There are lots of myths surrounding drugs and drug use. The 'evil drug pusher', the student smoking cannabis, the homeless man injecting himself with heroine... we all have our own images of a drug user.
But in fact, we have all taken drugs at some point in our lives - medicines, coffee (caffeine), alcohol and cigarettes are all drugs.
What's your definition of a drug?
The dictionary says a drug is:
1. Any substance used in the treatment, prevention or diagnosis of disease.
2. A chemical substance, taken for the effects it produces.
There are a certain group of drugs used for non-medical reasons (usually) that fit into the 2nd definition. They are taken for the effect they have on the user.
- Drugs are substances that affect the way a person thinks, acts or feels. A lot of substances fall into this category, from coffee, paracetamol, cigarettes and alcohol to heroin or crack cocaine
- People use drugs for different reasons: for energy, to relax, out of curiosity, to have fun, to rebel, to escape or cope with difficulty and pain
- The trade-off is that there is usually a negative side effect or 'come down' that can impact on your body and mind
- The legal consequences of getting caught with drugs are often more serious than many young people expect. A drug related conviction could send you to prison and limit your opportunities in life, such as travelling to certain countries or working in certain professions. Never buy drugs for friends or share them with friends. In law, this is seen as supply, and you face the same penalties as any drug dealer
- It is difficult to predict how a drug will affect you. It will depend on many factors, including the type of drug you use, the way it is taken, how often and where you use it and your physical and mental state
Addiction and Dependence
- The regular use of some drugs will usually lead to the development of a tolerance, so that more and more is needed to get the same effect
- When a person's whole life starts to revolve around the drug or when they depend on the drug to get them through the day, they have reached a state of dependence
- An addiction can develop very slowly and unnoticeably in some people, while for others it can develop very quickly
- A person may experience unpleasant physical and psychological effects when they stop using a drug they are addicted to, however these feelings will pass with time
- For more information about specific drugs, including their composition, effects and risks, have a look at the listed websites and contacts.
There are a number of reasons why people drink alcohol. In small amounts, alcohol can make a person feel more relaxed and sociable. But alcohol can also make you lose control, become depressed or aggressive, or to take risks that you would otherwise not take.
- Alcohol is a drug with the effects of a depressant. It slows down the activity of the brain, affecting your reflexes and your ability to react. It can also affect your judgement
- How you will be affected depends on many factors, including your weight, sex, the amount you drink, how quickly you drink, the length of time since you ate and whether you are mixing it with other drugs
The fact that you will often see positive advertising about alcohol, that it is legal and that many people drink it, doesn't eliminate the problems it can cause. It is still a drug and it is worth knowing what the risks can be
A worrying trend is the rising number of young people who binge drink.
Too much alcohol can lead to:
- Choking to death if you vomit in your sleep
- Alcohol poisoning - potentially fatal
- Taking risks such as unsafe sex or driving while drunk
- Increased aggression, arguments and assaults
- A coma. This can happen when you mix alcohol with other depressant drugs like heroin or tranquillisers
- Dehydration, overheating or death when mixed with Ecstasy
In the long term, heavy drinking can affect your work and relationships, your physical health (liver damage, mouth and throat cancer and stomach and heart damage) and your mental health (psychological dependency and depression).
Drug and Alcohol Service - http://www.iow.nhs.uk/our-services/mental-health-services/drug-and-alcohol/drug-and-alcohol-services.htm Tel: (01983) 526654
Talk to Frank - Young People's National Drug Information Service - www.talktofrank.com
Cranstoun - IOW Adult Substance Misuse Service - www.cranstoun.org Tel: 01983-821569