Drug Awareness

Drug Awareness - Illicit Drugs

For young people and their parents to help each other understand the problems posed by drugs in today’s social environment, it’s important everyone feels they can all discuss drugs without fear or embarrassment.

Your parents may be worried about starting a conversation about drugs – they don’t want to give you too much information and perhaps make you curious enough to try a particular drug, or they may be worried that their questions – even if they don’t suspect anything – may ruin the relationship they have with you.

Some young people don’t like to bring up the topic of drugs, because they feel that the reasons for their questions – whether due to curiosity, or perhaps concern about a group at school - may be misunderstood.

However, research shows that the majority of young people want to talk to an adult they trust about drugs. If you feel you can do that, it’s a good place to start in your attempts to find answers to your questions or concerns.

What is a drug?

A drug is a substance that changes the way your body or your mind works. Medications like paracetamol or codeine, which we take for headaches or colds, are drugs – but if taken as prescribed, they are for our benefit.

Alcohol and nicotine fall into another category of drugs that have obvious negative side effects, but are legal, so it’s up to individuals to work out how much, or even if they want to, drink or smoke. Alcohol is legal, but it’s the effects of drinking too much (and at the wrong time) that may result in major effects on the person drinking – and those around them.

Marijuana, pills, ecstasy, heroin and cocaine are examples of illegal drugs, commonly called ‘illicit’ drugs.

Some drugs, including alcohol, are ‘depressants,’ which means they cause a slowing-down of nerve impulses in the brain and in small quantities produce feelings of relaxation. Others – including caffeine, nicotine, cocaine and ecstasy – are ‘stimulants,’ which means they speed up these impulses, making people feel more awake and alert.

Another category of drugs are the ‘hallucinogens,’ which cause people to see or hear things in a way that’s different from reality. Examples of hallucinogens are ‘acid,’ some plants (like ‘magic mushrooms’), and large amounts of marijuana.

A drug is a substance that changes the way your body or your mind works.

Illicit Drugs

What are the most commonly used illicit drugs?

Cannabis and amphetamines are the most commonly used illicit drugs.

Amphetamines are a family of ‘synthetic’ (or man made) drugs made by combining chemicals. The strength or potency of amphetamines depends on the form – powder, paste, liquid, pills or crystals – with the most potent the crystalline form, which is known as ‘ice’ or ‘crystal meth.’ ‘Speed’ is another amphetamine.

Cannabis – also known as marijuana, pot, weed, a joint, and many other names – comes from the plant cannabis sativa and is usually smoked as a ‘joint’ or through a ‘bong.’ The cannabis plant resin and oil (called hash or hash oil) are smoked or eaten.

Why do people take drugs?

Many people have an alcoholic drink or a cigarette to relax or escape anxiety, which is in effect reducing mental pain. It isn’t that much different from escaping physical pain, which is what painkillers such as paracetamol do.

People who take illegal drugs have described their reasons in many ways, which can be summarised as:
  • Peer pressure – trying to fit in with, or to please, friends
  • Trying to feel better about themselves (attempting to increase self-esteem) • To escape difficult situations in life
  • To reduce stress or anxiety
  • To avoid making decisions
  • To relax
  • To block physical or mental pain.
What is an overdose?

An overdose means an amount of a drug that is more than the body can handle, i.e. a person takes more drugs than their body can cope with, and so becomes extremely ill or dies.

What are the common symptoms that indicate a person is taking drugs?

The symptoms of each drug are different. Cigarettes may be detected by the smell on clothing or in a bedroom, for instance. If you’re worried a friend is taking drugs, and want to know how to find out as much as you can before you ask any direct questions or take your concerns to an adult, the generic signs and symptoms you should look for are:

Cannabis and amphetamines are the most commonly used illicit drugs.

  • Loss of concentration
  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Pupil change – dilation or reduction
  • Irritability
  • Weight loss

  • A sudden and unexplained increase in spending
  • A change in eating habits
  • Stealing or shoplifting
  • Risk-taking behaviour
  • Truancy (or ‘wagging’ school)
  • Changes in long-term friendships

Of course, most of these symptoms will be noticed in most kids some of the time as part of everyday behaviour, and usually won’t indicate drug taking. But an on-going change in any of these behaviours may suggest closer monitoring of your friend or sibling. If you are worried about a friend or sibling, talk to your own parents or another adult who’ll understand that you’re trying to help, not make trouble.

What should my parents do if I tell them I’ve tried an illicit drug?

Your parents should realise that just because you have tried a drug, it doesn’t automatically mean you are using drugs regularly, or have any intention of doing so.

It’s important that your parents don’t panic, and try not to over-react with anger. They should try and keep calm during the conversation with you, and start by asking why you have made such a choice.

Your parents should appreciate that you have trusted them enough to tell them, and use the situation as a means of repeating and emphasising the dangers of continued use. They should also keep in mind that with many young people, forbidding them to do something may be counterproductive, and that all young people ‘push the barriers’ from time to time.

As your parents, they have a right to make those boundaries clear, particularly when dangerous illicit substances are involved. It is generally useful for you and your parents to come to an agreement about expected future behaviours, with perhaps, some added responsibilities to help you understand the consequences of unwise choices.

If you are worried about a friend or sibling, talk to your own parents or another adult who’ll understand that you’re trying to help, not make trouble.

Other Article Categories:

  • Body Boosters
  • Public Property
  • The Big Chat
  • Home Base
  • Street Smarts
  • Just in Case
  • Out and About
  • Drug Awareness
  • Personal Space