Module 6: how drugs work: facilitator's guide

11.1 Understanding drug-related harm

Page last updated: 2004

Now that we have explored some issues related to pharmacology, we will start to focus on AOD-related harm.

AOD-related harm may be a direct result of the effect of the drug on the body or it may be a result of broader factors related to drug use, such as the way the drug is administered or accidents that occur while under the influence of the drug.

The Public Health model can be used to understand drug-related harm. According to this model three areas determine the drug experience: the drug, the individual and the environment. Harm resulting from drug use can relate to one or more of these three areas. This can be a helpful way of identifying the range of harms that young people can experience due to their drug use. Similarly each of these areas can be the focus of strategies to reduce harm related to drug use. This approach is also referred to as the Interaction Model.

Diagram: The public health model
Identifying drug-related harm

Diagram: The public health model

Text equivalent below for Diagram: The public health model
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Text version of Diagram

This diagram shows the three areas which determine the drug experience. These are:
  • Drug: type of drug; route of administration; mix of drugs used; purity and amount.

  • Individual factors: tolerance to drug or similar drug; experience of drug use; age; weight; height; gender and mood.

  • Environment: social setting or solo use; cultural background; prescribed or illegally obtained.

Identifying drug-related harm

Brainstorm exercise

Question - What are some of the individual factors that may cause drug-related harm?

Answer - Possible answers include:
  • The drug and type of drug used - Harms related to injecting drugs, overdose

  • The individual and individual factor - Aggressive behaviour, depression, money problems, dependency, tolerance

  • The environment (or context) in which drugs are used - Legal problems, friends using, problems with family, homelessness.