Addiction – A term used to describe regular or habitual drug consumption. Addiction is a very controversial idea and there are many different definitions and explanations for its causes. Some experts see addiction as a learnt behaviour, some as a way of coping with unspoken feelings, and some as a ‘brain disease’ caused by the interference of drugs in the brain’s structure and chemistry. Please see our other website, Lives of Substance, to hear from people who consider themselves to have an addiction, dependence or drug habit.
Ambo – An Australian colloquial term for paramedics.
Ampoule – A small sealed glass capsule or bottle containing a liquid, such as naloxone, for injecting.
Benzodiazepines (‘benzos’) – A group of prescription medications that can relieve stress and anxiety, and aid sleep. Some find benzodiazepines relaxing in their effects, but effects vary from person to person and depend on the context of consumption. Benzodiazepines are legal in Australia if prescribed or administered by a doctor. It is illegal to take benzodiazepines without a prescription, or to give or sell them to other people.
Cap – A colloquial term for a measurement of heroin. The amount of heroin contained in one cap can vary considerably.
Commonwealth Parenting Payment – An Australian welfare benefit paid to carers of young children.
Clean – A colloquial term for a person who has stopped consuming drugs. As this is considered a stigmatising term, many alcohol and other drug consumer organisations and other health services do not use it.
Commonwealth Disability Support Pension – An Australian welfare benefit paid to people with permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric conditions that stop them from working.
Commonwealth Newstart Allowance – An Australian welfare benefit paid to people who are unemployed and looking for work or studying.
Chronic pain – Pain that lasts beyond the expected healing time following surgery, trauma or other health conditions, or long-term pain that results from a chronic illness. While pain that lasts more than three months is often considered chronic, experience of chronic pain varies from person to person.
Decriminalisation – A process of legal reform focused on reducing penalties associated with illicit drug-related activities such as drug consumption.
Depressants – A class of drugs that can slow down the activity of the central nervous system, but effects vary from person to person and depend on the context of consumption. Some depressants, such as alcohol, are legal, while others, such as cannabis or ketamine, are illegal in Australia.
Drop, dropped, dropping – See ‘Overdose’.
Endone® (oxycodone) – See ‘Oxycodone’.
EpiPen® (epinephrine autoinjector) – A device that injects the drug epinephrine. It is used to reverse a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis. EpiPens® can be legally accessed if prescribed by a doctor.
Fentanyl – A prescription opioid medication for pain that is delivered via a patch applied to the skin. It can relieve acute pain and have a sedative effect, but effects vary from person to person and depend on the context of consumption. Fentanyl is legal in Australia if prescribed or administered by a doctor. It is illegal to take it without a prescription, or to give or sell it to other people.
Hepatitis C – A blood-borne virus that affects the liver. People can live with hepatitis C for many years without symptoms. However, without treatment, hepatitis C can cause serious liver problems and sometimes liver cancer. Effective tablet-based treatments are available, and more than 95% of people can be cured of the disease.
Heroin – An opioid drug that can have relaxing effects and relieve pain, but effects vary from person to person and depend on the context of consumption. Prescription heroin is also called diamorphine and is legal in Australia if prescribed or administered by a doctor for pain management. It is illegal to take diamorphine, or other forms of heroin, without a prescription, or to give or sell it to other people.
Intramuscular injection – An injection into a muscle such as an arm or leg muscle, rather than into a vein (known as intravenous injection). Intramuscular injections are quite common, for example, doctors deliver vaccines this way.
Intranasal drug delivery – A form of drug administration in which drugs are sprayed into the nostril. Drug molecules are absorbed through the thin mucosa within the nasal cavity.
Methadone (Biodone®) – A prescription opioid medication that can be prescribed for pain and as an opioid pharmacotherapy treatment (methadone maintenance treatment or MMT); see ‘Opioid pharmacotherapy treatment’. Methadone maintenance treatment can prevent opioid withdrawal and help people cut down or stop taking other opioids. Available as a syrup, methadone can have sedative effects and relieve pain, but effects vary from person to person and depend on the context of consumption. Methadone is legal in Australia if prescribed or administered by a doctor. It is illegal to take methadone without a prescription, or to give or sell it to other people.
Minijet® – A small prefilled syringe for administering naloxone (not currently available in Australia, but previously available for naloxone administration). Three naloxone products are currently available in Australia: (1) generic naloxone ampoules; (2) Prenoxad® prefilled syringes and; (3) Nyxoid® nasal spray.
