It’s good to know the facts about drugs.
Why do people use drugs?
There are a number of different reasons why people might start using drugs. These can include:
- to escape problems they may be having in other parts of their life
- peer pressure and fitting in with another group of people
- being curious about the effects of drugs
- because they are available
If you start to use drugs on a regular basis, or if you become dependent on them, it can affect your family and friends as well as having a serious impact on your own physical and mental well-being.
The dangers of taking drugs
Drugs can make school, college or a job really hard work. They can mess up the way you act, how well you can focus, what you remember, and how you deal with people. A drug conviction could affect your chances of getting a job or going on holiday abroad.
Different drugs have different affects. Watch these videos from FRANK to see how common drugs can affect your mind.
Short-term effects of drugs can include:
- disorientation – you could be at risk of being attacked
- risk-taking – you may take drugs and drive, hurting yourself or others
- clouded judgement – you might do something you regret
- varied emotions
- comedowns – feeling worried or sad
- violent or aggressive behaviour
- seeing things that aren’t really there
Long-term effects can include:
- prolonged depression
- lack of motivation
- reduced memory
- heart disease
- kidney and liver failure
There's no such thing as a ‘safe’ amount of recreational drugs. But an overdose is when you take so much your body can't cope. If this happens you'll need urgent medical attention. With some drugs like cocaine and heroin, your tolerance can build up very quickly, so you need more and more to get the same high. And, after a break, your tolerance goes down. It's easy to take too much.
Your safety is at risk when you are on drugs, and there is always an element of the unknown when taking them. But, to reduce the amount of harm they can do, anyone who takes drugs should:
- pace themselves – it can take a while for substances to kick in
- take a break – if they're dancing, they should take regular breaks to cool down, drink water and check how they're feeling
- stay hydrated (especially if taking ecstasy and speed while clubbing). It's best to sip fruit juice or isotonic sports drinks regularly (but don’t overdo the water, don’t drink any more than a pint an hour)
- keep track of the amount they're using – to avoid an overdose
- stay with other people – especially if they start to feel ill
- take it easy the morning after to help their body recover. That means simple, healthy stuff like water, toast and orange juice
If you are going to take drugs, always make sure you have friends with you and you know what everyone has taken. Being with friends is a good way to reduce the effects of a bad 'trip'. Friendly reassurance helps when you comedown, and a friend can get help if you need medical attention.
All drugs carry risks. But mixing them can make things a lot more dangerous.
Taking more than one drug at the same time is seriously risky and can lead to unpredictable effects. If you're going to take drugs, the best advice is not to mix them, taking any drugs is much more dangerous if you mix them, and this includes alcohol and prescription medication.
Drugs and sex
Many drugs make you feel less inhibited or more stimulated sexually, and you could end up taking risks and doing things you wouldn't normally do – like forgetting to use a condom. Risks include sexually transmitted diseases, HIV infection, Hepatitis and unwanted pregnancy. Find out more about safe sex on Teenwirral.
If things go wrong:
When someone has taken cannabis, ecstasy, LSD, mushrooms or speed there's a risk they might panic or become paranoid.
So how do you deal with it?
- calm them down and be reassuring
- steer them clear of crowds, noisy music and bright lights
- tell them to take long slow breaths
- if someone's high, especially on volatile substances, don't scare them – it could kill them
If someone's in a bad way on drugs or alcohol, call 999 immediately and put them in the recovery position while you're waiting for help to arrive.
'Legal highs' - no longer legal!
There is now a blanket ban on legal highs, or New Psychoactive Substances (NPS).
The blanket ban means that police have new powers to seize and destroy the drugs – as well as the power to search people, cars and homes. This is the result of the Psychoactive Substances Act (2016) which came into effect in May 2016.
The Act also means that people who are involved in the production, supply or importation of NPS could now face up to seven years in prison. Possession with intent to supply or possession within a prison is also considered as an offence. In addition, people who now purchase NPS over the Internet run the risk of being charged with importation, as all NPS suppliers in the UK have either ceased trading or moved abroad.
Although the number of people that have died is still relatively low, with 76 people having died in the decade since 2004, the increasing concern comes from the fact that deaths have more than tripled in the last two years. Public health experts are also concerned that NPS can have a serious harmful impact on mental health.
A particularly worrying issue is that because these drugs are produced illegally and without any regulation, people purchasing and using them have no guarantee that they are what they claim to be. They may be taking something different to what they think they are taking.
What are New Psychoactive Substances?
