Drug related issues

Information about drug use and safety, pregnancy and babies, and drugs in sport.  

Drug use and safety

Many psychoactive drugs, including alcohol, have effects on the brain and behaviour that make operating machinery, and particularly driving a vehicle, more dangerous. This can have far-reaching implications, not only for safety in the workplace, but for the potential to cause harm to others.

Many people underestimate the risks involved in driving after drinking or using illegal or prescription drugs.

Alcohol related harms and risks

The 2022-23 National Drug Strategy Household Survey reported that about 1 in 7 people (14.7%) took part in at least one potentially harmful activity while under the influence of alcohol. The most common activity was driving a vehicle (7.6%), followed by swimming (7.0%), and going to work (2.7%).

Those who consumed alcohol at risky levels (more than 10 standard drinks a week or more than 4 standard drinks in a single day at least once a month) were 14 times as likely to experience an injury requiring medical attention (4.2% compared with *0.3%) as those who did not drink at risky levels, and were 10.5 times as likely to have experienced an injury requiring admission to hospital (2.1% compared with 0.2%).

Drug use, pregnancy and babies

Most drugs taken during pregnancy cross the placenta and reach the unborn child.

Some of these drugs, such as alcohol, can be harmful to the developing child.

Premature birth and low birth weight have been linked to the use of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines during pregnancy. See the information on a particular drug in the A-Z of Drugs list for information about the health risks of drug use during pregnancy.

If a mother uses drugs while breastfeeding, it is possible that the drug will be present in her milk and may have adverse effects on the baby.

Check with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any drug during pregnancy or breastfeeding, including prescribed and over-the-counter medications.


A free counselling service for women and their healthcare providers in NSW who need to know about the effects of medications, alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Sydney: (02) 9382 6539 
Regional NSW: 1800 647 848 
9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays)

Drugs in sport

Some drugs, medications and substances are banned in sport and competition.

Sporting associations have a general right to make rules for the conduct of organised sporting competitions. Those rules are binding, on the basis of a contract, on players who want to participate in those organised competitions.

At elite levels, the rules always include the right of sporting bodies to require players to have a drug test for performance enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids, in and out of competition. Some sports also test for recreational drugs.

The general principle is that if an athlete refuses or fails a drug test, the sporting bodies are entitled, subject to their own constitutions and rules of procedural fairness, to suspend or ban the player.

Useful links