INFORMATION and education are the keys to fighting the war against drugs, according to the Warrnambool police undercover unit chief.
Sergeant Cameron Ross said the impact of drug use could be life-changing.
"The effect on mental health, family issues and addiction can have a long-term impact," Sergeant Ross said.
"There is evidence to say the affects on mental health after taking drugs once can be catastrophic for an individual and a family."
Sergeant Ross said the issue was highlight by Warrnambool region residents not having access to a rehabilitation centre.
"If parents want to get help for their kids they have to go elsewhere," he said.
"Pointers towards drug use include individuals disengaging, moods swings, changes in physical appearance, weight loss and lack of appetite.
"Something as simple as money missing from a purse can be a key indicator.
"Gone are days when you can send your kid off to sport and know they will be OK. Every part of society is being impacted.”
Emmanuel College principal Peter Morgan said major issues like drugs required a community resolve to achieve genuine, lasting change.
"Schools are a microcosm of the society we live in," he said.
“I speak regularly with principals and I don't believe there is a school that has been untouched by drug related issues at some point.
“The use of alcohol by underage young people and the increasing availability and affordability of illicit drugs within our community is an issue that every family, school, sporting club and community organisation needs to be aware of and taking steps to address.”