Drugs & you

Here we describe how common drugs and substances work on your body. All are dangerous, especially during pregnancy. 

Uppers and you

  • Amphetamines are drugs like ICE, Speed and Ecstasy. They affect your central nervous system, speed up messages between the brain and the body and change your mood. Uppers cause a number of complications and are considered dangerous in pregnancy.
  • Caffeine can be found in coffee, energy drinks, tea, cola drinks and chocolate. It is a stimulant and in large doses may cause birth complications. A large dose is more than 600mg or two cups of coffee per day.

Downers and you

  • Benzodiazepines (benzos) are depressants (they slow down messages from the brain to the body). Many women take benzos because their doctor has prescribed them for anxiety, stress or sleeping problems. Benzos taken without a prescription can lead to overdose or death. It is also dangerous to binge on, inject or mix benzos with other drugs.
  • Inhalants (sniffing or chroming) affect different people in different ways. Once you inhale a substance it immediately enters your bloodstream. Even small amounts can have a harmful effect. Heavy users and people who use often, and over a long time, can suffer skin discolouration, poor coordination, tremors, weight loss, excessive tiredness, eye damage and heart problems. You can also damage your brain and liver.
  • Cannabis (marijuana, hashish, dope, grass, green and yarndi) is a depressant (it slows down the central nervous system and brain). Long term use can lead to anxiety and depression; it can affect your memory and how clearly you think. It can also lead to paranoia, hallucinations, psychosis or severe mental illness.
  • Heroin is a short acting opiate and is addictive. It gives a strong feeling of well-being and pain relief. Its withdrawal symptoms are very unpleasant, which is why it is so difficult to stop using once you start.
  • Methadone is an opiate and is used as a 'treatment' or substitute for heroin. Its effects last longer than heroin. Methadone should only be used with medical supervision.
  • Buprenorphine (Subutex). Although methadone is the recommended opiate substitute in pregnancy, many women are now using buprenorphine safely in pregnancy.
  • Suboxone and Naltrexone are also used as a treatment for heroin users but they cannot be used in pregnancy. Used alongside other opiate drugs, they can cause severe withdrawal, which can cause your baby to die.


The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.