Keeping Them Safer

A Community Conversation brought to you by the Drug Education Network.
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The Conversation

As a carer it is normal to worry about young people's safety, particularly when they become old enough to start going to parties, or to think about trying drugs. The good news is that you can help keep young people safe through their teenage years and beyond.

Being a teenager can be tough. It is a time of rapid change, for young people and for those caring for them. Young people are learning how to be independent. At the same time, they are trying new things with less supervision (like going to parties). This can be a time for young people to take risks. Using drugs may be a part of that.

In this Community Conversation we will:

  • find out how carers can help keep their young people safer
  • explore the importance of healthy relationships and boundaries
  • learn about what carers can teach young people about keeping themselves safe
  • learn what to do in an emergency
A man and a woman having a conversation. The man is wearing a turban and has a full beard, and the woman is wearing a kurta and holding a cup of coffee. Illustration.

Important notes:

When we say carer in this conversation, we mean parents, guardians and any other adult who cares about a young person.

When we say drugs in this conversation, we mean all kinds of drugs. This includes things like alcohol, cigarettes and prescription medicines, as well as other drugs like cannabis, ‘nangs’ or vapes.


Can I really help my young person be safer?

Yes, you can! There are two ways that carers can make a big impact.

  • You can help the young person not use drugs at all (this is called 'Prevention').
  • You can also help them to stay safe if they do decide to use drugs (this is called 'Harm Minimisation').
A woman and young girl reading together on the floor. The girl is resting her head on the woman's shoulder. Illustration.

For those two things to work best, a strong and healthy relationship with your young person is important.

Be involved in their lives

Spend lots of time with them. Give them your focused attention. Try to find shared interests that you both enjoy and do them together.

Offer your support

Let them know you are there for them and ready to talk and listen when they need you.

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Be their role model

Show them how you would like them to act. Your own drug use and views around drugs matter. Young people often model the way they act on their parents choices. What you say is just as important as what you do when it comes to shaping their thoughts and actions.

Have ongoing conversations

Try to have lots of open and honest chats about drug use from an early age. Talking about drugs will help to prepare the young people for times when they come across them.

Try not to make the dangers of drugs sound worse than they are. Instead, be clear about the effects and the risks.


Set rules and expectations (boundaries). Discuss these together and talk about the consequences for breaking them. Boundary setting is an important part of helping young people gain independence, remain safe and make sound decisions.

Boundaries help to make sure you both know what is expected. By setting and agreeing on boundaries, you create a ‘contract’ that outlines both of your expectations. This can help to avoid arguments in future.

But remember, young people are very good at pushing boundaries. This is because they need space to grow beyond the family. You can think about how you can adapt or change rules to meet their needs. This will help them to grow into a responsible adult.

A younger woman and an older woman sitting at a table having a discussion. The young woman has long straight hair, and the older woman has glasses and coily hair. Illustration.
“We can be so worried about getting it right, perfectly right, that we end up saying nothing at all”.

-DEN Focus Group Participant, 2023

Some of the boundaries you might want to set could be:

  • making sure there are adults looking out for them at the parties they attend
  • not giving them alcohol or other drugs
  • setting a time that you would like them to return home
  • making sure you know they have a way to get home safely
  • specific rules: some things you might be okay with, and other things you might not be!
Read more: The importance of boundaries by Reach Out


You may have heard some people talk about using drugs as a way of fitting in or having dun, or as a way coping with boredom or difficult feelings. You can also talk with the young person to help them find other ways to cope.


Moving your body in a way you enjoy can make you feel good and keep you fit. You could suggest things like laser tag, going for a walk, bike riding, go karting or rollerblading.

Taking care of yourself

Looking after yourself helps to make fun experiences even better. The things you eat, the way you move your body, and the medicines you take are important, but taking care of yourself can be fun too.

Pamper yourself with an at home spa night, get a fresh haircut, or try out a massage! Something as simple as a hot shower and nice meal can make a world of difference.

Natural thrills

Try doing something that gives you a natural thrill. Things like scary movies can give you a ‘rush’.


