YoDAA’s answers to the most common questions asked by workers supporting young people.

Our service gets lots of referrals from young people using ice but they never end up engaging. Any tips?

Ice (methamphetamine) affects the mechanisms in the brain that help with planning and motivation.  Intake processes that place the onus for follow up on the young person may be difficult for a young ice user to engage with. Check out our Top Tips for working with young people using meth.

Is all cannabis laced with ice now?

Unlike tobacco, alcohol or prescription medication, any drug that is not regulated can in theory, be laced with another substance. In our experience it is highly unlikely for an inexpensive drug (such as cannabis) to be contaminated with a more expensive drug such as Ice (methamphetamine). 

A young person I work with has told me she is going ‘cold turkey’ what does that mean?

Cold turkey refers to suddenly stopping using a drug (usually opiate based, but could be another substance such as a prescription antidepressant) and deciding to experience withdrawal symptoms for the short term rather than gradually reducing substance use over a longer period of time.

Symptoms a person goes through will depend on the drug, amount and duration of use. Decreased tolerance and subsequent accidental overdose as well as complications of withdrawal are possible risks.

Why are there such strong cravings from ice?

When someone is dependent on any drug, there is the potential for cravings. Ice is associated with particluarly strong cravings because it effects the brains dopamine system which is responsible for reward, motivation and pleasure. Check out more about how it works

I am not an AOD specialist but I know quite a bit. Do I need to refer?

Sometimes the worker or workers who know a young person are in the best position to work with that young person, especially if that client has lots of other workers. Other times a specialist support service is the best way to go. If you are not sure we always recommend having a discussion with YoDAA or your local Youth AOD provider. 

What about pill testing kits?

Although all ecstasy tablets claim to contain MDMA, many of them are cut with other (often harmful substances) and some don't contain MDMA at all. Pill testing kits can test for the presence of MDMA but not necessarily reliably pick up harmful additives. User forums, where people anonymously review the different tablets on the market are another harm minimisation approach worth considering, also this video about trying a pill or powder.

I keep getting requests from schools to do drug ed, what do I say to young people who aren't using drugs?

We have a whole section of our website dedicated to this very question! Check out What works in drug education & Why scare tactics don't work. When fielding requests from schools it's good to point out that drug education does not have to come from an AOD expert and YoDAA has heaps of resources to support teachers and well being co-ordinators give young people the information and support they need.


What is Beezin?

‘Beezin’ is the practice of smearing Burts Bees Lip Balm on the eyelids for a mild altered state. This trend that has spread from the USA has been reported by youth AOD workers in Melbourne. The lip balm is easily available at pharmacies or cosmetic stores, inexpensive, legal and percieved as a low risk form of experimentation by some young people. 

In supervision a staff member asked me about using vaporiser for harm minimisation when using cannabis. What advice can I give to other staff members and young people?

Vaporisers, are an excellent option for reducing the risk of chronic bronchitis and other lung complaints associated with smoking anything.

Each vaporiser will have a slightly different mechanism so it is simply a case of following the manufacturers instructions. Once loaded into the vaporiser, crushed cannabis is heated at a low temperature - just enough to release cannaboids however not enough to cause combustion (burning) and all the smoke and carcinogens such as tar that go with this.

What is "Marley"

Marley is a synthetic cannibinoid drug. Marley is similar to other synthetic cannibinoids marketed under different names such as:

Kronic, Voodoo, Tai high, K2. Check out YoDAA's article about synthetic cannabinoids


What are Bath Salts?

“Bath Salts” is a common name for various drugs which can be loosely categorized as “synthetic”, “new and emerging” or “designer” drugs. Generally speaking Bath Salts refer to stimulant-type drugs-Mephadrone is the best known recent example. Check out more info about Mephadrone or synthetic drugs in general.

My client is injecting in dangerous ways. I want to offer advice on safe injecting but feel I might be helping her to do something unsafe. What should I do?

How far to go in offering advice on safe injecting techniques is a common dilemma for workers. The YouthAOD toolbox’s safe injecting module contains helpful information that asks workers to consider questions such as,”If a strategy or intervention were withheld, would greater harm take place?” Resolving these types of dilemmas should consider factors such your own background, training, role and your agency’s policies. Your manager or supervisor is in the best position to discuss these with you.

I don’t think my client is telling me the truth about how much they use. Any advice?

One of the most important aspects of youth AOD work is creating a climate of honesty; however, there can be many barriers. Often young people aren’t used to talking openly about their substance use and thus find it difficult. Check out the YouthAOD toolbox’s engaging module for advice on developing an honest relationship.

Is cannabis getting stronger?

Recent tests on cannabis around Australia have revealed it contains higher levels of THC than in the past. THC is generally associated with many of the drug’s effects – including the negatives – however, it’s just one of many active chemicals in cannabis. Hash and other forms of cannabis contain varying concentrations of active chemicals; however, these types of the drug are less commonly used by Australian young people.

I find young people get frustrated when I try to complete an assessment? Any tips?

Screening, assessment, and engagement should be intertwined in youth AOD work. Be patient. Begin assessments on a topic of interest to the young person and gather only necessary information. Use this approach as a starting point to ensure the person understands that you’re listening, and gradually draw more information. Check out more info about screening and assessment 

How severe does a young person’s drug use have to be before it’s necessary to attend a withdrawal unit?

There is no specific threshold. Residential support is an intensive support option generally reserved for young people with serious AOD-related issues. However, some young people still mightn’t feel a residential support type is necessary. The safety and structure of residential units means they’re usually best for young people who need to feel safe and stable, and have their AOD-related issues and other needs addressed simultaneously. Learn more about tailoring support options.

When is motivational interviewing best employed?

Motivational interviewing can address a particular problem or behaviour. It is useful when a client might benefit from making a behavioural or lifestyle change but he or she is ambivalent or reluctant. Motivational interviewing can be used in a wide variety of settings. It is particularly useful when external pressures are driving a young person to consider making life changes but their motivation is low. Read up on how motivational interviewing in the YouthAOD toolbox

My client is 21, are they too old for youth AOD services?

Not necessarily. In Victoria, various funded programs have different age criteria – some are available to individuals up to 22 years and others 25 years.

What is PMA?

PMA stands for para-methoxyamphetamine. It’s both a stimulant and hallucinogen, similar to MDMA, the chemical in ecstasy. PMA can make you feel alert, alive and full of energy. PMA comes in pill form and is often sold as ecstasy; however, it’s more poisonous and can kill at lower doses. PMA is also known as red Mitsubishi, PMMA, pink Mcdonalds, pink ecstasy, Mitsubishi turbo, killer, doctor death, double stacked, chicken yellow, and chicken fever.

What is Mescaline?

Mescaline is a hallucinogen that comes from the peyote cactus plant. It can also be made synthetically. Seeds can be dried and chewed or made into a drink, or ground into a white crystalline powder for capsules. Effects include a dream-like ‘illuminating’ state, hallucinations, dizziness, anxiety and diarrhoea. Trips can be good or bad and last between 12 and 18 hours. Mescaline is also known as peyote buttons or peyote. Read more in the YouthAOD toolbox

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