Module 6: how drugs work: facilitator's guide

2.2 Why is pharmacology important?

Page last updated: 2004

Case studies
Brainstorm exercise
Overhead transparency

Case studies

William is a 19-year-old student at a TAFE college. He was driving home the morning after a Bachelor and Spinster's Ball, where he drank about 12 cans of beer. When he arrived back in town, 50km away, he was tested by police with a random breath testing unit. His blood alcohol reading was 0.09 percent, although he had slept in his car for eight hours before driving home.

Uma, 15, was arrested for stealing a handbag. Twelve hours after her arrest, while still in custody, she begins to shiver and complains of feeling sick.

Matthew is a 16-year-old Aboriginal boy attending school near Broome in Western Australia. His teacher has noticed a rapid deterioration in the quality of his school work. His memory is much worse than it used to be and he often complains of headaches.

Emily, 17, is a regular resident of an accommodation service for young people in the inner city. Following a six-week break from heroin while on a rehabilitation program, she returned to the refuge, and that evening used heroin. She collapsed outside the house and was taken by ambulance to hospital.

Kayla, 18, is a student at university. She lives with a couple of other friends in the city. Last week she went out with her friends for lunch and drove her car to the pub where they had a counter meal. On the way home she was involved in a minor car crash as she failed to give way at an intersection. When the police attended the scene Kayla was pale, shaking, with slurred speech and disorientated.

Question - Do you think all the young people in the case studies are experiencing AOD-related problems?

Answer - Kayla was the one exception to the rule. Her presentation after the accident seems to be consistent with being substance-affected. In reality, Kayla was suffering from diabetes and consumed too much sugar at lunchtime.

While it is important to recognise the effects of drug use on young people's behaviour, it is also important not to assume that they are under the influence of drugs without first gathering all the facts first.Top of page

Brainstorm exercise

Question - How do you think some knowledge of how drugs work could assist a police officer, teacher or youth worker to help young people like William, Uma, Matthew, Emily or Kayla?

Question - How might one of these young people experience more harm from their drug use if the staff and/or police working with them had no such knowledge?

Overhead transparency

An understanding of how drugs can affect a young person enables workers to:
  • provide accurate information
  • build a better rapport and have more confidence when dealing with young people
  • develop a better understanding of factors influencing the young person
  • take appropriate action in critical situations
  • provide emergency service workers with accurate information about the state of a young person
  • meet their obligations in regard to duty of care
  • meet Occupational Health and Safety legislation requirements.