Harmful Drug Risks: What Your Teen Needs to Know

Last updated on December 26th, 2016 at 09:45 pm

Drug abuse can be very harmful to health. We look at some of the most commonly taken illegal drugs, what they are, and how they can affect you or your teen.

CANNABIS (hash, weed, grass, skunk, marijuana)

What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a calming drug that also alters perceptions. It is seen as “natural” because it is made from the cannabis plant, but that doesn’t mean it is safe. It can be smoked, either with tobacco in a “joint” or “spliff”, or without tobacco in a “bong”. It can also be drunk as a “tea”, or eaten when mixed into biscuits or cakes.

How does cannabis make you feel?

Cannabis can make you feel relaxed and happy, but sometimes makes people feel lethargic, very anxious and paranoid, and even psychotic.

Teens and Drug RisksHow does cannabis affect your health?

Cannabis has been linked to mental health problems such as schizophrenia, and, when smoked, to lung diseases including asthma. Cannabis affects how your brain works, so regular use can make concentration and learning very difficult. Frequent use can have a negative effect on your fertility. It is also dangerous to drive after taking cannabis. Mixing it with tobacco is likely to increase the risk of heart disease and lung cancer.

Can cannabis be addictive?

Yes, it is possible to become psychologically dependent on cannabis. And some people do experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it. For information about coming off drugs, go to Drugs: getting help. You can also get help cutting down from the FRANK website.

COCAINE (powder cocaine, coke, crack)

What is cocaine?

Powder cocaine (coke), freebase and crack are all types of cocaine, and all are powerful stimulants. Freebase and crack can be smoked, and powder cocaine can be snorted in lines. Both cocaine powder and crack can also be prepared for injecting.

How does cocaine make you feel?

Cocaine gives the user energy, a feeling of happiness and being wide awake, and an over-confidence that can lead to taking risks. The effects are short-lived, so more drug is taken, which is often followed by a nasty “comedown” that makes you feel depressed and unwell, sometimes for several days.

How does cocaine affect your health?

If you take cocaine, it is possible to die of an overdose from overstimulating the heart and nervous system, which can lead to a heart attack. Taking cocaine is particularly risky if you have high blood pressure or already have a heart condition. If you’re pregnant, cocaine can harm your baby and even cause miscarriage. If you’ve had previous mental health problems, it can increase the chance of these returning. If you snort cocaine, it can damage the cartilage of your nose over time. If you inject it, you are at higher risk of dying due to an overdose, and your veins and body tissues can be seriously damaged. If you share needles, you put yourself at risk of catching HIV or viral hepatitis.

Can cocaine be addictive?

Yes, cocaine is highly addictive and can cause a very strong psychological dependence. For advice on getting help for a cocaine addiction, go to Cocaine: get help. The Cocaine Anonymous website also offers further advice.

MEPHEDRONE (meow meow, miaow miaow, meph)

What is mephedrone?

Mephedrone is a strong amphetamine-like stimulant with some effects that are similar to ecstasy. It was once available to buy on the internet as a “legal” alternative to drugs such as speed or ecstasy. Mephedrone, and other cathinones like it, are now Class B drugs that are illegal to possess or supply to others. Mephedrone is a fine white or off-white powder that is usually snorted or swallowed wrapped in paper. It is also sometimes injected.

How does mephedrone make you feel?

It can make you feel awake, confident and happy. But it can also make you feel paranoid and anxious. It causes vomiting and headaches in some users.

How does mephedrone affect your health?

Mephedrone can overstimulate your heart and nervous system. It can cause periods of insomnia, and its use can lead to fits and to agitated and hallucinatory states. It has been identified as the cause of a number of deaths.

ECSTASY (MDMA, pills, crystal, E)

What is ecstasy?

Ecstasy is a “psychedelic” stimulant drug usually sold in tablet form, but is sometimes dabbed on to gums or snorted in its powder form. It is also known as MDMA or “crystal”.

How does ecstasy make you feel?

Ecstasy can make you feel alert, affectionate and chatty, and it can make music and colours seem more intense. Taking ecstasy can also cause anxiety, confusion, paranoia and even psychosis.

How does ecstasy affect your health?

Long-term use has been linked with memory problems, depression and anxiety. Ecstasy use affects the body’s temperature control and can lead to dangerous overheating and dehydration. But a balance is important as drinking too much fluid can also be very dangerous for the brain, particularly because ecstasy tends to stop your body producing enough urine, so your body retains the fluid. For more information see the FRANK website.

Is ecstasy addictive?

Ecstasy can be addictive, as users can develop a psychological dependence on this drug. It is also possible to build up a tolerance to the drug and a need to take more and more in order to get the same effect.

SPEED (amphetamine, billy, whizz)

What is speed?

Speed is the street name for drugs based on amphetamine, and is a stimulant drug. It is usually an off-white or pink powder that is dabbed onto gums, snorted or swallowed in paper.

How does speed make you feel?

Speed can make you feel alert, confident and full of energy, and can reduce appetite. But it can make you agitated and aggressive, and can cause confusion, paranoia and even psychosis. You can also become very depressed and lethargic for hours or days after a period of heavy use.

How does speed affect your health?

Taking speed can be dangerous for the heart, as it can can cause high blood pressure and heart attacks. It can be more risky if mixed with alcohol, or if used by people with blood pressure or heart problems. Injecting speed is particularly dangerous, as death can occur from overdose. Speed is usually very impure and injecting it can cause damage to veins and tissues, which can also lead to serious infections in the body and bloodstream. Any sharing of injecting equipment adds the risk of catching hepatitis C and HIV.

Is speed addictive?

Regular use of amphetamines can become highly addictive.

FURTHER INFORMATION

The following articles provide help and advice if you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s drug misuse:





About the Author

NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk) is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service to help put you in control of your healthcare.

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