Australian Drug Foundation survey.

Q: What are some of the indicators of a drug lab?

  • Items of a suspicious nature including improvised heating and cooling mechanisms
  • Other used materials (cold and flu packets, empty pseudoephedrine blister strips, gas cylinders or butane fuel cans, stained coffee filters, pH testers or test strips, water pumps) surrounding a property
  • An unusual chemical smell
  • Plastic containers (with or without chemical labels) at the premises
  • Laboratory glassware being carried into a premises or present at a premises
  • Fan or pump type noise coming from the premises
  • Residents never putting their rubbish out or burning their rubbish
  • Little or no traffic at a residence during the day, but frequent traffic late at night or at odd hours
  • Windows blackened out or extra effort to ensure windows and doors are covered or reinforced
  • Evidence of unusual electrical work surrounding the premises
  • Noticeable hoses and pipes near windows or doors
  • Installation of extractor fans (especially in garages/sheds)
  • Recently rented premises where residents are rarely there
  • A new tenant willing to pay rent months in advance, using only cash
  • New rental applicants who try to avoid background checks
  • Chemical/reaction waste (often carelessly disposed of).

Q: What are the physical effects of using methamphetamine?

In the short-term, the physical effects of using methamphetamine can include:

  • increased or irregular heart rate (palpitations)
  • chest pains
  • breathing faster or irregularly
  • loss of appetite
  • high blood pressure
  • dilated pupils
  • increased perspiration
  • feeling restless, shaky, or moving more quickly
  • sleeplessness
  • jaw clenching or teeth grinding
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • pale complexion
  • elevated body temperature
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • seizures

Long-term effects

If methamphetamine is used regularly for an extended period of time, long-term physical effects can include:

  • weakened immune system
  • stroke
  • heart infection
  • lung disease
  • kidney and liver damage
  • poor dental health
  • poor dietary intake and extreme weight loss
  • restless sleep
  • regular colds and flu
  • muscle stiffness
  • skin lesions and infections.

Q: What are the physical effects of someone having a methamphetamine overdose?

Overdoses can involve:

  • racing heart
  • seizures
  • passing out
  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • death

Q: What happens when a user experiences withdrawal from amphetamines?

Unlike regular and dependent users of alcohol and heroin, some regular users of amphetamines do not use every day. Rather, they binge for a day to a week, before crashing for a couple of days. Physiologically speaking, a speed binge results in neurotransmitter depletion (dopamine, serotonin, noradrenalin), which combined with lack of sleep and inadequate nutrition, results in exhaustion, paranoia, anxiety, and depression. When eventually they do choose to stop, the same crash pattern follows. Withdrawal for heavy users usually begins two to three days after the crash, and can last for months, depending on the degree of involvement with amphetamines before stopping use.

Common short-term symptoms include aggression, mood swings, irritability, sleeping disorders and cravings. Long-term symptoms include dysthymia, a mood disorder which features a chronic depressed or irritable mood. Other symptoms may include eating and sleeping disturbances, fatigue and poor self-esteem, depression, mood swings, cravings, lethargy and sleeping difficulties. Many of these symptoms are primarily related to the reestablishment of normal neurotransmitter levels in the brain, which can take a much longer period of time. It can take as long as six months to a year before the body is sufficiently replenished and normal functioning returns.

Why do young people use drugs?

Some parents think young people only use drugs if they are depressed or have problems at home or school. Understanding some of the reasons young people use drugs may help parents to appreciate the many pressures facing young people.

Some of the reasons young people may use drugs are:

  • ordinary reasons, such as ‘having fun’ or doing something different
  • availability – access to drugs in not necessarily difficult. It’s usually through other young people, friends or older peers
  • curiosity and experimentation – ‘I wanted to see what it was like’
  • acceptance by peer group – ‘Most of my friends were doing it’
  • rebellion – ‘Because you don’t approve’ or said ‘No’
  • depression – ‘I just wanted to feel better’
  • confidence and self-esteem – ‘I wanted to feel better about myself’
  • relaxation or coping with stress, boredom or pain – ‘All my problems disappeared for a while’
  • experiencing a ‘high’ – ‘I liked the feeling’
  • example you set – what sort of behaviour do you model? If you use drugs don’t be surprised if your child follows
  • The amount you focus on the ‘dangers of drugs’ – can raise young people’s curiosity.