So, which substances are being abused?
Things that people take to change the way they feel, think, or behave, are called psychoactive substances. These include alcohol. Some drugs are made from plants, such as opium poppies for heroin, cannabis for marijuana (ganja) and the coca bush for cocaine. Other drugs such as Ecstasy are made by synthesizing different chemicals.
Drugs fall into three categories:
- Depressants: heroin, barbiturates, alcohol
- Stimulants: ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine, crack
- Hallucinogens: cannabis/marijuana, LSD
People sometimes think that some drugs, such as cannabis and ecstasy, are not so dangerous. But these drugs can damage your body and future prospects.
Drugs can be swallowed, inhaled, smoked, injected, snorted.
- Myth: “Recreational use” of drugs is NOT HARMFUL.
Truth: All illegal drugs are dangerous and cause physical and psychological changes in the user. Prolonged use intensifies these harmful effects and can lead to addiction. There is no safe way to use illegal drugs.
- Myth: If a person wants to take drugs, the Government should not interfere.
Truth: The rights of the individual must be consistent with the safety and welfare of the general population. No individual has the right, even if unintentionally, to behave in a manner that is harmful to others – especially close friends and family members.
- Myth: Only weak individuals become addicts.
Truth: Addicts become weak individuals. No one begins taking drugs with the aim of becoming addicted.
- Myth: Drug abuse is a “victimless” crime – it hurts only the user.
Truth: The user’s family suffers in witnessing the self–destruction of a loved one. The employer is adversely affected by lost productivity, sloppy work, increased number of accidents, absenteeism and rising healthcare costs. Tax payers suffer because they pay for Government efforts in law enforcement and treatment to combat drug crimes and rehabilitate users.
Apart from the things drugs do to your body, they also:
- Cost a lot of money. Some people turn to crime to pay for their addiction.
- Take away control that you have over yourself, your choices and your future.
- Make you more likely to say yes to (unprotected) sex, which could lead to unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.
- Could make you end up on the wrong side of the law.
Drug addiction rips families apart and leads to heartache and despair.
- But it’s not just about addiction. Using drugs, even just occasionally, can lead to slowed development and lost potential. For example, finding it more difficult to concentrate or recall things and generally not doing as well as you could.
- Don’t try to deal with it alone. Find a trusted adult to talk to, or phone a helpline about the best way to go about helping and what the options are.
- Stick by your friend, don’t turn your back on them, but make it clear what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour to you.
- Suggest what they might do, and offer as much information as you can, but don’t nag. They will have to make their own decisions.
- Offer to go with them, or help them to make a phone call if they do decide they want help.
- Find out all you can about the available options for help.
- Don’t bargain with or threaten them.
- Encourage them to believe that they can change and they can do something about their problem.
Prepare to refuse and practice these skills with your parents or friends. If offered drugs, a decision has to be made. It cannot be postponed. So, plan ahead of time what you will do.
- Say “I decide. No thanks, I’m fine – without drugs!”
- Leave the scene.
- Change the subject.
- Suggest an alternative activity.
- Give a reason: think of one and stick to it.
- Laugh it off – make a joke about the offer.
- Ignore the offer.
Try to access as much information as possible, so you can make an informed choice.