A NSW Government website

Youth Drug and Alcohol Clinical Service (YDACS)

When you or a young person you care about has problematic drug and/or alcohol use, it can be very distressing and confusing to know what to do. Understanding where to go and how to get help is the first step towards making the change that may be needed.

The Youth Drug and Alcohol Clinical Service (YDACS) is a youth specific drug and alcohol service, that works with young people aged 12 – 18 years of age who need help due to their moderate to severe drug and/or alcohol use. When a young person has a “moderate to severe” substance use problem, the drug or alcohol use may be impacting on their mental health (heightened anxiety, depression, psychosis), attendance at school or work, relationships with family and friends, their overall health (weight loss, sexual problems) and finances (in debt). Although using drugs might seem a good way to feel good and manage some difficult emotions, it can be really risky, leading to ongoing physical and mental health issues and for some people, death.

YDACS is a specialist service that is flexible to an individual young person’s needs. It is a voluntary service that offers drug and alcohol assessment, counselling, treatment & case management for young people and their families. We understand that all young people come from diverse backgrounds, genders, sexuality, cultures and have their own unique experiences and stories.

Where are services provided

YDACS works across the whole of the Hunter New England Health District although we are based in Newcastle. We do this through our YDACS clinic in Newcastle, an outreach clinic in Cessnock and telehealth through the rest of the district. Telehealth is a way that we can work with someone even though we are not face to face. We can also provide advice to services who are already working with a young person where this may be a better way of offering help.

Rights of young people in healthcare

Hunter New England Local Health District are strong advocates for and respect the right of every young person in healthcare. Gain a better understanding of what your rights as a young person in healthcare are.

Resources about drugs

Depressant drugs

Depressant drugs slow down the messages between the brain and body, and can temporarily decrease a person’s arousal and level of energy. This doesn’t necessarily make a person feel depressed, but can affect coordination and concentration, make someone feel relaxed and impair their decision making and judgement. Due to the slowing down of the messages in the body, in larger amounts, depressants drugs can make someone feel really drowsy, become unconscious and die.

Depressant drugs include:

Stimulant drugs

Stimulant drugs speed up the messages between the brain and body, and can temporarily increase a person’s alertness and energy. This can makes someone feel more alert, confident and awake but also make someone feel anxious and paranoid. Due to the speeding up of the messages in the body, in larger amounts, stimulant drugs can cause an overstimulation which can result in panic attacks, seizures, headaches, stomach pains and aggression.

Fact sheets:


In the human body, there are cannabinoid receptors making up the endocannabinoid system which works to regulate a number of body activities such as mood, memory, sleep and appetite. Although this may sound confusing, we refer to “cannabinoids” as any chemical substance that joins with these receptors. The cannabis plant produces these chemicals which interacts with these cannabinoid receptors, which affects how they send, receive and process information. The THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical in the cannabis plant that makes a person feel high.

Fact sheets:


Opioid drugs act on the opiod receptors in the brain. Opioids can be prescribed (e.g. codeine, oxycondone) or illegal (e.g. heroin) When using opiod drugs, they bind to these receptors and slow down messages between the brain and body which can cause the slowing down of breathing and heart rate. On overdose occurs when the breathing and heart rate slows down to a point that the person stope breathing. Naloxone can be administered to reverse the effects of an overdose.

The opioid receptors also stimulate the release of dopamine which is a chemical that increases pleasure, reward and pain relief.

Fact sheets:

Further information

YDACS referrals

YDACS understand that families and carers of young people are their greatest strengths and best supports, therefore whenever possible families are included in the assessment and treatment.

Referrals can be made by any service provider including GP’s, Community Health Services, inpatient hospital units, Families & Community Services, Juvenile Justice, police, education. The YDCS referral form can be found on our referrals page.

Although referrals are ideally received through a service provider, a young person or their family can self-refer by contacting the 1800 950 755.

The team

YDACS is a multidisciplinary team, which includes:

  • Clinical Coordinator (Mel Benson)
  • Paediatric staff Specialist (Dr. Krista Monkhouse)
  • Clinical Psychologist (Maz Jenkins)
  • Senior Social Worker (Pete Clark)
  • Social Worker (Holley Stewart)
  • Registered Nurse (Naomi Nicholson)
  • Sophie Culbert (Administration).
Contact YDACS

Address: Thwaites Building 4, 72 Watt Street, Newcastle

Email: HNELHD-YouthDACS@health.nsw.gov.au

Phone: 1800 950 755.


Newcastle Community Health Centre
Level 2, 670 Hunter Street Newcastle (entrance off Hunter Street)
Newcastle, NSW, 2230