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Impact of drugs

Drug use can impact on your life in many other ways. Illicit drug use can also lead to problems with the law. A person convicted of a drug offence will receive a criminal record and this can lead to difficulties in getting a job, credit or visas for overseas travel. The cost of purchasing drugs can lead to financial problems and drug use can lead to social and emotional problems that affect relationships with family and friends. 

Drugs and the law

In Western Australia, It is illegal to possess, use, manufacture, cultivate or supply an illicit drug.

Penalties range from a $2,000 fine and/or a two-year prison term, to a $100,000 fine and/or imprisonment for 25 years.

In addition, the person convicted of a drug offence will receive a criminal record and this can lead to difficulties in getting a job, credit or visas for overseas travel.

See useful links for more information on drugs and the law.

Drugs and driving

The effects of drugs on driving ability include the following:


  • Gives the driver a false confidence.
  • Increase risk-taking behaviour.
  • Does not necessarily increase driving ability or the drivers coordination.
  • Can increase the risk of having a crash.


  • Slows the driver's reaction time.
  • Distorts the driver's perceptions.
  • Decreases ability to coordinate reaction when driving.
  • Can increase the risk of having a crash.


  • Distorts the driver's visual perceptions.
  • Causes the driver difficulty in judging distances.
  • Decreases ability to coordinate the appropriate reaction when driving.
  • Can increase the risk of having a crash.

In Western Australia, it is against the law for anyone to drive under the influence of a psychoactive drug or with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.05% or above. ‘L’ and ‘P’ platers must have a zero BAC when driving.

The Road Traffic Act 1974 Section 63 states that ‘a person who drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or alcohol and drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle commits an offence, and the offender may be arrested without warrant’.

Breaking this law carries penalties including disqualification from driving, fines and/or imprisonment.

Types of tests

A drug test is a test to find out if you have used a drug or drugs. They look for very small amounts of drugs in the body. 

There are different types of drug tests:

  • Saliva tests
    Saliva testing is a quick, accurate and reliable method. This form of testing is used in random roadside drug testing. It is used to detect the presence of THC (the active component in cannabis) and amphetamine type stimulants including methylamphetamine (‘speed’ or ‘ice’) and MDMA (‘ecstasy’), which are, after alcohol, the drugs of greatest concern in relation to road safety.
    A roadside saliva screening test takes around five minutes. Where a positive result is obtained, the driver is required to undertake a second saliva test or provide a blood sample to confirm the presence of the prescribed drug. In most cases, the confirmatory saliva test takes around 30 minutes.
  • Blood tests
    Blood testing is often used to test for recent drug use e.g. within couple hours of use. This form of testing is not widely used as it is quite expensive.

    A sample of your blood is taken from a finger prick, or from a vein in your arm, using a needle and your blood sample will be tested by an accredited laboratory.
  • Urine tests
    Urine testing is the most common method of testing as it detects drug use for a longer period of time (longer than blood, but not as long as hair tests) and it is easier to administer and is more accurate. Urine drug tests are commonly used in workplace drug testing, and usually give accurate results.

    If you are asked to have a urine test, you will be asked to urinate (pee) into a container and your urine will be tested using a dipstick. 
  • Hair tests
    Hair testing can provide a history of drug use as traces of drugs may accumulate in your hair. The length of the hair can determine how far back drugs may be traced back. It is the only reliable method that can be used to detect drug use beyond a couple of days or weeks. Most hair drug tests do not detect drug use further back than the past 3 months. This form of testing is not widely used as it is quite expensive.

    If you are asked to have a hair drug test, approximately 40–50 strands of your hair will be cut from the scalp line at the crown of your head and sent to a laboratory to test your hair sample for drug use.

Factors affecting drug tests

Drugs affect every person differently. The drug you use (strength, dose, how and how often you use it and other drugs) can affect how long it stays in your system. It can also be affected by you as an individual depending on your tolerance, age and gender, overall health, metabolism, mood and environment you are in and if you have taken other drugs (including legal drugs such as prescription drugs or alcohol).

How long can drugs be detected for?

How long after using can certain drugs to still be detected in drug tests?


