Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Party drugs

8-minute read

Key facts

  • Party drugs are often found at social gatherings, such as music festivals.
  • The 3 main types of party drugs are depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens.
  • Party drugs can make a user feel euphoric or ‘high’, but they can also be dangerous.
  • The effect of a party drug depends on the individual, and the drug dose.
  • It’s best not to use party drugs, but there are ways to reduce your risk of complications such as overdose.

What is a party drug?

You may come across people offering or using “party drugs” when you are at a party, festival or concert. They are also known as recreational drugs.

Although taking party drugs might seem fun, there are lots of risks and downsides to taking them. They are also usually illegal.

Types of party drugs

Party drugs fall into 3 categories.

Depressant drugs slow down your central nervous system. They include:

  • GHB
  • marijuana (cannabis)
  • amyl nitrite (‘poppers’)
  • nitrous oxide (laughing gas, ‘nangs’)
  • heroin (‘gear’)
  • benzodiazepines (sedatives or tranquillisers)

Stimulant drugs speed up your central nervous system. They include:

Hallucinogen drugs affect your sense of reality. They include:

  • LSD (acid)
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • ketamine
  • magic mushrooms

If you are trying to decide if you should take a party drug, it is important to understand:

  • what you are taking
  • the risks related to that particular drug

Find out more about drug abuse and its risks here.

What are the effects of party drugs?

Party drugs are often taken to increase the enjoyment of social gatherings. Party drugs affect you differently depending on:

  • the type of drug
  • the purity of the drug
  • the setting in which you are taking the drug
  • your height, weight, and health
  • your tolerance to the drug
  • if you have taken other drugs around the same time

People usually take party drugs for effects such as:

  • increased energy
  • feeling happy or euphoric (‘high’)
  • changed perception

However, when taking party drugs, there is always a risk of:

  • unwanted effects
  • more serious complications

What are the risks of party drugs?

Unlike prescription medicines, there is no process to check the quality for making many party drugs. This is because most of them are illegal. This means you do not know:

  • how strong the drug is
  • if other substances have been added to the batch

Even pills that look the same may have different ingredients and effects.

Pill testing is a strategy for finding out what is actually in a drug batch. This can prevent people from using contaminated drugs, reduce overdose and promote safer drug use. Pill testing has been tried out in Australia, but it is not currently available.

Short-term risks

Dozens of Australians become seriously ill or die each year after using party drugs.

A drug overdose can happen when a person mixes drugs or takes too much of a drug.

Overdosing on different drugs causes different symptoms. An overdose may cause you to:

  • be unresponsive
  • have trouble breathing
  • be panicked, agitated or anxious

If you suspect you or a person you know if having a drug overdose, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

If you suspect you or a person you know if having a drug overdose, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Naloxone is a medicine that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The Australian Government is offering this medication free of charge and without a prescription to people who may experience, or witness, an opioid overdose.

Learn more about the Take Home Naloxone program.

After taking a recreational drug, you might:

You can even have life-threatening side effects such as:

Party drug use can encourage reckless behaviour, putting you at mental and physical risk.

After taking party drugs, you might have a come-down. A come-down can make you:

  • tired
  • irritable
  • have difficulty sleeping
  • anxious

Longer-term risks

In the long term, party drugs can affect your:

  • mental and physical health
  • relationships
  • social life
  • work life

Some party drugs are highly addictive, and it can be hard to stop if you are using them regularly. People who become addicted to drugs can:

You may think you can safely manage the effects of drugs, but it could have an unexpected effect on your life. Drug use can also make mental illness worse.

Drugs can harm your unborn baby or breastfed child. You can find information about children and alcohol and other drugs on the Kids Helpline website.

What about the law and party drugs?

If you take illegal party drugs, you could find yourself in trouble with the law. You might:

  • be fined
  • lose your driver’s licence
  • go to prison

What can I do to reduce the risks of taking party drugs?

It is best not to use party drugs. There are some things you can do to help reduce the risks. Before you take a party drug:

  • learn about the drug you are using
  • avoid taking a drug if you are feeling mentally unwell
  • only use an amount of drug that reflects your level of experience

It’s a good idea to take a small, test dose and wait two hours. This can help you understand the drug and how you will react to it.

When taking party drugs, remember:

  • Do not mix drugs, including with alcohol and caffeine.
  • Stay cool and hydrated (drink about 500mL of water every hour).
  • Stay with a friend, preferably one who is not taking drugs, who can help support you and avoid risky situations.
  • Don’t drive or swim.

You can also take other steps to stay safe at parties and music festivals.

Resources and support

If you have a problem with recreational drug use, you can contact:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

“Party Drugs”/MDMA/Ecstasy: Factsheet

Information on what party drugs/MDMA/Ecstasy are, how many people have tried party drugs/MDMA/Ecstasy and the immediate and long-term effects of MDMA/ecstasy

Read more on Positive Choices website

Know the risks | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

The videos for the National Drugs Campaign were created about young people and parents who have been affected by ice and party drugs.

Read more on Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website

Partying safely – tips for teenagers - Better Health Channel

Don't advertise a party via SMS or the internet to limit the risk of gate-crashers and violent situations.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Drug overdose - Better Health Channel

Alcohol, medications, illegal drugs and some herbal remedies can all cause damage if an overdose is taken.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Drug and alcohol Education: Student Booklet

This booklet covers the facts on illegal drugs, alcohol, tobacco, making choices and how to help someone who has taken a drug.

Read more on Positive Choices website

Alcohol, drugs and tobacco | NT.GOV.AU

Alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, volatile substances, illegal drugs, legal medications, drug rehabilitation and alcohol mandatory treatment.

Read more on NT Health website

Drug and Alcohol Education: Parent Booklet

This booklet provides evidence-based information on illegal drugs, alcohol and e-cigarettes and ways that parents can protect against drug use and related harms

Read more on Positive Choices website

NBOMes - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

NBOMe (N-methoxybenzyl) is the name for a series of drugs that have hallucinogenic effects.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Overdose - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

An overdose happens when a toxic amount of a drug or a combination of drugs causes a severe adverse reaction. This can happen because too much is taken or because different drugs are taken at the same time. Combining drugs increases the chances of overdose.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Emergency and overdose drug testing | Pathology Tests Explained

Emergency and overdose drug testing is requested for single drugs or groups of drugs by an A&E or Intensive Care doctor to detect, assess, and monitor so

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.