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Myths about alcohol and other drugs

There are a number of myths that go around about alcohol and other drugs. Before we form our own opinions, it's important to look at the facts. By setting the record straight, we can all be better prepared to avoid the risks associated with alcohol and other drugs.

Myth no. 1. "Dope is much stronger than it used to be"

There have been media reports of cannabis being up to 30 times stronger today than during the 1970s. However, according to the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre's fact sheet 'Cannabis potency', cannabis may only be a little stronger than it was in the 1970s.

The main difference today is that people are smoking the more potent parts of the plant, such as heads rather than the leaf. Cannabis smokers are more likely to smoke cannabis through a 'bong', and people are more likely to start smoking at a younger age.

Myth no. 2. "Young people are the ones who have a problem with alcohol"

In fact, 'risky' drinkers can be found across all age groups. According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2013, young people aged 14–19 are the group most likely to abstain from drinking, with 47.3% choosing not to drink, compared with just over 14% for the 20–29 age, 30–39 and 40–49 age groups.

According to the National Preventative Health Taskforce's report Australia: the healthiest country by 2020, the likelihood of  adults aged 20–29 years drinking at levels of risk of long-term harm is 16% higher than other age groups.

Myth no. 3. "Alcohol and tobacco are 'soft drugs'"

Alcohol and tobacco are connected with greater harms to Australians than all other illicit substances combined.

In 2004-05, the social cost of drug misuse in Australia was estimated at $55.2 billion. This included:

  • Alcohol: $15.3 billion (27.3%)
  • Tobacco: $31 billion (56.27%)
  • Illicit drugs: $8.2 billion (14.6%).

These costs relate to harms such as productivity, crime, health conditions, hospitalisations, and deaths (Collins & Lapsley, 2008).

While alcohol and tobacco may be legal, they can create or contribute to significant problems for individuals and those around them.

Myth no. 4. "Teenagers are drinking and taking drugs now more than ever." 

While there may be a perception that young people are using alcohol and drugs more frequently than in the past, this is not actually the case.

The number of young people aged 12–17 who have never had a full serve of alcohol has actually increased by 18% between 2007 and 2013, according to the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. There are actually more non-drinkers (72%) than drinkers in this age group.

View the infographic poster 'What 12–17 year olds are really using' [PDF:633KB].

Read more myths about alcohol and other drugs:


Collins DJ & Lapsley HM 2008 The Costs of Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drug Abuse to Australian Society in 2004/05 [PDF: 500KB](new window), Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.


Last updated: 20 June 2016

Information you heard is intended as a general guide only. This audio is copyrighted by the Australian Drug Foundation. Visit for more