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Tips For Telling People That You Don't Want To Use Drugs

The purpose of this section is to provide suitable strategies and tools to equip young people with the appropriate skills to successfully refuse drugs in various situations they may face as a teenager and young adult. These situations may differ based on the age of the individual or stage of life. This page focuses on the fact that most Australians do not use drugs and you are not alone in refusing them, however if you come into a situation where this is required, you are equipped to do so.

The majority of young people in Australia do not take drugs. Friends, parents, older brothers and sisters and the media can also have some influence over a young person's decision to use drugs.

  • It can often be more difficult to refuse drugs when responding to strangers than close friends. 
  • Females may be more likely to give in to peer pressure than males. Refusing drugs from men takes more thought that refusing from women.
  • When refusing drugs it is important to display confidence through body language and tone of voice. Be assertive when saying no, don’t hesitate and show that you are firm in your decision. Make an alternative suggestion, for example, why don’t we go out for coffee and a movie instead?

When you may need to use drug refusal strategies:

Sometimes we are put in situations where we want to say no but feel pressured or embarrassed to say otherwise. There are a few options when it comes to refusing drugs to refute feelings of awkwardness or embarrassment.

The first example of saying no to drugs is aimed at young people and teenagers. Saying no to drugs as a teenager can be very different to refusing drugs as an adult. So we have devised a few different scenarios that cater towards different ages and stages of life to ensure you are the best prepared possible and have the skills required to say no.

Drug Refusal Skills Scenarios: 

Target group


Appropriate response / refusal techniques

High school leavers


My friends and I are going down to Dunsborough next week for Leavers celebrations. My friends are really keen on smoking marijuana whilst down there. They smoke it from time to time but just socially. This makes me nervous as I will sometimes drink alcohol but always stay away from drugs as this isn’t something I want to get into. I’m worried that I will succumb to peer pressure and do something I will regret or I really don’t want to do. I’m really excited for Leavers and want to have a good time but how do I say no to my friends without them thinking I’m a loser, being left out or putting myself in danger?


This approach tells people what you don’t do, and provides a non-judgemental approach to their drug taking allowing you the option of continuing to be friends.


‘You know I don’t smoke marijuana. But I love hanging with you guys and like to have a drink so can we just each to their own and have a good time.’

Young adults in the workforce

I recently went away with some work colleagues for a business trip to a convention we were sponsoring. We have all worked together for a few years now, but after the days scheduled events they all went out to the bar and engaged in drug taking behaviour which is something I do not feel comfortable with. I simply dismissed them but felt quite awkward and embarrassed and I went back to my room even though they insisted I stay and join them. I am not one to judge but now that I have seen this happen I would really like to know how to politely decline without feeling pressured and having to leave, as I feel like this is a situation I may encounter again in the future.


It’s ok to say No I don’t do that, it feels awkward at first but the more you say it the easier it gets. If you feel you are at risk of getting back into drugs it is often better to remove yourself from the situation or environment.


‘Thanks for the invitation guys, but this is not my thing. I don’t want to spoil your fun so I think it’s best I leave you to it. Take care guys – see you tomorrow.’



Late teens/early twenties

You are at a party with some new friends you recently met. They are all drinking and taking speed which you are completely against but you don’t want them to think differently of you as your relationship is pretty new and you want to stay friends. You have had family members who have used drugs and have seen the effects it can have. How do you refuse drugs and say no without simply leaving? You are having a good time and would like to stay.


Assertive Approach, while this approach provides an excuse it is only a short term intervention.


Cheers mate, but I would prefer not to tonight. I have a full on day tomorrow and I want to feel on top of my game without any hangovers.



Challenges of saying you don’t want to use drugs:

  • If they still do not listen to your request, it may be important to leave and remove yourself from the situation completely.
  • Refusing drugs was easier when around people they knew or when someone else had already declined.
  • If the person continues to insist, request that they please stop asking. Try to be clear in your responses and change the subject, to show that you really have no interest in giving in.


Last updated: 12 June 2020 

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