The law

Close shot beer glass with beer

Legal drugs

Some drugs are legal - like alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and prescribed and over-the-counter medications. However, their use may be restricted based on age, location of use, driving and rules around where they’re sold.

The amount of active ingredients in legal drugs can be regulated and controlled. For example, the alcohol content of drinks or the milligrams of nicotine in cigarettes

Close shot crystal methamphetamine

Illegal drugs

Other drugs are illegal, such as cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. They’re not subject to quality or price controls and the amount of active ingredient in these drugs isn’t consistent.

A person using illegal drugs can never be sure of how strong the drug is, or what is actually in it.

Different batches of an illegal drug may contain different amounts of the drug and other unidentified additives (fillers).


Federal and state laws have penalties for possessing, using, producing, selling, or driving under the influence of illegal drugs. Penalties range from fines and rehabilitation orders, to disqualification from driving and imprisonment.

Some states and territories have programs that refer people with a dependence on alcohol or other drugs to treatment and/or education programs. This means they can receive help rather than going through the criminal justice system.

For information regarding drug laws in your state or territory visit the Australian Department of Health drug laws webpage.