Drug Use

Purpose of this policy


  • support the whole school approach to reducing drug use and associated harm
  • explain how schools respond to drug related incidents
  • provide support for students involved in unsanctioned drug use.


Schools must:

  • provide all students with drug education prevention and intervention programs
  • involve parents/guardians and the wider school community in drug-related curriculum and wellbeing issues
  • prohibit possession, use, distribution and selling of illicit drugs and unsanctioned licit drugs on school premises or at any function or activity organised by the school
  • develop or review policy to support the management of drug-related incidents
  • make every effort to retain students in the education system because students are often at greater risk if disengaged from school.

Harm minimisation

Harm minimisation: 

  • refers to policies and programs designed to reduce drug-related harm. 
  • aims to improve health, social and economic outcomes for both the community and the individual and encompasses a wide range of approaches.

Schools use a harm minimisation approach to review and implement school drug education programs and activities that:

  • are comprehensive and evidence based
  • promote a positive school climate and relationships
  • are targeted to needs and contexts identified through consultation with students, staff and parents
  • embed timely, developmentally appropriate drug education programs within a curriculum framework that utilises effective pedagogy.

This table lists the aims of harm minimisation.


Prevent and reduce drug related harm

  • prevention through education and creating respectful and safe schools
  • early intervention to prevent later harmful drug use.

Drug related incident response

  • ensuring the response is well managed
  • student wellbeing is paramount
  • utilising partnerships with parents/caregivers and police(when necessary)
  • ensuring the response does not cause any secondary harm, such as social stigmatisation, reduced self-worth and associated truancy.

Responding to drug related incidents

This table identifies immediate and subsequent responses to drug related incidents when student/s are suspected of possessing, distributing or using a drug, including being drug affected.

Immediate response
  • focus on the safety and welfare of those directly and indirectly involved
  • stay calm
  • gather any:
    • facts
    • relevant information
  • make a first aid assessment (if necessary seek medical support)
  • seek assistance as soon as possible
  • safely collect any suspected drugs and drug paraphernalia
  • inform the school administration
  • Isolate the situation from other students, if possible.
Subsequent response when it is safe Follow up to:
  • inform parents/guardians of students involved in incident
  • notify health, community and welfare services, if appropriate
  • contact the police, if required
  • establish a case management team to:
    • gather and verify information
    • allocate tasks and roles
    • document information
    • develop a communication strategy
    • consider interventions
    • consider sanctions in line with student engagement policies
    • monitor, evaluate and reflect.

Illicit drug use

This table explains the principles related to the management of illicit drug use.


Confidentiality: detoxification and pharmacotherapy treatment

Information about detoxification, methadone or alternate pharmacotherapies:

  • is a private matter
  • only needs to be shared between students and their:
    • parent/guardian
    • supporting community agency
    • school designated student wellbeing staff.
  • may be provided, at the principal’s discretion, only:
    • with the student’s consent
    • to staff who have direct responsibility for the student.

Example: If the student’s concentration or alertness may be affected by prescribed medication. Important: Students should not be excluded from attendance based on their ongoing detoxification.

Drug testing

The department does not support any form of drug testing in schools for teachers or students to avoid:

  • raising a lack of trust between schools and students
  • legal, technical, ethical and financial issues.
Duty of care

Teachers have a duty of care to pass on information to the principal if they have knowledge about illicit drug use by students or members of a student’s family irrespective of:

  • whether the use:
    • is confirmed, suspected or likely to occur
    • occurs on or outside school grounds
  • the drug used.

Note: Under this duty of care staff cannot promise unconditional confidentiality to students.

Educational access during absence

Any student who is absent from school due to drug use or the resultant treatment should be provided with a Student Absence Learning Plan as determined by teachers in consultation with:

  • parents/guardians
  • the school’s appointed case manager

Schools should have procedures in place for dealing with the media.  Principals are responsible for media contact, supported by:

  • the regional director
  • Department Media Unit (03) 8688 7776.
See: Media Releases within Department resources

Principals should notify parents/guardians as soon as practicable.  Note:   Teachers and principals do not breach criminal law by failure to notify parents/guardians of the use of an illicit drug, but there are civil implications.

Police Principals must:
  • advise the local police contact person (station commander or sub-officer nominee) when they have knowledge of an alleged criminal offence, including the possession, use and distribution of illicit drugs
  • document internal procedures and actions undertaken.
See: Police and DHS Interviews within Related policies
Professional development

Staff should be:

  • informed of policies and procedures
  • provided with professional development in responding to drug related incidents.

Prescription drugs

Taking prescription drugs without a prescription is illegal and use by staff or students is prohibited.

See: Medication

Related policies

Related legislation

  • Education and Training Reform Act 2006

Department resources

For information on procedures for managing a drug-related incident at school or developing a drug education policy, see: Drug Education - Policy for Principals and School Leaders