Healthy living

Being dependent on drugs

What does it mean when someone is dependent on a drug?

Being hooked or dependent on drugs can vary from a mild urge to use to out-of-control use.

People who become dependent on a drug may become tolerant to that drug. This means they need to use more and more of the drug to get the same effect or to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

When people are dependent they believe they have to use the drug to do certain things or feel a certain way.

When someone is dependent their body has changed. If they suddenly stop taking the drug they may experience really unpleasant symptoms. Sometimes this can be life threatening. This is called withdrawal and can include feeling really sad or angry, or physical symptoms like vomiting, fits and cramps.

When someone is dependent on a drug they may begin to behave in unexpected ways – this can be very difficult for their family and community to manage.

Where to get help

Alcohol and Drug Support Service (formerly Alcohol and Drug Information Service – ADIS)

The Alcohol and Drug Support Service operates four 24 hour, statewide telephone support lines providing confidential counselling, information, advice and referral:

  • Alcohol and Drug Support Line
  • Meth Helpline
  • Parent and Family Drug Support Line
  • Working Away Alcohol and Drug Support Line

Contact can be made by phone, email or online Live Chat.

View the phone numbers and email addresses on the Mental Health Commission website (external site).

Live Chat can be accessed at Alcohol. Think Again (external site) or Drug Aware (external site).

Parent Drug Information Service (PDIS)

PDIS provide confidential telephone support, counselling, information, and referral services for parents.

This confidential service provides advice and support for family members 24 hours a day.

  • Metropolitan callers: 9442 5050
  • Country callers: 1800 653 203 (free from land line only)


  • Drugs change your body and personality and can make you very sick.
  • When someone is dependent on a drug they may begin to behave in unexpected ways.
  • Your drug use affects your family, community and country.


Mental Health Commission

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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