Is taking drugs ever safe?

Using drugs is never completely safe – even prescription drugs have risks if not used properly. Find out how to reduce your risk, use medicines safely and avoid misuse. Incorrect use of drugs can seriously affect your health, even result in death.

Taking drugs is never safe

Using drugs is never safe.

Even prescription drugs may have side-effects or be harmful if not taken properly. And with illicit drugs you often have no idea what is actually in them or how strong they are. The risks to your health, even to your life, can be serious.

To understand the risks, read about the effects of drugs.

Are prescription drugs safe?

Some drugs are relatively safe – but you still need to take care as people can react differently to the same medicine. Mixing prescription drugs and alcohol can also be unsafe.

Over-the-counter drugs (for example, cold and flu tablets) and those prescribed by a doctor are usually safe – when taken according to the instructions.

Make sure you understand:

  • what you are taking and how it will help you
  • how and when you should take the medicine
  • the best way to store the medicine
  • what side effects are possible and how to manage them
  • how it is affected by any other medicine you take
  • the impact of taking it long-term.

Learn more about safe medication use on Victoria’s BetterHealth website.


Never take someone else’s prescription drugs or share yours with someone else.

Misusing prescription drugs

Taking prescribed drugs for a non-prescribed purpose can have serious consequences to your health and wellbeing. These include:

  • memory loss
  • anxiety and depression
  • drowsiness – this makes operating heavy machinery or driving a car unsafe
  • paranoia
  • being irritable or aggressive – you could become violent towards others
  • developing skin rashes
  • weight gain
  • fertility issues
  • becoming dependent on the drug
  • overdosing
  • death – especially when combined with other drugs, such as alcohol.

Did you know?

Possessing or using prescription drugs without a prescription is illegal. Learn about Australia’s drug laws.

If you have questions or concerns about a medicine you’ve been prescribed you can:

  • ask your doctor
  • talk to a pharmacist
  • call the hotline below for advice and support.
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