Illicit Drugs – General

An illicit drug is one that is illegal to have (for example, cannabis, heroin, and cocaine), and the non-medical use of drugs that are legally available such as pain killers and sleeping pills [1894].

The most common illicit drugs used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are [21278][28659]:

  • cannabis (gunja or yarndi)
  • analgesics (painkillers and sedatives for non-medical use)
  • amphetamines (ice or speed).

What are the harms from using illicit drugs?

Using illicit drugs can lead to health problems including [22491][13206]:

  • injury
  • chronic disease (heart and liver problems)
  • blood-borne viruses (infections like hepatitis and HIV)
  • lower levels of social and emotional wellbeing (mental health problems)
  • risk of suicide.

Using illicit drugs can have a negative effect on the whole community – it can lead to social problems including harms to children and families, violence, assaults, and crime [31467]. It can also cause accidents or illness leading to hospitalisation and deaths.

Effective services to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people overcome the harms associated with illicit drug use are those that [31467]:

  • are initiated and controlled by the community
  • are culturally appropriate
  • are able to address a range of health issues
  • create strong partnerships with other organisations
  • are flexible in service delivery
  • have high levels of confidentiality with client information
  • provide a high level of training and skills development for staff.


Key resources

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Turtle Dreaming by Donna Rioli

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