These drugs appeared around 2008/2009, and most of them contained substances that mimic the effects of illegal drugs like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy / MDMA. Nitrous Oxide, often called 'laughing gas' or 'hippy crack' is also included in the new law.
Reported side effects of taking these drugs include slurred speech, dizziness, fainting, anxiety, and spasms, and effects usually subside within an hour. If additional drugs are taken within three hours, or with alcohol, the drugs are even more dangerous.
The drugs are man-made and have often previously been sold as research chemicals, herbal incense, bath salts, potpourri and plant food – all to get around the law so that they could be sold legally. The new law has now made these illegal.
Usually packaged in small and bright foil pockets, here are some of the now-illegal drug brands covered by the new Psychoactive Substances Act:
- Pandora’s Box
- Clockwork Orange
- Happy Joker
- Black Mamba
- Cherry / Berry Bomb
- Fiji Wave / Wild and Hipster
- Synthetic cannabis
Mephedrone (sometimes called white magic, meow meow, m-cat, bubble, bounce) is no longer a legal high. Following recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, it has been classified as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This means that it is illegal to possess, use, give away or sell mephedrone. It is also illegal to import mephedrone into the UK.
Naphyrone (sometimes called rave, energy-1, nrg-1) has now been made illegal and classified as a Class B drug following the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). There is concern about the harms it can have on the health and wellbeing of users due to evidence that naphyrone can cause adverse effects on heart and blood vessels, risk of dependence, and psychosis & anxiety effects. Also, due to its potency, it carries a higher risk of accidental overdose.
Drugs and the law
Drugs are categorised into three classes based on how dangerous they are: Class A drugs being the most dangerous, and Class C drugs being less dangerous.
- Class A drugs include heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD
- Class B drugs include speed, cannabis and some amphetamines
- Class C drugs include ketamine, GHB and some tranquilisers
- drugs in all three classes are harmful, addictive, and illegal
If you're caught with drugs in your bag or in your pocket, you may be charged with possessing an illegal substance, whether it's yours or not. If you're under 17, the police are allowed to tell your parent or carer that you've been caught. You may face a fine or time in custody, with Class A drugs carrying the most severe sentences.
If you're suspected of selling drugs to other people – even if no money exchanges hands – the police are more likely to charge you. They will take into account the amount of drugs that you had and your criminal record.
The maximum sentences for intent to supply drugs are:
- up to life in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for a Class A drug
- up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for a Class B or Class C drug
Being charged with a drugs offence and having this on your criminal record can have many repercussions long after the offence. For example, it can mean that you are barred from applying for certain jobs, and it can make it difficult for you to visit some other countries, e.g. the USA.
Under pressure to use drugs?
You’re not alone! It’s easy to think you’re the only one who has not experimented with drugs. The reality is that most young people don’t take drugs, and you’re in the majority. Evidence shows that young people are getting much smarter about drug use and less and less are taking these risks.
Work out where you stand on issues like sex, drugs and alcohol. Knowing your own mind makes it easier to stay true to yourself.
Prepare yourself now by thinking through how you want to respond and behave. It may help to share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust.
Say no firmly but clearly and without making a big deal about it. If others try to persuade you, don’t feel like you have to change your mind.
They may not show it, but your mates will respect you more if you’re assertive and clear about what you do and don’t want to do.
Take a look around – it might not seem like it, but you’re not the only one worrying about what other people think of you. Try to focus on your own opinion of yourself – in the end, that’s all that matters.
Watch out for your mates - if you’re worried about a friend, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to them, or someone you trust.
FRANK offers friendly and confidential drug advice. You can chat with the team via the website between the hours of 2pm-6pm, email them, or call the service on 0300 123 6600 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Response is an agency for young people aged 13 to 19. It offers a wide range of general support and has specialist substance misuse workers who can help young people experiencing problems with drug or alcohol use.
You can call in and have a general chat about your needs or make an appointment with one of the dedicated workers. You can call Response on 0151 666 4123 and you’ll find them at 19 Argyle Street, Birkenhead CH41 1AD.
Kooth.com is an online counselling and advice service offering a 24 hour source of help for Wirral’s 11 to 25 year olds. The service has specialist drug experts who can answer any questions you may have, via web chat and email. Kooth will respond within 24 hours and will listen to what you have to say without judging you.
Health Services in schools
Pupils can access a range of support services which include issues around alcohol and drug misuse, plus mental health, weight management, stopping smoking, and sexual health issues. For those of you who are at school, your first contact should be the school nurse, or if your school has a health services clinic, you can call there.