Alcohol and other drugs
While alcohol is an accepted part of the social structure in most societies, it is a substance that has the potential to cause the most amount of harm. The adverse effects of risky alcohol consumption to physical and mental health are well documented.
Alcohol is responsible for a considerable burden of death, disease and injury. Harmful consumption of alcohol also inflicts a significant social and economic burden on individuals, families, bystanders and the broader community.
Alcohol use is heaviest among young adults including university students, though its effects are seen across the lifespan, ranging from the effects on newborns from mothers drinking during pregnancy right through to older age, where many chronic alcohol-related diseases, caused by a life of excessive drinking, emerge.
The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care gives guidance on how much alcohol is safe to drink.
To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.
One standard drink contains 10g of pure alcohol. Check the label on your bottle or container to see how many standard drinks are in it.
Tobacco, illicit drugs such as cannabis and amphetamines, prescription medications and even over-the-counter drugs such as pain-relief medications all have the potential to cause physical and mental harms and lead to a cycle of dependence and abuse.
If you are finding that your alcohol or drug use is too frequent and getting out of your control, especially if you are struggling under their influence to meet university or work requirements, then you may have a problematic relationship with these substances. If so, it is strongly recommended that you seek help and support and speak to a counsellor or your doctor.
Alcohol, drugs and consent
Alcohol and drugs can dramatically affect your thoughts, behaviour, memory, concentration and judgement.
A person under the influence of alcohol and drugs may go beyond sexual boundaries they are not normally comfortable with, and their judgment may be impaired to the point they make decisions they would not normally make, such as not using contraception.
Sexual consent is when a person actively and voluntarily agrees to sexual activity. Everyone has a responsibility to get consent before engaging in sexual activity. Below are examples of when sexual consent cannot be assumed.
- When someone is asleep or unconscious.
- A person is significantly affected by drugs or alcohol.
- When someone is intimidated, coerced or threatened.
- Being tricked, or under a mistaken belief, about the identity of the other person involved.
- Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for sexual activity.
- Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past.
- Someone being under the legal age of consent.
Just because someone voluntarily takes drugs of chooses to drink, does not mean they are asking to be assaulted. Being sexual with someone when they are too far gone under the influence of the substance to give consent, is sexualised assault.
What to do
Drug use and your study
Drugs can dramatically affect your thoughts and behaviour. This includes your ability to study. Under the influence of drugs or alcohol your memory, concentration and critical thinking are all affected. If you are finding that your drug or alcohol use is too frequent or impacting your work or study, this may mean you have a problem with drug or alcohol use. In such situations we strongly recommend you speak to a counsellor or your doctor.
- Be honest with yourself about your drug or alcohol use.
- Speak with someone, either a counsellor or your doctor, to help you stop or reduce your use drugs or alcohol.
- If you are using drugs or alcohol frequently, identify when you are least under their influence and plan to study then.
- Keep trying to quit, it may take several goes before you give up completely.
DirectLine (1800 888 236) provide confidential drug and alcohol counselling and referrals to support services.
13YARN (13 92 76) is a shame-free, judgement-free, space to yarn with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter.
More help and advice
- The Alcohol and Drug Foundation provide information on drug and alcohol use.
- For more information on alcohol use in Australia, read the Australian Drinking Guidelines
- QUIT Victoria provide resources, information on the health risks of smoking, a QUIT coach and online tools including a QUIT Buddy app to help you quit smoking.
- The DeakinWELLBEING app can help you develop and maintain healthy habits.
- Tuneinnotout (TINO) provides 24 hour TV for life's challenges from mental to sexual health, it brings videos, factsheets, real stories and blogs from across Australia into one central point for young people to explore.
- ReachOut provide information on what binge drinking does to your body and tips on how to drink alcohol responsibly.