Food can have a big impact on our mood. If you want to celebrate something special, you could try a new recipe. If you want to experiment, you could try something really spicy or sour!

Get ideas with some apps

Online apps and happiness hacks are also useful alternatives. There are loads of apps available to help manage stress and other challenges.

Read More: Tools and Apps from Reach Out


Mocktails (cocktails without alcohol) can be nice, fun to make and can make an event feel special. They also help people who can’t or don’t want to drink alcohol feel welcome and included.

Read More: Mocktails and Mastery from the Drug Education Network

What can I teach a young person about staying safe?

Talk to them about the risks and make sure they understand them.

Learning about risks alone isn’t enough to keep young people safe. But it does help them know what to look out for and how to be prepared if something goes wrong.

Read more: The Drug Wheel by the Australian Drug Foundation
Learn more in another conversation:
Information about drugs and young people

Refusal Skills

Refusal skills can help someone say ‘no’ to taking part in risky behaviours. Carers can help young people practice saying no to drugs.

It might not always be easy to say no. How they say no may differ based on their age or stage of life. But, being prepared and knowing what to say will help them make their own decisions and stick to them.

 Things for you to keep in mind:

  • it can be harder to refuse drugs from strangers than from close friends
  • be confident when you say no, think about the words you say and the tone of voice you use. Be direct and show that you are firm in your choice. Offer a different option like: “why don’t we go out for coffee and a movie instead?”

A long-haired person holding their hand over a drink, as if to say no thank you. Illustration.

Decide ahead of time

Young people can have trouble making good choices in the moment. This can be harder if they are excited or if their friends are around them. You can help them by talking about the choices they might need to make ahead of time. You could also help them to practice ways to say no if they are offered drugs. Think of it like practicing your fire safety plan.

You could ask some questions to get them thinking about their decisions:

  • What would they do if they were offered drugs by a stranger at a party?
    ...What if they were a close friend?
  • What if other people start taking drugs?
  • What if they do want to try it but they know they aren't allowed / don’t want to upset you?

Talking about these things ahead of time will help them to make the right choice for them in the moment.

Two people in a car as seen from behind. A person with shoulder length hair is driving, and the passenger has long hair. Illustration.

Safety Tips

Taking steps to make something that could be harmful, as safe as you can, is called ‘harm minimisation’. It means that you are making it less likely that something bad or harmful will happen.

Give young people some general tips on staying safe:

  • have something to eat and drink plenty of water before using drugs
  • avoid mixing drugs, especially with alcohol and never use alcohol with other drugs that make you sleepy or relaxed
  • you can't know exactly what's in a drug or drink just by looking at it
  • use drugs with trusted friends in a safe place; do not use alone. Try to have at least one person with you who isn't using drugs who can keep an eye on you
  • if you are taking a stimulant like ecstasy, try a small amount first and wait before taking more
  • do not accept a drink unless you saw it being prepared and do not leave your drink without watching it
  • drink non-alcoholic drinks (like water or soft drinks) between alcoholic drinks, but don’t exceed 1 litre in 1 hour
  • rest between long periods of dancing
  • know how to put someone into the recovery position: this could save a life if someone passes out or loses consciousness
  • let them know it’s always okay to call you if they need you
  • add an 'In Case of Emergency' contact in their phone so that first responders know who to call in an emergency.
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Emergency Instructions

In case of an emergency or overdose, you should always follow DRSABCD.

This acronym reminds people of what to do in an emergency. It stands for:
Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, CPR, Defibrillation.

Do not delay seeking help because you are worried about getting into trouble. The paramedics are more concerned with keeping you safe and alive than getting you into trouble.

Do not wait. Call 000 for help as soon as you become aware of a problem.

Read more: First Aid for Overdose by St Johns Ambulance
An infographic of the First Aid acronym DRSABCD. A full description can be found in a section below.



Be aware of things that could cause further harm to you or the person. Look around for any things that could be a safety issue: like used needles, traffic, or water on the ground


Check for a response. Ask for the person's name. Squeeze their shoulders.