Saliva Tests

Blood Tests

Urine Tests


Up to 24 hours

4 - 8 hours

3 - 4 days


Up to 4 hours

20 - 36 hours

18 hours - 90 days



40 - 90 minutes

1 - 2 days


Up to 24 hours

4 - 8 hours

3 - 4 days



30 minutes - 2 days

1 - 5 days



30 mins - 3 hours

1 - 2 days



1 - 100 hours

1 - 6 weeks

*Note - These figures are only a guide as drugs affect every person differently

Testing negative

To test negative on a drug test, other then not taking drugs, is to make sure your body has eliminated all of the drugs you have taken by metabolising it.

Drinking a lot of water to flush out your system is a myth. Drinking a lot of water does not work to cheat a drug test.

Physical health


Overdose occurs when the level of intoxication from the drug reaches a point where it begins to produce physical and/or psychological harm.

There are a number of signs and symptoms that point out someone is in trouble. These differ with the type of drug used:

Stimulant Drug Overdose: (e.g. Ecstasy, speed, cocaine, amphetamines)

  • Hyperactivity, sweating.
  • Rapid breathing or a feeling that you ‘can’t breathe’.
  • Difficulty passing urine.
  • Shaking / Trembling / spasms.
  • Chest pain, pounding heart.
  • Raised temperature.
  • Body chills.
  • Disorientation.
  • Severe Headache.
  • Vomiting.
  • Paranoid, delusional, agitated, irritable, anxious or psychotic behaviour.
  • Convulsions.

Depressant Drug Overdose: (e.g. Heroin)

  • Shallow pulse and breathing.
  • Blue lips, fingernails / toenails.
  • Snoring or gurgling.
  • No response.
  • Constricted pupils.
  • Disorientated.
  • Unconsciousness.

It is not necessary for someone to have all of these signs or symptoms for them to be overdosing. Only a few could still mean they are in trouble and need emergency help.

Mental health

The link between drug use and mental health problems is common. Compared to the general population, people who have problems with their drug use also have an increased risk of mental health problems. Likewise, people in the community with mental health problems have a higher rate of drug use problems.


Anxiety is something most people will experience at some point in their life, usually when you find yourself in a situation that is new, difficult or frightening. Anxiety is related to the fight or flight response, which increases adrenaline and then alertness which allows you to respond in life threatening situations. However, when you feel high levels of anxiety or it goes on for a prolonged time you may become scared to do everyday tasks such as go to work, leave the house or socialise with friends.

Some common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Worrying all the time
  • Becoming easily tired
  • Lack of concentration
  • Irritability
  • Irregular heartbeats or palpitations
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Tension and pain in muscles
  • Panic attacks.


Depression is a medical condition that can include feelings of sadness, low mood and lack of motivation, that won’t go away or are unexplained. Depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain and is a serious condition which impacts people’s life greatly.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • A loss of interest and pleasure in normal activities
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Inability to get to sleep or waking up early
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Having trouble concentrating.
  • Feeling restless, agitated, worthless or guilty
  • Feeling that life isn’t worth living.


The term psychosis describes a disorder in which a person’s perception of reality is impaired. It is often associated with amphetamine type stimulants. Symptoms of psychosis may include:

  • Disorganised or bizarre behaviour
  • Amphetamines can trigger a psychotic episode in healthy people with no previous history of mental health problems
  • Many people who use amphetamines experience low-grade psychotic symptoms such as visual illusions, hallucinations or odd thoughts that come and go
  • Other users can experience more severe symptoms where they hear or see things that are not there, or they become paranoid and believe that other people are going to hurt them
  • The rate of psychosis among regular amphetamine users is very high compared to the general population.


The street price of illicit drugs change depending on availability and market trends. The cost of purchasing drugs can lead to financial problems for both occasional and regular users.


Drug use can lead to social and emotional problems and can affect relationships with family and friends. Drugs affect people in different ways. Some people may become depressed, angry, aggressive, sleepy, unmotivated, paranoid, anxious or talkative. These reactions will affect how they relate to other people, such as friends, parents, siblings and may have negative effects on these relationships.

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