Naloxone – Also known as ‘Narcan’ or ‘Narc’ in reference to a brand name common outside Australia, naloxone is a medication designed to reverse the effects of opioids. It is available by prescription or over the counter in pharmacies. It is also combined with buprenorphine in the opioid pharmacotherapy treatment Suboxone®; see ‘Opioid pharmacotherapy treatment’.
Narcan® or Narc – See ‘Naloxone’.
Naltrexone – A prescription opioid medication used to block the effects of opioids, but effects vary from person to person and depend on the context of consumption. Oral naltrexone (in tablet form) is registered and approved for use in the treatment of alcohol dependence. Naltrexone can also be administered via an implant or an injection. Treatment with naltrexone implants or injections is not currently approved in Australia and is only available through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) special access scheme.
Needle and syringe program (needle exchange) – A public health initiative to provide unused injecting equipment to people who inject drugs. Need and syringe programs vary between states, but injecting equipment can generally be picked up at participating pharmacies, community health services and drug treatment agencies.
Opioid (opiate) – A class of drugs that includes opiates, which are drugs derived from the opium poppy plant, and synthetic drugs, which are not derived from the opium poppy plant. Opioids can have a relaxing effect and relieve pain, but effects vary from person to person and depend on the context of consumption. Heroin is the most common illicit opioid drug in Australia. Many prescription pain medications, such as OxyContin®, contain opioids.
Opioid pharmacotherapy treatment (OPT) – A medication-based treatment for opioid dependence where the preferred opioid is replaced with a legally prescribed and dispensed opioid. It can prevent opioid withdrawal and help people cut down or stop taking other opioids. The three main opioid pharmacotherapy medications currently used in Australia are methadone (Biodone®) syrup, buprenorphine (Subutex®) sublingual tablets and combination buprenorphine and naloxone (Suboxone®) sublingual film; see ‘Methadone’. Pharmacotherapy for people diagnosed with opioid dependence goes by several different names: Opioid Pharmacotherapy Treatment (OPT – used on this website), Opioid Replacement Therapy/Treatment (ORT), Opioid Pharmacotherapy Program (OPP) or Opioid Substitution Therapy/Treatment (OST). The term ‘medication-assisted treatment of opioid dependence’ (MATOD) refers to treatments for opioid dependence that combine medication (pharmacotherapy) with access to counselling and health and social services.
Overdose – Opioid overdose is the body’s response to consuming too much of an opioid drug. It can also occur as a result of consuming a dangerous combination of opioids and other drugs. An opioid overdose typically reduces breathing or stops it altogether. Having an overdose, and therefore not breathing properly, involves not taking in enough oxygen. This eventually causes vital organs like the heart and brain to stop working. Lack of oxygen is the primary cause of death from opioid overdose. What to do if you are present at an overdose.
Overdose response training – Programs that train people in how to respond to opioid overdose and how to access and use take-home naloxone. Training generally focuses on how to identify an overdose and what to do, including calling Emergency Services and giving naloxone. Click here for information on how to get take-home naloxone and participate in overdose response training.
Oxycodone (OxyContin®) – A prescription opioid medication. It can relieve pain and have sedative effects, but effects vary from person to person and depend on the context of consumption. Oxycodone is legal in Australia if prescribed or administered by a doctor. It is illegal to take it without a prescription, or to give or sell it to other people.
Panadeine Forte® – A pain medication containing paracetamol and an opioid called codeine. Panadeine Forte® is legal in Australia if prescribed by a doctor. It is illegal to take Panadeine Forte® without a prescription, or to give or sell it to other people.
Pharmacotherapy – See ‘Opioid pharmacotherapy treatment’.
Prenoxad® – A prefilled syringe containing 1mg/ml of naloxone for injection.
Pills – See ‘Benzodiazepines’.
Speed (amphetamine sulphate or powder methamphetamine) – A drug that can have a stimulant effect, but effects vary from person to person and depend on the context of consumption. Before the late 1990s, amphetamine sulphate was the more widely available type of amphetamine. Since around 2000, methamphetamine has become more common. It is illegal to possess or sell speed in Australia.
Seroquel® (quetiapine) – A prescription medication used to treat certain conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Seroquel® is legal in Australia if prescribed or administered by a doctor. It is illegal to take it without a prescription, or to give or sell it to other people.
Technical and Further Education (TAFE) – Australian education institutions that provide vocational courses and trade certificate qualifications.
Take-home naloxone – Initiatives that make naloxone available to non-medically trained people to use during an opioid overdose.
Valium® (diazepam) – A prescription benzodiazepine medication considered to have sedative effects; see ‘Benzodiazepines’.
Xanax® (alprazolam) – A prescription benzodiazepine medication considered to have sedative effects; see ‘Benzodiazepines’.