If the person is awake and can talk: ask them if they have taken a drug, how much they have taken, when and what substance.

If the person is unconscious: place them on their side and check if their airways are blocked. See if they are breathing and try to find a pulse.

Watch their vital signs. This is important to know so that you can pass it on to the ambulance or first responders.

Check for any broken bones or fractures. Keep any packets or containers that may have held substances that they have taken. Send these to the hospital with them or pass them on to first responders.


Send for help.  If you are busy helping the person, ask someone else to call. Dial 000.
You can also call 112 on a mobile for a stronger signal.

Follow the advice of the 000 operator. They are trained to help you over the phone until the ambulance arrives. Stay calm and listen carefully. Advise the operator of any changes to the person as soon as they happen.


Check if their airways (nose and mouth) are blocked. Open their mouth and remove anything that could make it hard to breathe.


See if they are breathing: watch their chest, listen to their nose, try to feel their breath on your skin.


If the person is not breathing, it is time to start CPR. Push firmly down in the middle of the chest and then release. Every 20 pushes, if you are able, give two rescue breaths. Try to press the chest down at about 100 presses a minute.

Read more: First Aid for someone who needs CPR by the Red Cross


If you have an automated external defibrillator or AED available, turn it on and follow the instructions.

A doctor and patient reviewing information in a folder. The man has short hair and a beard. The woman has long black hair. Illustration.
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Wrapping it up

‘Harm reduction’ steps are often taken by people who use drugs on a regular basis. But, steps can be taken to prevent harmful outcomes even when drugs are tried for the first time.

We need to think differently about young people using drugs. We should not compare the drug use of young people with the drug use of adults. The patterns of use are different, and young people may not seek help as quickly.

If we focus on preventing and reducing harms, we can:

  • respond without judging
  • have the right conversations with the young people in our lives
  • learn everything we need to know about drugs to stay safe
  • help young people to practice saying no
  • help young people to know when to ask for help
  • help young people to respond to peer pressure
An older man with his arm around a younger man. They are sitting down and looking at a phone which the young man is holding. Illustration.

In this Conversation we learned:

  • Strong and healthy relationships can help to keep young people safe
  • Setting boundaries with young people is important
  • We can help young people to practice refusal skills and pass on important safety tips to them
  • What to do in an emergency

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Looking for more information?

Check out the resources below:

What is polydrug use? What happens when you mix certain types of drugs? Does it include the medicines that you take every day? Learn more in this booklet from the Australian Government Department of Health.

What are vapes? What's inside them? Are they harmful or addictive? How do you stop using them? Find this information and more from the Cancer Institute of NSW.

Problematic alcohol or other drug use can make it harder for you to care for your children and give them what they need. Learn more and find national services in this factsheet from

Text the Effects is an anonymous SMS service that provides confidential info about the effects of drugs in a quick and easy way.

Simply text 0439 835 563 with the name of the drug you want to know more about for an immediate answer – anywhere, anytime.

This service is only available in Australia.

Looking for a list of drugs and information about them? This A to Z list of drugs from Your Room is great for adults and young people alike.

Looking for good quality information that you can share with your young people? These factsheets from Positive Choices undergo expert review and contain great information.

Please note this resource was created outside of Tasmania: it may contain links for services not available in the state.

Your teenager may come into contact with drugs for the first time during high school. They may encounter drugs at a party and may be tempted to try them out of curiosity, or to join in with their friends, or to feel better.

This factsheet from Reach Out can help if you:

  • are concerned about peer pressure and drugs.
  • want to talk to your teenager about drugs.
  • need more information on how Australian teenagers are using drugs.
  • are concerned that your teen has a problem.

Please note this resource was created outside of Tasmania: it may contain links for services not available in the state.

Looking for factsheets on a specific drug? These factsheets from the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) contain concise summaries for many common drugs.

This information booklet is part of a series developed for teachers, parents and students. The Parent booklet was developed to provide:

  • Accurate evidence-based information about illegal drugs, their use and effects;
  • Guidance about how to talk to a young person about illegal drugs, and ways that parents can protect against drug use and related harms;
  • Information about how to help someone who has taken an illegal drug.

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Services and Helplines

Youth, Family & Community Connections Inc. (YFCC) is a not for profit, community organisation that provides a range of services to young people, families and individuals in communities across the North West Coast and West Coast of Tasmania. YFCC envisions a community where individuals and families have the opportunity to achieve their goals and to seek positive change.

For more information on specific services, please visit the YFCC website.

Drop in (no appointment needed) for:

Information, support, advocacy and referral for anything related to health and wellbeing, including:

  • issues at home, school or work
  • relationships
  • mental health
  • sexual health
  • alcohol and drugs

And by appointment we have:

  • a sexual health doctor
  • psychologists

We can also help with:

  • the cost of health items
  • free condoms
  • free pregnancy testing and support
  • linking you in with other services

Reaching out for help and support is an important first step in dealing with the issues drugs and alcohol might be causing in your life, or affecting a friend or family member.

Call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline for free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs.

The Kings Meadows Community Health Centre provides residents with quality health and community services. A number of community services, visiting services and support groups operate from the centre.

The Centre is open Monday to Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm.

The services located within the centre may have individual operating hours, please contact reception for more information.

Family drug support provides up to date information on all aspects of alcohol and drug use relative to the families of alcohol and other drug users.

Cornerstone Youth Services Inc. (CYS) delivers a range of services to young people aged 12 – 25, their families and friends, in North and North-West Tasmania. We focus on health promotion, education, early intervention and prevention, advocacy, case management and developing help-seeking behaviours.

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Alcohol and Drug Foundation (2021). Prevention and early intervention, Alcohol and Drug Foundation,

Alcohol and Drug Foundation (2022). Understanding young people’s alcohol and drug use, Alcohol and Drug Foundation,

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020). ‘National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019’,

Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing (2019). Trends in substance use among Australian secondary school students 1996–2017, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing,

Jose K, Doherty B, Galvin L and McGrath G (2022). Healthy Tasmania Five-Year Strategic Plan Research and Evaluation, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, Hobart, Tasmania,

Legal Aid Tasmania (2022). Fact sheet – Drugs and Alcohol, Tasmania Legal Aid,

Lung Foundation Australia (n.d.). E-cigarettes and vaping, Lung Foundation Australia,

Newton N, Chapman C, Stapinski L, Grummit L, Lawler S, Allsop S, McBride N, Bryant Z, Kay-Lambkin F, Slade T
and Teesson M
(2019). 'Drugs and Alcohol: What you need to know. Parent Booklet’,

NSW Health (n.d.). Part 1: Talking with kids aboutalcohol and other drugs, Your Room,

Pink B (2008). ‘Risk Taking by Young People’, in Australian Social Trends 2008, Australian Social Trends,
Australian Bureau ofStatistics,

South Australia Health (n.d.). Dangers of mixing drugs,


All illustrations are © Drug Education Network 2023. All rights reserved.

Any adaptations are credited below the image.

Authored by Clare T. Edited by Zoe K., Deni S., with contributions from many other DEN team members.

Special thanks to the focus groups of the Community Conversations project who helped shape these resources.

Many thanks for the reference photographs by artists at CC0 stock sites: and

Long Descriptions for Screen Readers


An infographic of the First Aid acronym DRSABCD. On the left are the large letters D R S A B C D. On the right are explanations for each step. The steps are: Danger: Check for danger - ensure scene is safe. Response: Check for response - ask name, squeeze shoulders. Send: Send for help - call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance, or ask a bystander to make the call. Airway: Open mouth - look for foreign material and maintain the airway. Breathing: Check for breathing - look, listen, feel. CPR: Start CPR - 30 compressions : 2 breaths. If unwilling or unable to perform breaths, perform chest compressions only (100/min). Defibrillation: Apply defibrillator (AED) as soon as available. Follow the voice prompts.

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